We’re taught, from the time we are small, to resist our darker feelings. To take the high road, or to turn the other cheek, or whatever your idiom of choice may be. Those of us who played in little league or rec leagues as children were taught to play for the love of the game, or to play for pride. We’re chastised if we tap into the wrong feelings, the ones that live somewhere in the pit of our stomachs, the ones that occasionally spring out without warning.
There’s a certain satisfaction to be found in indulging these feelings, though. The Diamond Heels’ season is out of their collective hands, it would seem; the loss to Pitt on Tuesday rendered further progression in the ACC tournament impossible. Now, the fate of this season depends on an at-large bid this coming Sunday.
You would think, in a single-eliminination tournament, that a loss would mean the end. No more games to play; win or go home. The best tournaments work that way; the ones that don’t need drawn out seven-game series to decide a winner. The most fun comes at the intersection of two teams that know they only have one chance to advance.
As I said above, the Heels lost their opportunity to advance out of pool play with their loss to Pitt on Tuesday. A quirk of the baseball iteration of the ACC Tournament, though, is that the Heels aren’t quite done.
NC State has one win already in the pool play portion of the ACC Tournanment after beating Pitt 3-2 last night, and if all three teams are tied at 1-1 at the end of pool play, the highest seed will advance to the semifinals. NC State is the highest seed in the pool, which means the Wolfpack will be playing on Saturday regardless of this evening’s result. There are folks who would tell you, in a situation like this, to go out and play for pride.
I disagree. Embrace the spite; it’s far more compelling than simply playing for pride, and most of us have been doing the latter for the entirety of our lives. Beat the Wolfpack any chance you get, simply because they are the Wolfpack. Let that dark passenger drive for a while. Let it flow through you, if you will.
Tonight, the Tar Heels will play a game that, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t matter. The Heels are in the same place, win or lose. The Wolfpack will advance to the next round. The only thing the Heels can really do in tonight’s game is hurt their feelings.
It may be spiteful, but that’s enough for me.