Before I wallow, I want to be mindful to not think that I am having the hardest 2020 in the world. I have my health, my job, and many things to be grateful for. I suspect many of you are like me, though. Worldwide chaos has prevented you from doing some of the things you enjoy most, especially attending live sports. It’s okay for us to be sad. I’d like to reflect on that.
I live in Honolulu, HI right now. Life here is pretty good. It can be difficult to see my beloved Tar Heels in person, though, considering the distance to Chapel Hill and the cost of travel. Since I’ve been in Hawaii, I’ve travelled to Norfolk, VA on business and extended my stay to watch the football team play at Old Dominion. I travelled to Las Vegas to see Coby White break out in a loss to Texas, and again the year after to see the Heels give me hope for the season, beating UCLA after four consecutive losses.
I even cashed in miles to fly to Columbus, OH in March to see Carolina’s first two games of the 2019 NCAA tournament. As Tar Heel Blog managing editor Tanya Bondurant can attest, Columbus in the winter suuuucks. Particularly when you step on to the jet in 81 degree weather, and step off in 42 degrees. That’s jarring!
Last Christmas, while keeping an eye on the news coming out of China, I eagerly anticipated my beloved Tar Heels returning to the Maui Invitational. This would just be a 20 minute flight from HNL to OGG, and a pleasant drive up the Ka’anapali coastline to the Lahaina Civic Center for me. In between games, I would jump off the cliffs at Black Rock Beach, or stroll through downtown Lahaina for some poke and shave ice, or a Dole whip!
Better still, just like their 2016 trip to the Maui Invitational, Carolina was going to play Hawai’i in the Stan Sheriff Center, a mere 17 minute drive from my house! I had already planned to rent a party bus and load it up with all of my neighborhood friends, handing out spare Carolina blue t-shirts to anyone who could wear a large or XL. I was going to be a UNC missionary spreading the gospel of Dean Smith.
This fantasy of mine did not come true. The championship game of the Maui Invitational is usually played the day before Thanksgiving, and our feast has come and gone. I’m glad that the teams involved will get to play against each other in Asheville, but nobody is under the impression that this an equal experience for the teams playing. I’ve lived in Asheville. I love Asheville. It’s not Maui.
I will watch the games, starting with Texas vs Davidson (to scout the Longhorns in a potential championship game match-up). I will eagerly watch Carolina take on UNLV and their standout shooting guard Bryce Hamilton. I will watch Roy Williams and my beloved Tar Heels in all of their games, even if they’re not in the winners brackets. I will watch them because I love them. I will watch them to hold onto something normal. I will watch them and hope that soon we’ll all be able to sit in crowded gyms, slap hands, and scream in each others’ faces because it’s safe to do so again.