I finished my annual re-read of Will Blythe’s To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever this week. It seemed important to finish it before Duke at Duke, because usually I try to finish it before the ACC season even starts. I didn’t this year, because December was occupied by house-buying, and then I didn’t in January, because I was occupied with the house I bought having flooded. By the time I started it, the Heels were 1-4, and looked in almost danger of the home streak against Clemson coming to an ignominious end. I apologize, Carolina fans. My bad.
I re-read it every year even though I know how it ends. It ends on a Monday in April, when I handed Mikey twenty bucks at half-time and said, go buy me a 40 of OE, and get yourself something, too, from my perch in the left corner of the pineapple couch, in my ratty lucky Carolina sweatshirt, freshly laundered after the ACC tournament loss. He went off to the 7-11 across the street and brought it to me. It ends there, because that’s how the Michigan State game happened, and the two games in the round before that. I handed Mikey a twenty, and he brought me a 40 at half-time, and Carolina won the national title in 2005 because I drank a lot of Olde English in March. I drank the 2006 team to ruining JJ Redick’s Senior Night at Duke on OE 40s, too, for what it’s worth. I can’t really stomach it anymore, which is good because I’m almost 34 and I shouldn’t be drinking OE or 40s, frankly. But if it gets bad tonight, I don’t know. I might go up to the gas station by my house and hand them a twenty and buy myself a 40 at halftime.
The NCAA has strange rules about booze at college sporting events, including an obscure and bizarre one about bars having to be enclosed on three sides. In 2005, when I went to the Big Ten tournament at the United Center with my coworkers, the office manager — a fellow Tar Heel — and my CFO — who played golf with Curtis Strange at Wake Forest — the three of us spent most of the two afternoon games in the one bar serving beer, and showing the ACC tournament. Carolina slugged to a bad win against Clemson and suffered The Great Georgia Tech ACC Tournament Curse on Saturday.
Usually I post a quote from To Hate Like This for the second Duke game, a quote about Presbyterianism and Dean Smith and barbeque and Democrats, but somehow this year I felt like I had to say more. I haven’t watched much of the Tar Heels this year. First because I didn’t watch and they beat Louisville and Michigan State, so I couldn’t start watching because they’d won when I hadn’t watched, and then because it was bad, and then because it was okay again, but I already wasn’t watching, so I couldn’t start watching. I TiVoed Duke at home and watched it the next day. I watched a few minutes at the end of the first half against Wake Forest and decided we were okay, and then I think I took a nap.
I watched all of the Notre Dame game, and as we all know, that turned out okay but it might not have. I was too confident about the first half, and while I was controlled during the second half collapse, I did holler “SHITFUCK GODDAMNIT BOX OUT” at least once. Will Blythe would call that the beast, not the journalist.
I probably won’t watch Duke at Duke. I don’t want to jinx it. I will likely stay home. I might go to a show instead, although any show I could go to could get held for the game end, even though it’s a late game. That’s what it’s like to be an indie rock fan in a basketball town. Or else everyone will be standing in front of the bands, jittering every time a score alert goes off on their phone. The 506 doesn’t even have cable anymore, I don’t think. In 2012, shep. and I saw Craig Finn play a solo show the night Carolina beat Duke at Duke, and the opener was irritated by the 506 holding the show for game end; Craig Finn got up on stage for the main set and explained that he honestly hadn’t understood that he couldn’t just show up somewhere 5 minutes before tip and find a seat at a bar. He watched most of the game through the front window of OCSC, if you can believe him, and I do. Craig Finn’s got a believable face.
We walked home that night, glowing, and picked all the tulips from out in front of the church by Crook’s Corner and that weird intersection of Merritt Mill and Franklin and whatever.
It was a good night.
My current boss and I have been tweaking at a Duke fan in our office this week; since Duke couldn’t make the eight miles on a snow day, well, today the high is almost 70. Game time 55 degrees. Are the Duke players going to be able to make it to Cameron? What if they lose their windbreakers? WHAT IF IT’S FOGGY AND THEY CAN’T FIND THE SIDEWALKS, HUGO. It never stops being funny.
The Heels and I started 2014 the same way: awkwardly, with bad luck and bad choices. They went 1-4, I had a flood destroy the new house. We’ve both gotten our shit together since, thought my winning streak isn’t at 12 yet. I’m waiting for it.
First I’m waiting to win at Duke, though. I have a feeling. I finished my re-read this week, after all. That’s not superstition. That’s just fact.
Go Heels. Beat Dook. (And that goes double for the ladies, who face Dook at 7pm in the ACC tournament. Fuuuck the Duke women’s team, for real. Win it for Sylvia.)