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Lucky ones: How I became a Tar Heel fan

The stories of a Tar Heel fan growing up in the home of the ACC.

North Carolina-Greensboro v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

I’d consider myself one of the lucky ones. For those who don’t know me, many of you I assume, I’m a 22-year old college student who was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. My favorite thing about Greensboro is that it is like a satellite location for Tobacco Road. Living just under an hour away from the Smith Center, I have been fortunate to be able to make it to many North Carolina home games in my life so far. Sometimes I feel like I have taken it for granted, mainly because the Tar Heel fanbase is such a worldwide thing, which means there are tons of people who have never had the chance to make it to a home game.

And even being able to make it to games in Chapel Hill, living in Greensboro is perfect for the ACC fan. We get the women’s ACC Tournament every year, as well as the men’s tournament every so often, though far less often than we used to.

I’d also consider myself lucky because I haven’t experienced many hard times as a Tar Heel fan. Like I said earlier, I’m 22. My earliest memory of Carolina Basketball was the 2004-05 season. I never really experienced the 8-20 season, the middling years leading up to the ‘05 national title.

Finally, I’d consider myself lucky because I get to root for one of the best collegiate athletic programs in the country during their golden era of athletics. Some people think you get to choose who you are a fan of. Those people don’t understand sports.

I was born into a Tar Heel family. My Dad raised me the right way: in Carolina Blue. The memory of watching Carolina Basketball with him that I will never forget, even more so than the Luke Maye shot, which ended with me in his arms like Shaggy holding Scooby Doo after he saw a ghost, is from the 2011 ACC Championship game against Duke. I never had friends over during Carolina games, but for some reason that day I had a friend over, and he was a Duke fan (I know, poor choices). When Dexter Strickland drove and dunked on Kyle Singler, only for it to be called a charge, my Dad jumped up, threw a pillow on the ground and screamed to the top of his lungs “Are you kidding me?!” That moment scared my friend so bad that he never came back to my house. True story.

I think the thing that makes the whole Carolina Family thing so relatable for the fans is the fact that being a Carolina fan is such a familial thing. Most stories about how somebody became a Tar Heel fan begin with something about family. It’s no different for me.

To this day I watch UNC games the same way I always have: On the couch with my dad, because that’s the only way I’ve ever known. We scream at the television after every bad call, bad substitution, or bad red zone play by UNC football. North Carolina athletics has been my life since I was a six-year-old kid shooting in the driveway, pretending to be a knockdown three-point shooter for Roy Williams and it has stayed with me to this day.

I didn’t get into UNC out of high school. I didn’t even apply because I already knew what the letter was going to say. I was a terrible student. I cared more about writing down what the basketball team’s roster was going to look like after all the NBA Draft decisions were finalized than I did about a math formula. I didn’t realize till college that there are people who actually think you can’t be a fan of a school just because you didn’t go there. I would wear my Tar Heel shirts to class and people would look at me sideways. Those people also don’t get sports either.

But my UNC fandom came full circle when I ended up at UNC Greensboro, in my hometown, with the basketball program being led by my favorite Tar Heel player when I was a kid: Wes Miller. My first jersey was a Raymond Felton jersey, or number two jersey, since the NCAA doesn’t allow it to be a Raymond Felton jersey. But my second was a #22 Wes Miller jersey from 2006 — the ones with the ugly navy blue stripes from the collar to the shoulder. I repurposed it into a Wayne Ellington jersey and wore it until it didn’t fit. I cried when the 2007 team lost to Georgetown in the Elite 8. Not only because the season was over, but because Miller’s UNC career was over.

As a UNCG student, I’m obligated to say that Miller is building something special over here. If he gets the chance to be Roy Williams’ successor, I might be the biggest fan of that in the world. My former favorite player and the head coach of the school I graduated from coaching my favorite college basketball team? Sign me up.

I say all that to say this: How lucky are we that we get to live during the best times of North Carolina athletics? In basketball, we’ve won three national titles in the last 15 years. In football, we are seeing a takeover by Mack Brown. Women’s basketball was led by one of the most successful coaches in school history in Sylvia Hatchell. In baseball, there’s been seven College World Series appearances in the last 14 years. We’ve had several women’s soccer national titles, two straight women’s field hockey championships and countless ACC titles in many other sports.

Looking into the future, the basketball team will have what looks like the best frontcourt in the country this year. The football team has a quarterback who will possibly contend for a Heisman Trophy in his time in Chapel Hill. Coach Courtney Banghart seems ready to return the women's basketball team to greatness. Lastly, North Carolina will remain the gold standard in women’s soccer and women’s field hockey.

My favorite quote about North Carolina is by Stuart Scott. At Late Night with Roy, Scott got to one knee and pointed to the interlocked NC logo at half court and said, “That’s what it’s all about right there. That’s on the floor, that’s on your shirt, that’s in your heart.” Tar Heel fandom runs deep. I’m lucky to have it in my heart.