Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Good times

Today was my final day of classes at UNC.  That thought in and of itself is scary (also I am dangerously close to possibly having to rename this blog).  Anyways I was looking at Twitter and saw that former Tar Heel Bobby Frasor had tweeted:

BFrasor: The past 4 years this day has been like Christmas to me.Last Day of Classes(LDOC). To everyone at UNC: I envy you. Now go jump off a balcony

Obviously this struck a chord as I am a graduating senior and have partaken in my fair share of celebrating during the last day of classes, one of which actually overlapped in a weird LOST kind of way with the incident that Frasor is referring to.  It happens to be one of the cooler athlete stories I have from my time here at Chapel Hill and one I've told many people, but I figure now is a good time to share it to a larger audience.

On the last day of classes during my sophomore year, I along with several other friends attended Slugfest, a large party/concert hosted by one of the fraternities here at Carolina.  I myself never pledged a fraternity (in fact that was probably the last day of my college career I spent a significant amount of time at fraternity houses) but one of my close friends was dating a guy in the frat and she had convinced a group of us to all attend Slugfest (which was actually a lot of fun).  After arriving in the early afternoon and visiting everyone for a bit and downing a couple (okay, perhaps more than a couple) cold ones, I decided to venture over to another fraternity that three of my freshman year suitemates had pledged.  Their fraternity front lawn was packed with people with the exception of an area in the middle of the lawn where they had set up an above ground pool.

While hanging out on the lawn and catching up with my old suitemates, the news came down that Tyler Hansbrough had decided to stay for his senior season.  Obviously everyone celebrated when we heard this, as the Final Four beatdown at the hands of the Kansas Jayhawks was still fresh in the minds of most students.  After mingling and catching up with everyone I knew downstairs I went inside the frat house to say hey to one of my former suitemates (Mike) who was hanging out in his room.  Mike's room opened up to the balcony on the front of the house, so occasionally people would come through the room to jump off the balcony into the pool (I refrained... you're welcome, mom).  After I had been hanging out up in Mike's room for about 15 minutes reminiscing about freshman year, Tyler Hansbrough and Bobby Frasor suddenly walked straight through the room out onto the balcony.

Once I realized they were about to jump I immediately thought that it probably wasn't a good idea.  After all Bobby was coming off an ACL tear and Tyler Hansbrough was the key to any possible run at a title the next season (earlier in the day Ty, Wayne, and Danny had all announced they would be testing the NBA draft waters).  I thought for a second about trying to stop it but realized that any attempts to do so could quite possibly end with me being thrown off the balcony into the pool by Tyler Hansbrough.  As such I made the decision to quiclky run downstairs to the front yard to watch the two jump (and hope like hell they didn't get hurt).  In retrospect I kind of wish I had stayed on the balcony as photos Tyler and Bobby jumping made their way onto PTI the next day.

Both landed their jumps fine, and everyone at the party wildly cheered them on.  I ran up and gave Tyler a high-five (my hand hurt like hell afterwards) then quickly snapped the photo shown above of him standing in the pool urging others to jump with the assistance of a bullhorn.

Shortly after, I left to rejoin my friends at slugfest and continued to celebrate the last day of classes.  Two years later here I am again, having just finished my final course at college about to go celebrate my final last day of classes.  I urge all Carolina students to go out and celebrate today.  After all, you only get to go through college once.  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Going the Distance

When Gordon Hayward's desperation shot bounced off the backboard and then off the front of the rim ensuring Duke its fourth national championship a small part of me died.  More than anyone, I know sports don't always end up with the poetic ending, but for the past 39 minutes and 59 seconds of basketball Butler had come out and proven that they could fight their way to their storybook ending with stifling defense.  I guess I had bought in to the Hoosiers comparison that had been constantly thrown around in the media over the past few week.  So when the chance for the comparison to come to fruition came just short, I like many others was disappointed.

Once I started thinking though, I realized that the real sports movie comparison wasn't Hoosiers at all.  It was an even better sports movie.  One that won the Academy Award.  One not about basketball.  Yep, you guessed it, Rocky.  While I enjoy every movie in the Rocky series (well except Rocky V, but that never happened), the first movie is undoubtably the best film.  The thing that makes it so unique is that the hero loses the fight at the end.  But that's not the point.  Unlike 99.9999% of sports movies, the point of Rocky is not winning, its proving you belong when others don't think you will.  Its about going the distance.

So now, a few days after a tantalizingly close missed buzzer beater crushed the hopes of pretty much all college basketball fans, I realize that even though Butler lost, the real storyline of the tournament was that they went the distance.  Don't let the typical post championship articles about Duke fool you either.  They were Apollo Creed.  Duke had 6 McDonalds All-Americans.  Butler had all of zero.  Duke had the coach who many feel may be the best the sport has ever seen.  Butler's coach just finished puberty.  Yes Duke and Butler weren't separated by that much in the polls entering the season.  Yes Butler was on the longest active win streak entering the game.  But Butler seemed to eek out every one of their games and never looked dominant.  Duke on the other hand picked Baylor apart late in their Elite Eight matchup and then delivered a haymaker to a West Virginia team who had just knocked off Kentucky.  Duke wasn't the collossus that last year's UNC team was (lets just say if Duke was Creed, last year's UNC was Ivan Drago and we all know what happened there) but in the context of the national championship game, Duke was the overwhelming favorite.  While the usual media hype accompanied it (I mean some tried to sell last year's UNC vs. MSU final as a great matchup) there was an overwhelming sentiment that Duke was poised for a blowout.

Much Balboa-Creed, Butler came out and surprised everyone including Duke by giving them their best shot.  Duke was never really able to get into a rhythm and couldn't get the open threes that had carried them through the tournament.  By the last few minutes Butler looked as if they could not only stand toe-to-toe with Duke but could actually pull the huge upset. In the end Duke never delivered the knockout punch, they survived and won in the end by a few centimeters with their opponent still standing, a team that had emerged victorious in every manner except on the scoreboard (NOTE: by no means am I implying Duke won unfairly.  Personally I thought the refs were very fair and Duke did deserve the win).

So when you're busy reading all the stories on ESPN and Sports Illustrated about how you should appreciate Duke's hard work, or Brian Zoubek's transformation into an effective basketball player, or how Coach K needs to be praised for being able to win with a lineup of 4 upperclassmen McDonalds All Americans (okay so that last one is a bit sarcastic, but the other ones are true), just remember that sometimes the team that loses can be the best story.  That is the case with Butler.  They went the distance.