A divorce from hoops? That’s the way the ball bounces

Elizabeth Richardson
Elizabeth Richardson

I am getting a divorce. Not from my husband. I am divorcing college basketball.

A year ago, during March Madness, I realized that I really was mad. Angry. “One and done” put me over the edge. For decades I believed that the players I loved may love me too, even if we never met. If I were willing to stay up late and raise my blood pressure, could college basketball players not show a little more loyalty to their fans and their schools?

Too much “one and done” precipitated our final fight, but college basketball and I had already grown apart. The game changed too much. College basketball had lost its purity, and become too much of a farm league for the NBA. Love faded, and I became unwilling to stay up past 9:30 or get so worked up that I risked a stroke.

So I have done what every person seeking a divorce in North Carolina must do. I have lived separate and apart for a year.

I have kept such a distance that I no longer know which teams are in the ACC. This month I walked through the den while my husband was watching the ACC tournament, and I stopped for a minute, because I was confused. What on earth was Louisville doing playing Carolina in the ACC tournament? I had no idea Louisville had joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Instead of growing angry, I sat outside and remembered the good old days, when basketball shorts were short and the ACC bore a geographical semblance to the Atlantic coast.

My fond memories began when I was a child and watched TV with my father, a graduate of North Carolina State. I grew up a Wolfpack fan, and I continue to carry a little red flame in my heart. When I was an undergraduate at UNC-Greensboro, I spent lots of time at Wake Forest, and I still have a crush on the Demon Deacons.

Then I went to law school at Chapel Hill, and I fell hopelessly in love with the Tar Heels. I seldom ventured from the law library, but I would sneak out occasionally for basketball games. It was worth the risk of humiliation for being unprepared in class the next day. After all, these were the glory years, 1981-1984. James Worthy. Sam Perkins. Michael Jordan. A national championship.

I remember the 1982 celebration as if it were yesterday. We poured onto Franklin Street by the thousands. We sprayed each other with blue paint. We kissed strangers. One young man, barely clad, swung from a street light. I am pretty sure he was not a law student, but even the law students lightened up for a while.

In Chapel Hill, this is as good as it gets. In law school, this is absolutely as good as it gets.

I cherish the memories of the good old days, but the year of separation is over. The divorce is final. I am one and done.

Dear college basketball, thanks for the memories. Dear Tar Heels, I still love you best, and we’ll always have Franklin Street.

Elizabeth Richardson lives in Mount Pleasant. She says three ACC teams in this year’s Final Four would surely test her resolve.