Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Deforesting Chapel Hill (Homecoming)

 October 2011

Homecoming to me is a distinctly American event – I certainly don’t know of any UK institutions that put on anything like homecoming. SO what is homecoming? As far as I can tell (seeing as I didn't actually bother asking for an official definition), homecoming is the last home game within the football season, and involves alumni of UNC coming back to Chapel Hill for the weekend. Usually certain years are targeted, such as 4 years, 25 years etc etc, but I think all alumni are welcomed back regardless of when they graduated. The key event of the weekend was the football game, but other events are put on, such as meals, socials and a (sort of) big concert on the Saturday. 

The football game itself was against Wake Forest, a smallish private university not far from Chapel Hill (in American terms that is…). Apparently there is a slight rivalry between the two (although not to the same extent as NC State and Duke), although its not really a true rivalry as we “beat them every time”. I quote here as I cant vouch for that, nor really want to (in case of a witch hunt from Forest fans..). Anyways, in the weeks preceding the game there was a fair bit of hype in going to beat Forest. This was most noticeable to be through the selling of homecoming t-shirts with “Deforestation” emblazoned across them. I’ll be honest and at first thought the Anti-coal coalition had taken a dramatic new direction and had started to campaign for wood fires as energy sources again in order to harp back to the 16/1700’s, but now “Deforestation” is the act of “kicking the shit’ out of Wake Forest” (I paraphrase as I can’t quite remember what it actually said!).

Cheerleader antics
The game itself was good fun – I joined up with Jessie and Kiever again, with Mary-Ellis joining us too and managed to get right into the Tar Pit – the student area of the stadium where it usually gets pretty wild. I realise I have never really written about the atmosphere of a college football game, so I can say now it is amazing. The chants, loud music, marching bands and crazy competitions during break plays are fantastic. The fact that the stadium can hold 60,000 people is a testament to how popular college sports is in America, and on TV there is channel after channel showing various college teams in different sports. American Football I feel is the most outrageous (that I’ve seen so far at least), with players charging out of the tunnel with the American flag flying – almost like a battle charge – and music blaring out, fans screaming and banging benches and smoke billowing. The video above shows Steven Fry's experience of college football from Alabama (where they go TOTALLY mental for it!) and the second one is a hype video for UNC. I tries to find the actual one they play as the team come out onto the field, but I couldn't, so this is the best YouTube could offer (skip to 1min in - that's when it gets interesting!). Neither video quite puts across the atmosphere experiences in the stadium, the noise etc. I don't know if it's just me, but it's certainly more intense than football (soccer for you Americans) back home. Although I'm guessing this is due to culture, but still is an absolutely amazing experience!

Anyways, deforestation was successfully completed in the Kenan Stadium, with a comfortable score of 49-2. The concert that evening was attended by myself (was too busy parting somewhere else!) but apparently it flopped with less than 10% of tickets being sold – oops! Homecoming was an interesting experience and something I don’t think happens in Manchester (however, not being an alumni means I wouldn’t know!), but it’s certainly nowhere near as big. Although this probably  has something to do with the fact that college sports is so ingrained in the American culture, and has such a following from people who have left, or may have not even attended the college they follow. It certainly means a hell of a lot of money is involved in college athletics – and a huge amount of fame given to college students who just happen to want to play some sport.

Tar Heels reset for a touchdown

No comments:

Post a Comment