A year ago I woke up with swollen eyes and a heavy heart. Hope had been given and taken in 8 seconds. Campus was empty, silent, dreary. There was not Carolina Blue in the sky. Reminisce of a ghost town in a western or the spooky city a couple drives through before the boogeyman comes out to attack them.
Except this wasn’t a spaghetti western or horror film. This was my reality. This was Carolina’s reality. For a year, the country didn’t let us forget. That moment, the buzzer beater shot that broke our hearts, replayed over and over again on TV and Twitter and Youtube and Facebook, like every bad decision playing through your mind. All the shoulda, coulda, wouldas haunting us.
It was that moment that left me weary. The one that caused me to only give the last five minutes of each game my attention. My spirit was bruised, and I was not ready to get my hopes up. So I watched each game with baited breath, oh so certain that we would lose our one point lead at the final .8 seconds. But we made it. From 64 to 32 to Sweet 16 to Elite 8 to Final 4 and finally the Championship.
We were back where our heartbreak started a year ago. Everything was the same yet nothing was the same. People still slept outside for their TOPO tickets, yet the street signs stayed up. People ran through the streets and day drink in their friends’ yards yelling “TAR HEELS!” but the sun was nowhere to be seen. We did everything we could to leave the back luck in 2016.
A long day turned into a long night with a 9:20PM EST tip off. This year I stayed home. Carolina sweats on with a cider ( or two) in hand surrounded by my friends. I worked on assignments and edited photos throughout the first half, certain I’d be sleeping with a heavy heart, staring at faces of despair and heartache the next day for a second year in a row.
Then something magical happened. I’m not talking about the magic one finds in romance movies or during trips to Disney. There is nothing artificial about this magic. No, I’m talking about magic that is born from personal growth. This is the stuff made of hard work and dedication and dare I say public humiliation. The make that causes heartbreak to fuel success and champions.
With .21 seconds on the clock , the ball in our possession, my boys in blue moved to make this game ours. For the first time I hope off the couch in glee. I believed again. That joy and hope snatched from me , from the players I grew to admire, from our community , a year prior had returned.
I scrambled to my room, searching for jeans and keys and shoes. And as the clock ran out I screamed and ran ( sans socks) and Snapped.
The streets that were eerily silent one year ago buzzed with laughs, tears, horns, and cheers. And we did what we do best, we rushed Franklin Street.
And when I woke up this morning my eyes were bright and my heart was full. The sun shined all day. The streets and the sky were a sea of Carolina Blue. Most importantly victory, redemption, and championship was ours.
IT’S A GREAT WEEK TO BE A TAR HEEL!