A couple of weeks ago, my wife received a pair of free tickes to see the UNC Tarheels play the Virginia Cavilers at the Dean Smith Center on the UNC Campus. The arena is named after their retired Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith.
No one can argue that Dean Smith was a great coach. He has a national championship under his belt, coached the likes of Michael Jordan and James Worthy. His famed “Four Corners” offense, where he intentionally tried not to score is directly responsible for the “shot clock” in College Basketball. Even as a Kentucky fan, growing up in the Adoph Rupp era, attending the University of Kentucky during the Joe B. Hall era, you have to appreciate his accomplishments, even if he is the Evil Overloard of Tarheel nation.
But free tickets are free and it was an experience my wife, the “Queen of Free” wanted to have while we live here.
Now we have been here in ACC hell for nearly 10 years. I call it ACC hell because this has to be the most arrogant conference in all of college sports. And you ACC fans who hate Billy Packer, the long time color commentator for CBS for the ACC being as strong as it is. It could be game between Indiana and Notre Dame and all Billy Packer could do is pimp the ACC.
With the exception of UNC everyone else’s basketball programs are no where near the level the fans believe them to be. Duke has its moments and has probably benefited most from Packer’s free advertising. But UNC has always been there near the top and from a Kentucky perspective, they are the enemy, the biggest threat to our way of life
All teams ebb and flow through the years. Some coaches will do well, others will not. Some recruiting classes are stronger than others and this is to be expected. But to be a top program you have to be there, every year. You need multiple national championships and you need them in different eras and you constantly have to be posting strong winning records.
So as I was picking out my clothes to wear today, I called down to my wife “I don’t have anything Navy and Orange do I?” since that would be the Virginia colors. “Do I have a UK cap?”. It brought a chuckle to her, but I couldn’t dare wear anything close to resembling light blue. So I found a Navy sports shirt with red trim. She went with a very neutral white color.
We traveled to Chapel Hill to a park-n-ride spot on Highway 54. If you feel you must ever attend one of these evil events, I highly recommend using park-n-ride. Its $5 per peep, but you don’t have to deal with traffic at an on-campus arena with no practical parking. The UNC campus is a bunch of twisty passages all alike. Being dropped at the door and picked up at the door is a very handy option. For the $10 we paid, we were handed lovely Tyvek green wrist bands, which I found out later is how you find the right line to get into to find the right bus. So far, this is a positive event.
Once we arrived at the arena, it was a short climb of steps through people holding up various numbers of fingers, people begging for tickets. Why can’t they just go to the ticket booth? There were quite a few open seats in the upper deck corners. Now at this point, I was tempted to sell out gift tickets, pocket the money and call it a successful day. But I didn’t want to deny my wife her experience.
The entry lines were dividied into people with bags and people without. Since we packed light, we headed into the non-bag line and was quickly ushered into the arena. Once inside, the small concourses caused the sea of powder blue lemmings to pack together like penguins huddling to keep warm. The line for the ladies room was at least 50 people deep. As we moved from gate A around to find our seats, there was plenty of chances to look down upon the hardwood and see the pre-game activities.
We took a full tour around the arena as we were looking for a co-worker of my wife’s who was working a concession stand. We never found him, but we ended back in to the Blue sardine packing company again. We grabbed a bite to eat and headed to our seats. Now at this point, I was feeling a bit of awe about the building, but it was only a tinge.
Our seats were upper deck on the asile and for the most part had a pretty good view when the man in front of me sat back in his seat, but he leaned forward most of the game and his melon blocked about 1/4th of the court.
The game for the 1st half was pretty boring and we spent most of the time checking out the people than the game. The endzone students who bounce the whole game was better in person than it appears on TV. The section of students besides the band who stand the whole game was a nice touch. The band sounded good and though none of the dancers, grouped into 4 groups along each edge of the floor were in sequence with their dance steps, they at least were well cooridinated with the music.
Half time came and they were honoring members of the Basketball Hall of Fame. The problem I have with this is that they were inducted years ago. How many times are they going to honor James Worthy or Billy Cunningham or the Arch-devil overlord himself, Dean Smith? The latest inductee was several years ago. Now supposidly there is a new banner or something, but the banner was already revealed and it was something to show on the big TV screens and get these UNC legends some more face time. Seriouslly, WTF was that about? Someone explain it to me.
Now Coach Roy Williams, one of the HOF inductees, must have had a “Come to Jesus” talk with the players at the half because they came out and made Virginia look like a pickup team. We enjoyed the two “line changes”, where they brought in their subs late, to get about a minute of play time each. (This is why we like hockey. Everyone pretty much has to play…..)
After the game, we went down to the floor level and actually stepped out onto the hardwood. I was hoping I would get a feel of emotion from being there. It was cool, but that overall feeling of greatness just wasn’t there.
We colleted a set of the nice plastic cups, 4 small and 4 large. It should serve at torture for my NCSU loving son and my die-hard Duke co-worker. Free game, free glassware! On the way out, one of the concession stands had left a bunch of hotdogs on the counter, more freebies.
We met a parent of a hockey player who played with our older son so the line for the shuttle bus passed quickly as we reminised and caught up on our kids.
My soul did not rot and there is no risk of me becoming a UNC fan anytime soon. I would go back again should more free tickets come our way.
That said, here is my list of sports venues tha speak too you based on their history and feeling of the ghosts watching over you.
- Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY. Home to Kentucky’s Legandary basketball program.
- Joe Lewis Arena, Detroit, MI. OMG what a feeling you get when you walk into that building.
- Hershey Arena, Hershy Park, PA. Wilt Chamberlain’s scored his famous 100 points here, but it was the hockey ghosts of minor league hockey that spoke out there.
- Wrigly Field, Chicago, IL. While the Cubs are championship free, you know some major baseball love has been felt there.
- HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY. While very new in the scale of arena’s go, you feel it when you walk through the doors.
Now I will admit, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, the old Chicago Stadium and the Boston Gardens should be on this list, but I’ve not had a chance to visit them.
But I’m glad I went. It was a good experience.