The palpable sense of gloom and ennui enveloping some parts of North Carolina stems not from the cold, winter weather that seemed as though it would never leave - OK, some of it does - but from the cold shooting, lackluster defense and inability to hit the open man on the give-and-go of the UNC Tar Heels men's basketball team.
A recent front-page story I wrote detailed how the Heels' subpar season is affecting the mood of fans and the cash registers of businesses that cater to them. Judging by the way some Carolina fans took my name in vain after that story, calling me everything but a Reuben sandwich, you'd have thought I was rooting for Duke.
To quote movie producer Samuel Goldwyn, I can sum that up in two words. Im. Possible. Why, I'd rather eat a dead cat fried in turpentine than root for the Blue Devils.
With the exception of a little sliver of real estate near Ninth Street in Durham, the state of the state isn't great when it comes to college basketball this year. St. Augustine College's men's team won the CIAA championship - HOORAY, FALCONS! - but the seasons for the N.C. State Wolfpack and the Tar Heels have been, to use a scientific term, dreadful.
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No wonder Heels fans are feeling bluer than blue and in need of someone to, in the words of Tyrone Shoelace in the hit song "Basketball Jones," "set a pick for [them] at the free throw line of life."
Nothing short of winning the ACC Tournament, which starts today, will get the Heels into the NCAA Tournament or lift fans' spirits. Even though such a victory is unlikely, let not your hearts be troubled, Carolina fans. Let us accentuate the positive by focusing on reasons that this uncharacteristically poor season isn't so bad: Remember, too, that behindevery dark cloud ... Coach K is probably snarling and cursing at a referee.
Here, then, are some reasons to stay positive:
Parents won't have to fear turning on TV sets and seeing their kids leapingover bonfires on Franklin Street.
No need to clear space in the Dean Dome's rafters to hang yet another Sweet 16, Final Four or NCAA Championship banner.
With attendance down at home games, the air around the Smith Center is cleaner, because many well-heeled Heels fans kept their limos at home instead of leaving them idling outside while they cheered the team on inside. Fewer footsteps in the Dean Dome meant a smaller carbon footprint in the atmosphere.
No need to worry about an exodus of underclassmen to the NBA.
My buddy Duff won't have to decide between attending his wife's best friend's cousin's wedding or watching the championship game.
Husbands can finish some of those chores they've been promising to get to since October, and they can become acquainted with any children in their homes born since Midnight Madness in October.
Midnight Madness 2010 is only eight months away.
Remember, Heels fans. It's not whether we win or lose - it's whether Duke wins or loses.