One time I met Roy Williams on the streets of Charleston. I was 22 years old and had been a fan of UNC for roughly 22 years… give or take those first few. I came back from Christmas break early to do a little sports reporting as College of Charleston hosted UNC. For Charleston it was a huge game. It was early in the season after UNC won the 2009 National Championship. To host the reigning National Champs is a big deal to a relatively small school.
I was covering the game for Cougar Television, our school TV station, and secretly pulling for the Tar Heels. Before you burn me at the stake for this, you need to know that it just made sense. As a fan of both teams, I knew one would suffer a whole lot more from a loss than the other. So I sat on the baseline behind a video camera crossing my fingers for a very close game that would end in UNC’s favor.
It was a close game, close enough to go into overtime… then end with Charleston on top by 3.
I remember sitting near the front of the press room watching Roy Williams address what could only be described as a pretty embarrassing loss.
I’d met Mr. Williams earlier in the day while walking near the market downtown. It was all very serendipitous. I’d come back to school from break and barely unpacked. I’d left one of my favorite Christmas gifts in the backpack I was carrying at the market — that gift, was Roy Williams’ autobiography. Seriously, I got the book for Christmas just a few days earlier. I don’t know the odds of running into the guy who wrote a book you have in your bag, and I guess they were a bit better since he just happened to be in my city for the night, but that’s still crazy… right? So, when I bumped into him at the market we talked hoops for a few minutes. I explained who I was, where I was from, asked him a few basketball fanatic questions. He signed my book, I wished him good luck, and we went our separate ways.
A few hours later I was sitting in one of those hardback chairs that refuses to let you slouch in the second row of the press room watching the same man bow his head in shame.
It was, up to that point in life, the most disappointed I’d ever been in the University of North Carolina.
This past week rumors, and reports, and claims of dishonesty and academic scandal all became true. For the first time we got a very in-depth report of just what has been happening at the University of North Carolina for the past two decades. The investigation revealed everything I’d hoped was made up was terribly real.
I’ve been pretty quiet about the whole thing, mostly because I don’t even know what to say. I’ve been a Tar Heel fan my entire life. I’ve loved UNC longer than any pet I’ve ever owned, longer than the best friends I have in this world, longer than the man I hope to marry one day. Outside of my immediate family, UNC is the most constant thing in my world and it’s crashing.
I know, to people who aren’t die hard sports fans, it sounds insane. I also know that many of you will understand or at least try to understand what I mean by all of this.
I haven’t said much, because I don’t know how to react when something I love so deeply disappoints me to this degree.
Do I let myself believe they’ve corrected their mistakes and just keep cheering for them?
Do I get rid of all my jerseys and t-shirts?
Do I find a new team?
Am I supposed to forget the three national championships I watched from start to finish if the league decides to strip them?
I’ve spent my entire life calling myself a Tar Heel not just because the team wins, but because I’m from the Tar Heel State.
I can’t just stop being from a place because it embarrasses me.
Hell, South Carolina is still fighting the Confederate Flag battle.