It’s easy to take it for granted. I know I have, in the past. It’s simple to grow used to being so close to good college basketball, where rivals are barely more than a stone’s throw down the road. I’ve written in the past about grade school in Chapel Hill, and the energy that used to hum in the hallways of the high school ahead of rivalry games or the ACC Tournament. Everyone and their mother has written about the Tobacco Road rivalries, and yet it bears repeating.
I’m sitting down at my desk to write this at halftime of the game against the team from Raleigh. Today is Saturday, January 29th; the third straight Saturday with snow on the ground in the southern part of heaven. The Tar Heels hold a 25-point lead after a buzzer-beating airball from the Wolfpack ended the first half with a whimper. My dad texted me from South Carolina, celebrating a big first half and wishing he was back in town for this week.
This is a big week, and one of the most underrated in a sports-crazy world. The Tar Heels hosted the team from Raleigh yesterday, and in six short days will be hosting that other local team. A lot of bets between coworkers and mixed-loyalty friends will be settled in the span of seven days. You can’t go anywhere in the area without running into Wolfpack fans or Blue Devils, and it feels almost as though the entire Triangle is thrumming with low-level hoops anxiety. That’s a beautiful thing.
I write this mostly as a reminder to myself; something to pull me up out of the flow of the daily grind, that rigamarole that can get so loud as to drown out everything else. A week like this is special for a Carolina fan, and doesn’t happen every year. This year, we get two of them, as we end February and start March with back-to-back Saturdays on the road in Raleigh and Durham respectively. Regardless of results, that’s a fun week.
We oughtn’t take that for granted.