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UNC Football: Navigating the bittersweet feelings of the 2020 season

Okay, so we’re doing this...

Clemson v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

I’m sitting here at my desk this evening, looking out at the cloud-choked sky from my second story window, imagining that behind that dark grey curtain is a sunset, somewhere behind the bruised and swollen sky and the rolling thunder. A literal storm spins just off the coast, what will be the first such storm of the year to make landfall in our Old North State, while a less tangible storm rips through cities and college towns nationwide as we strive to force a virus to back down before what I can only assume is an attempted show of force. Everything can seem so, so dark. Somewhere, though, there’s a sunset.

Last week, the ACC released a 10-game schedule (plus 1 in-state non-conference tilt), in a move that would make Admiral David “Damn the torpedoes” Farragut proud. While this all may end up being an exercise in futility, at least it gives us something to talk about for the time being. I will say—my immediate reaction, right after my eyebrows ricocheted off my hairline, was unbridled excitement. It came shooting from that deep, dark place; that quiet voice in the back of my mind that selfishly whispers constantly how much better everything would feel if we could just get back to some kind of normal. Logically, I know this isn’t the case. Novel coronavirus cases continue to explode (not literally, thank God, although who can say for sure with the way things have been going) across the country, and any type of event that necessitates a gathering of people is an event that I want no part of.

Still, that little monster that I keep buried deep in the back of my head roared with delight as I read the news, savoring a feeling that I hadn’t really allowed myself, at least in this facet of my life, since the cancellation of March Madness a lifetime ago: hope. I realize how selfish it is for me to be so hopeful that there is a football season. I’m trying to rationalize it by telling myself that if the football season is allowed to go on, that must mean things are getting better, but I realize that there are forces beyond simply endangering human lives that are at play here. There’s big money involved, and when there’s big money involved, other things tend to take a back seat. So it feels gross to be pulling for this, for there to be a season, when there’s a whole lot of evidence out there that there ought not be a season at all.

But here we are. The ACC has given the ‘full speed ahead’ order, and we’re steaming our way through a preseason that has already included a suspension of workouts due to a coronavirus outbreak. There’s a stowaway on board, an Irish one, with what may be a once-in-a-lifetime shot at an ACC championship. There are kids deciding to sit out a year to let this particular storm pass over (and rightfully so, I would like to unequivocally say). There may be nobody in the stands when the ball is kicked off, as we’re supposing it will be, at some point this fall. But, at least for now, there will be football.

Maybe, just maybe, we can be forgiven for being a little hopeful.