Let’s get the bitterness out of the way first. I’ve talked trash on North Carolina not being that good all season long. Last week I put them in a list of teams you want to see in your bracket. I went into Sunday night’s game fairly confident that the Terps were going to pull out a victory and I was going to talk a lot of trash to a bunch of nicely dressed Tar Heel fans. Unfortunately, the Tar Heels delivered what could have been the final dagger for the Terps’ season. Going into the game, Maryland’s tourney chances were already on life support. Carolina pulled the plug. There will need to be a Gilchrist-esque effort by Terrell Stoglin in the ACC Tournament to save us Terp fans from the worst three letters in the college basketball alphabet.
Now with that out of the way: For those who have never gone to see their team play in enemy territory, I can’t recommend it enough. Here are some observations and highlights of my Sunday gameday experience in Chapel Hill.
-Showed up in Chapel Hill around lunchtime on Sunday all decked out in Maryland gear. I was ready. I expected immediate heckling from the local Carolina fans. In fact, I wanted to be heckled. I walked all along Franklin Street upon arrival and kept passing people on the sidewalk. I got nothing. Not even mean looks. A Carolina fan walking along Route 1 in College Park on gameday would certainly hear their fair share of taunting. However, I realized that they had a concept down in the South that I was not familiar with in my years of attending sports events in the DC area. They were nice. How disappointing was that?
Stop Being So Nice To Me!!
-The game was at 7:45, so we had a lot of time to kill walking around campus and such. It had been hours and still no heckling. We sat around the area outside the Dean Dome in the amazing weather and this eight-year-old Tar Heel fan starts yelling at me. “MARYLAND BOOOOOOOOO.” He gave me the thumbs down and everyone around, myself included, erupted in laughter. FINALLY!! That kid was legit. This is what I came for. The kid then came by again about a half hour later. I gave him the evil eye. Undeterred, he comes up to me and says, “If you want a real shirt, you can have mine.” Another great zinger. Despite all the niceness, at least there was one brave eight-year-old willing to let me have it.
-Once inside, it was finally time to see if Dean Dome deserved the “wine and cheese crowd” reputation that has been bestowed upon them in the past. It certainly wasn’t the most raucous environment I’ve ever been in, but their fans were certainly better than their reputation. A beatdown of the Terps definitely helped that. I gotta give the university credit in this regard: The tradition there is amazing. Between the gameday atmosphere, the amazing basketball museum outside the Dean Dome, and the actual game itself, Carolina has some amazing history and you can feel this everywhere you go down there.
-There were a lot of similarities between Dean Dome and Comcast Center, right down to the same games and the music played during timeouts and halftime. The Dean Dome has the advantage of cushioned seats in their lower sections and lax security, while Comcast has the benefit of actually having cup holders and better pork BBQ. C’mon Carolina, I thought your BBQ was supposed to be better than that? And speaking of lax security…..well I’ll let Ross tell that story.
-Being my first real away game, I wasn’t sure how I was going to react. I tend to be very vocal and irrational during games, and I wasn’t sure how this was going to work surrounded by opposing fans. Before the game, I even feared being thrown out for some sort of obnoxious behavior. The welcoming nature of their fans probably helped in this regard. I tried to be on my best behavior. Though, during an early first half run by the Terps to tie the game, I forgot I was on the road and was being very vocal. I felt bad for the quiet fan next to me. Terrible luck for her to have to hear my ramblings for two hours.
-After the loss, I was now really expecting to hear a lot of heckling from fans on the way to the car. I got a few “Tuck the Furtles” chanted at me. These people wouldn’t even curse at me! Now that I was able to behave myself at UNC, I definitely think I’ll be ready to try a game at Duke. Outside of bringing some gasoline and matches, I expect to behave myself there too.
-Okay, now that I’ve given some small compliments to the Chapel Hill crowd, I gotta get this off my chest. After every game is over, win or lose, the students stay and do some kumbaya fight song where they rock back and forth while hugging each other. I was aware of this before, but it was even worse in person. And what’s with the older crowd playing dress up? It’s a freaking basketball game.
-So, the moral of the story is this: Outside of going to a game in Oakland or Philly, jump at the chance to see your team play on the road. I’ll leave you with this:
I should have gone to this game.