Archives for posts with tag: Tar Heels

You may have heard that I am a pretty big fan of a certain ACC basketball team, and that I am lucky enough to be going to see them play in the NCAA tournament. I am also a grown woman. I want to show my colors without wearing them on my face or my head. I strongly suspect that no blue-wigged fanatic will be any more excited than I am during the games, but I want to pass for normal and sane on my way to and from the coliseum.

What to do, what to wear? Any decent (superstitious) fan knows that apparel is all. The wrong choice=defeat.

I have team branded T-shirts, which I wear at home on game days, during chores, or when I exercise. The tournament, however, is the Prom of games, and I am, as I said a grown woman. I’m looking for grown-up clothes, but I refuse to wear a sweater bearing various campus landmarks, in the same way I do not wear sweaters commemorating Halloween or Christmas. It would be good if I could find something I could use during the rest of my life, and did not cost too much (I have so many other things on my list before clothes at the moment.) I don’t hate the team color by any measure, but it is not one of my core colors.

And oops, I waited until the day before the first game to act on this. I’m happy to report that today I found a boat neck “designer” T-shirt with cuffed sleeves in an appropriate shade of blue. (Had I been a bit more conscientious, I’d have been able to find my preferred blue and white striped version in the right size.) I’ll attach my “Tar Heel” foot applique, and be good to go. Whatever happens next will not be my fault.

It crept up on me fairly late in life. In 1995, when I told my boss I was leaving in order to accompany my husband to Chapel Hill for his graduate program, he replied, “Dean Smith territory.” I looked back at him in polite blankness. It’s hard now to believe that ever happened.

The first year in our new home, I was preoccupied with a pre-schooler, looking for work, and generally acclimating to our environment. As far as sports, I  knew about the Durham Bulls Baseball team from the movie “Bull Durham,” and we wasted no time enjoying games at their new field that summer. (Did you know that the “home run” bull in the movie was constructed for the movie, and left with the team afterwards? I didn’t.) But I digress.

Basketball seeped slowly into my consciousness. Suddenly, I knew who Jerry Stackhouse and Antwan Jamison were, and fretted about their early departure to the NBA, without really knowing why. I was gradually developing a distaste for anything Duke, also absent rational consideration. We started following the games on TV, earlier each passing season. My fanhood remained at an appropriate level for a non-alum, middle-aged woman from California. I was interested enough to hold up my end of a conversation with another UNC fan, but relatively detached. Until we moved away in 2001.

The Tarheels became an embodiment of my homesickness. I watched all the games, enjoying them enough to include the women’s team in my  routine. (Women’s games are harder to find on TV, but that is a whole other post.) I started reading. I knew who was hurt, and how long he was expected to be out. I watched Matt Doherty’s standing go from “God” (as seen painted on the concrete of  “The Pit”  on campus) to persona non grata within a few short years. I rejoiced with the rest of the Tarheel Nation when Roy Williams came home in 2003.

Five years later, when we became a bi-coastal family, the games became another way to feel close for TMIM and me. We’d check in before the tip-off, touch base at half time, and debrief at game’s end. Last spring, before the decision for me to come home had been made, Dr. T was visiting me during the NCAA tournament. We drank our beers from our magic “He’s Not Here” cups, and talked about how nice it would be when I was finally in North Carolina for the whole season.

And here I am, looking forward to a “bucket list” trip to Greensboro on Friday to see our guys compete in the second, and, I hope, third rounds of the NCAA tournament. We bought the tickets long ago, when we still had two healthy paychecks, knowing that we weren’t guaranteed to see the team, and thinking that I would have to save some vacation time and book a flight to be here. Sometimes faith is rewarded. Go Heels!

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (

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