In the coming days, we are going to see all sort of serious break downs of the third matchup between Duke and UNC. There’ll be comparisons of the starting lineups and what’s changed since the last meeting in Durham. They’ll be intricate game tape broken down about how UNC was able to spoil K’s last game in Cameron. There will be predictions, and there will be hot takes thrown out everywhere.
What isn’t spoken about? What UNC fans will be doing to help.
Being superstitious in hoping that the cosmic forces will bring a win to Carolina is a belief that is probably as old as the program is itself. Dean Smith may not have believed much in them, but Roy Williams sure did, and he came by those superstitions honestly as fans truly believe things that they do will influence the outcome of the game. Oh, you think it was a coincidence he wore the same quarter-zip to the games on Friday and Sunday?
I know there are going to be a few people that are going to stumble on this post and laugh, wondering how otherwise normal people could truly believe that an action they complete hundreds of miles away can truly affect the outcome of an event. The thing is, many more people will be looking at this and going through a mental check list with the following:
- Do I have what I wore for the wins so far ready to go on Saturday?
- Is the same place I watched these games available?
- Am I going to watch-or not watch-with the people I’ve seen wins-or losses- with?
- What food am I preparing to eat?
I’m not a superstitious person by nature. The world is random and on some level you just have to accept that you don’t have control over things. When one speaks of 90% of life, this is how I see it. I can’t control when it rains, when my favorite place runs out of my favorite food, or when the water heater in the apartment decides it wants to leak. I fully accept this and don’t wonder if the clothes I decided to wear that day affected whether or not I had bad luck.
When it comes to Carolina basketball, though, oh it’s bad.
I could trace it to a lot of things, but for me the real superstitious nature of my fandom took hold on January 27, 1993.
That night was the 20-point comeback that Carolina pulled against FSU. At halftime as the Heels trailed by 17, I switched t-shirts into a 1991 ACC Champions one I had stashed in a drawer. I was just looking for something. I mean, I was a kid, so of course in my mind changing the t-shirt would help right?
When George Lynch stole the ball and made that thunderous dunk to take the lead for good at the end, I was convinced that it wasn’t the great coaching of Dean Smith or the skill of this squad, but the vibes I changed by putting on that t-shirt. That shirt was worn for every single game the rest of the season, all the way to the National Championship game when the forces caused Weber to call a timeout even when he had none left. How lucky was that?!?!?
A superstition was born.
Each season since I’ve picked “the shirt” that I hope is the shirt that’ll lead us to the best season. As Carolina has won three more titles since this, clearly I’ve been successful three times in finding said shirt. As part of my introduction to Tar Heel Blog, I showed off the shirt that was responsible for the 2017 National Title:
This brings us to this season. A few other light superstitions have worked their way into the routine — drinking sweet tea out of the same glass is probably the biggest one — but the shirt remains. Back in September, we reveled in the rollout of Homefield’s Tar Heel Collection, a great mix of classic looks. Considering how soft these shirts were and just how comfortable they were, I figured that this year’s shirt would have to come from that group. Prior to basketball season, I managed to get my hands on four, and started off using the Dean Dome shirt.
The thing is, you can still lose in the shirt, the goal is for it to be there for you in the big games. That shirt served me well going to games in person, and despite some of the tough losses I decided to hold onto it for a bit, because they would always bounce back. I also managed to talk myself into the idea that some of the losses happened because I wasn’t able to watch for one reason or another. The first Duke/Carolina game, for example, happened while I was in a car driving to Texas, so surely it wasn’t the shirt’s fault.
Then Pitt happened.
No excuse, really, for that loss. I was at home, drinking out of the glass I normally drink out of, and there was no getting around it: the Dean Dome shirt just couldn’t be worn anymore.
So, going into the Virginia Tech Game in Blacksburg, I switched up shirts and went full strutting Ram. They kept winning, so on the day of the second Duke/Carolina game there was zero question about which shirt I would wear. When the game was over, I had to give props to the shirt:
The loss against Virginia Tech didn’t really matter because...in a way the loss in the ACC Tournament helped Carolina not get worn out. Each game since, it’s been this t-shirt. Even at a watch party before the Baylor game I explained myself to one of my friends, and after they result, they always ask “you’re wearing your shirt right?”
The shirt can be washed, by the way. I know some folks have a “I can’t wash this piece of clothing” superstition, but before each weekend it has been cleaned, and we’ve carried on. It’s already been laundered for Saturday night.
So we’ll see if all of the magic of this shirt has been used up to get Carolina to the Final Four, or if it has more games in it. I may be enjoying the ride of this squad and not freaking out like a lot of folks are, but I also want them to keep winning. Both can be true.
I’ll be going where I go and doing what I do on Saturday. That doesn’t include the Smith Center, by the way. I went there for the watch party in 1998 Final Four, so never again. After all, I have to do my part, right?