I’m not particularly excitable, but it’s not difficult for me to get excited about something. Does that make sense? That probably doesn’t make sense. If you know me, you know how I love to look forward to things. If you’ve made any kind of habit of reading the things I’ve been allowed to write here over the past year, you at least kinda know me, so you should know this: I love to get excited about things. It brings me so much joy to savor each little bit of anticipation ahead of an event that means a lot to me, or that I think will mean a lot to me. The buildup is always a longer-lasting thing than the actual event, regardless of the scope; in high school, I spent four years in various levels of excited to go off to college. I relished the idea of living on my own, having my time to do what I wanted. Then, a few boring lectures and a handful of blinks later, I found myself walking across a stage to grab a couple pieces of paper. It goes by quick, which is why I try to make every bit of excitement count beforehand.
I can’t remember a time I wasn’t excited for the coming of basketball season. Football was my first love, for sure; it was the game I played the longest, and the game that took the most of me. I could play football, and that was one kind of love. Basketball was different. I played basketball as a kid in the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation leagues, where I got to pretend my days as anything more than an observer of the sport weren’t numbered. To me, though, as small and slow as I was, the way the players moved and the things they could do with the basketball were nothing short of wizardry. I spent hours in the driveway, imagining myself as a Tar Heel, practicing my midrange game to the imagined call from Woody Durham. I tried out for the basketball team my freshman year of high school, and was (predictably, might I add) cut. In this way alone, I am almost exactly like Michael Jordan.
Every year, my parents would take me to Midnight Madness, catching the volleyball game beforehand as an extra treat before we got our first glimpse of that year’s Tar Heels. Of course, I would already know their names, of course; whether it was Melvin Scott returning for a fateful senior season, or Joseph Forte coming off an ACC Rookie of the Year award. Still, it was nice to see the new faces, to see the next group of guys to whom my hopes and dreams would be so irrationally pinned for the next five months.
This year, I find myself adrift. Usually, around this time, I would already be fit to burst with excitement, with anticipation of seeing what this year’s team will look like. Typically, I’d already have games circled on the schedule and entered into my calendar as “Busy - Heels.” So imagine my surprise, dear reader, when I sat down this evening to write a blog post about how excited I was for this season, only to find... nothing.
I’m overwhelmingly tired. I’m tired of including the same caveat in every piece I’ve written since the world started to end, however many months ago it was. I’m tired of getting my hopes up that things are improving, that maybe we can have a semi-normal sports season after all, only to find those hopes crushed beyond all recognition in the valley between two peaks on a chart of new virus cases. I’m tired of reading about these promising young players that we may not get to see much of, who may be putting themselves at not-insignificant risk to play the game we all love to come together and watch. I’m just tired, is all.
This is not an indictment of this year’s team, nor is it really even a referendum on last season. Every program has low points, and I lived through the first couple years of the ‘00s without losing hope. I’m not hopeless; I’m just tired.
Next Wednesday, I’ll be watching the Heels begin their season. I’ll be excited to watch the freshmen play, and I’ll be excited to have Carolina basketball back on my screen. I may even be so excited that, for a brief moment, I’ll forget how tired I am. That possibility alone is pretty exciting.