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Happy Father’s Day

Celebrating one of the reasons I was born and bred a Tar Heel

My parents moved to Pawleys Island, South Carolina in March of 2020, deciding rightfully that working remotely was better near the beach than in the piedmont of North Carolina. The pandemic shuttered their respective offices, forcing them to work from home, so they moved home from the Triangle to the coast.

This has, by and large, been a wonderful move. My parents adore being near the ocean, as does their dog, Coach (named after Coach Smith). The house that was purchased as a retirement project was turned into a right-now project, and is already in much better shape than it was at the beginning of the pandemic (unlike yours truly). When I go to visit my parents now, I’m sure to pack a swimsuit due to their proximity to the sea, and my dog Pepper (named after Julius Peppers) loves the beach as the only place I will allow her to dig. It’s a lovely beach town, far enough from Myrtle Beach to avoid the worst crowds but close enough to be accessible if you want to brave it.

The only problem, really, is Tar Heel sports. My dad followed my mom to the southern part of heaven when she transferred to UNC, and they stuck around to raise their son there. Carolina sports were a fundamental part of my life from the day I was born; I learned the words to the fight song at the exact same time I learned the words to the national anthem. I’m pretty sure the first swear word of my prolific cursing career was copying the student section in telling Duke where exactly to go, and my sports heroes as a child were all wearing the best shade of blue.

My dad has always loved sports; he was a quarterback, a point guard, and a 400-meter runner. He was a little league coach, a personal trainer when I was old enough to learn to throw a football, and an avid fan of any sporting event in which I ever participated. He’s the first partner I ever had for playing catch, as well as the first person I called after the Heels beat the Blue Devils in last year’s Final Four. I bounce my hottest takes off of him, and he schools me on the history that I often overlook.

We used to live about five minutes from campus. From that close, it’s almost too easy to just go catch a game on a whim. One winter, after an unprecedented ice storm, the Tar Heels were scheduled to play in the Dean Dome—since roads were largely impassable, the doors were opened to anyone who could make it to the Smith Center, and Dad and I were there. Each spring, we kept one eye on the baseball schedule in case we got the urge to go and watch the Diamond Heels one evening. It was a luxury that I took for granted.

These days, the cards have to fall just right for us to be able to go to a game together. A four-hour drive is a bit more involved than a five-minute jaunt to campus to check ticket availability, and the timing has to work out just right to make a trip make sense. So imagine what planets had to align to cause my dad to have to come to town for work on June 6th—the Monday after the Heels hosted an improbable regional. As my girlfriend and I watched the Tar Heels cling to a lead over Georgia to advance to the second game on Sunday, my dad was already on the road to Chapel Hill. I called him periodically to update him on the score until he got into range of WCHL and could tune in. We bought tickets in the middle of the seventh inning, and sweated through a ninth-inning rally by the Bulldogs. Dad met my Tar-Heel-convert-in-progress girlfriend and I outside the stadium and walked into Boshamer as the first pitch crossed home plate. Carolina scored seven runs in the bottom of the first inning, and for the rest of the night I basked in the glow of spending an evening at the ballpark with people I love dearly.

So, from all of us here at Tar Heel Blog, to anyone who has children of their own, or who fulfill that role for anyone else. To anyone missing their father or father figure a little extra today. To Tim Sloan.

Happy Father’s Day.