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UNC Basketball: The Man

Can’t tell me nothing, right?

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

“Excuse me, was you sayin’ something? Uh uh, you can’t tell me nothin’.”

I have a playlist buried deep in my iTunes library, nestled comfortably in between other forgotten playlists representing other and different moods. It’s a playlist from when I was still playing organized sports, a simpler time when my biggest worry was Friday night’s game, or the coming weekend’s wrestling tournament. I still rely heavily on music as an emotional receptacle, but in those days it was pretty much the only outlet I could regularly turn to, and so I had a playlist for nearly any occasion. I still maintain a few playlists, but my reach is nowhere nearly as prolific as it used to be.

“You now rocking with a champion, / You know you’re in a war that can’t be won, / You need to stop and understand me, son / ‘Cause I got a pocket full and I can hand you some.”

The playlist I’m focused on today, the one that seems most germane to the point I want to convey, was simply called “The Man.” It’s full to the brim with the early-aught braggadocio that appealed to me when I was in high school; rappers talking about how much better they were than their competition, as well as how great it felt to be The Man. I would put it on when I needed to borrow the confidence of the lyricists I looked up to at the time; when I needed to talk myself into being The Man, you could find me sitting in front of my locker with my headphones in and eyes closed, one thumb perched on the spinning wheel of my iPod nano to adjust the volume as necessary.

“When I step up in the place, hey yo I step correct; / Woo-ha (woo-ha) got you all in check”

It’s been a long time since I needed that playlist to hype me up for a game. My relationship with music has changed subtly as I’ve grown into a more well-rounded adult; I don’t find myself reaching for It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot to get amped before a conference call at work, nor am I cranking up Eminem’s “‘Till I Collapse” before I sit down to write a blog post. The playlist called “The Man” has faded more or less into obscurity, lost in the shuffle among the other playlists that once scratched a particular musical itch, but the memories remain.

“This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill, fifteen percent concentrated power of will, / Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain, and a hundred percent reason to remember the name”

I’m not sure exactly at what point of yesterday’s game that old playlist sprang into my mind. Maybe it was the first minute of the second half of the game against the Cavaliers of Virginia, when Armando Bacot pulled down his tenth rebound to give him his sixth game in a row with a double-double. Maybe it was when I checked the box score after the buzzer sounded and saw that he had a double-double even before counting the nine offensive boards. Maybe it was even earlier, when Bacot started hot with the first two buckets of the game for the Tar Heels. Whenever it happened, I remember consciously wondering about what exactly Bacot listens to before games.

“If you are what you say you are, a superstar, then have no fear; / the crowd is here, and the lights are on, and they want a show.”

It’s not really a secret that Bacot is the man to mark on this year’s team. The Tar Heels go as Armando goes, and he just happened to go supernova in yesterday’s contest. Time will tell if he’s The Man, or just the man this season. Either way, the Cavaliers had no answer for him yesterday.

“Go ahead and tell everybody: I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man.”