Sunday, February 19, 2012

Eating, Drinking. Crying. More Drinking

February 2012

This past week I have crossed off one American tradition and one UNC rite of passage. On Sunday the great American pastime that is the Superbowl was held, and Wednesday the fiercest rivalry in college sports – the UNC-Duke game.

Most people at home have heard of the Superbowl – the big American Football match up between two great teams, but somehow more renowned for the infamous adverts (or commercials as they are known here!) they become the stuff of YouTube legend. I watched the Superbowl at Willey’s house with Pat and his mates (well, I guess to an extent I’d like to consider them my mates too now!), as Willy has a massive TV. Which is always key to enjoyment of a big game! The Superbowl is a bit of a ritual in the USA. It seems that most people sit down to watch it on the Sunday evening, and I think Matt mentioned that it is has the highest viewing figures of any American sporting event. Not sure if that is correct, but I can tell you we were well prepared for it with the fridge stocked with beer and the dining table chock-a-block with food! It’s estimated that Americans on average consume something like 3000 calories in the game time alone. ALONE! I could see why – fried chicken (so good!) macaroni cheese, biscuits (that’s American biscuits – similar to English scones but not really…), chips (crisps) and salsa, dips, and even more. The New York Giants were playing the New England Patriots, and as I had no affiliation to either I rooted for the Giants as they had a UNC alumni in their team. Fair enough excuse really! The Giants won 21-17 in the end, which also meant I won a bet with Andrea. Which I still haven’t seen the winning from (hint hint Andrea!). The funniest moment of the Superbowl was flipping the channel during half time to the Puppy Superbowl, which is exactly as it sounded. Cute little puppies running around in an attempt to get them to play football. Only in America! There was also an advert run at halftime of the game with Clint Eastwood and iconic American imagery, and it was really effective in my opinion – I had never felt so patriotic to a country I don’t belong to!

And then Wednesday. THE game. UNC vs Duke. The rivalry of all college rivalries. To anyone who doesn’t know about UNC-Duke rivalry, look it up (video below). Its intense to say the least. Throughout the week there was a build up to the event through charity events such as “Pie a Dookie” (Dookie is a derogatory term for a someone who supports Duke), where students were in the Pit and for a buck you could throw a pie at them (think they made a fair bit of money actually-not sure why…), articles in the student paper and adverts on ESPN. You know it’s a big game if ESPN is running adverts for it! Its rumoured that the President himself takes an interest in the UNC-Duke game. That’s how big this game is.

The actual day of the game was an interesting one. Carolina blue was out in force all over campus, and many families and alumni were wandering around. There was a lot of talk of how close the two teams were in standings and ability (VERY close) and how they match may play out. I was lucky enough to be able to get hold of a ticket (these tickets sell for anything from $300 to $4000 by the way. That’s CRAZY money) as did Lexi and Emma. We (well Lexi as she was the first one in the Dean Dome!) managed to get pretty decent seats behind one of the baskets in the second tier. To be honest though, wherever you sat was a good view and if it was with a load of other students then good fun too. The only issue to going to a UNC basketball game, as a student, is having to queue for hours at times to get in early and get a seat. UNC operates a phase system on the tickets, so it is staggered, but even if you have phase 3 for example (phase 1 being the earliest and best phase as you can get into the risers right on the court line behind the basket) you need to get to the Dean Dome early to try and get the best seats available for your phase. Me and Lexi were in our seats at 7.30 for a 9pm tip off. Yeah, exactly… The pre-game itself was intense. The Duke players were booed as they entered the court, the Duke Manager was booed even more, and the place simply erupted any time a UNC player did anything. And then there was the obligatory singing of the USA national anthem (yadda yadda - damn patriotic yanks!) and then the incredibly American but oh so great introduction of the UNC players, involving guitar solos, flag waving, cheerleaders and many, many high fives. And that’s without the screaming of the crowd and band playing. Its intense at ‘normal’ basketball games, but at with Duke you got the feeling everyone was so much more intense, so much louder. It made hairs stand up on the back of my neck!

Packed Stadium

 The game itself was tense. I had a knot in my stomach the whole game. The Heels (UNC) were behind to begin with but luckily came back to a narrow lead at half time, to maintain a comfortable lead all the way to the last two minutes. And then it went downhill. Terribly. Duke ate up the point lead and with 1.5 seconds to go were two points down at 82-84. Being a soccer and rugby supported I naively thought “well that’s that then we won!” But then Rivers took a three pointer shot and it went in as the time ran out. Basketball is one of the few sports where you can score once the clock as stopped. If the ball is in the air before full time and goes through the net after full time is counts. Which is what happened in this case. The silence in the Dean Dome was phenomenal. Absolute stunned silence. Never heard the Dean Dome so quiet in my life. The shock of being robbed of a victory over Duke by one point in the final second was hard to comprehend. It also meant that the customary celebration rush on Franklin street (the main street in Chapel Hill) didn’t happen (because we lost. Obviously) and everyone traipsed rather sullenly out of the Dean Dome. What was initially good humoured banter with the Duke fans in the Dean Dome before the game had taken a more sinister tone, and it was rumoured that a couple of Duke fans watching in a bar on Franklin Street had to be escorted out by the bouncers rather quickly after fulltime.

In absolute shock me and Lexi wandered up to Franklin to meet up with some of the other International (Emma had to stay behind to help clean up after the game) and a lot of people were still sat at the bars watching the reply of the final shot in shock. Except the internationals of course who the majority were steaming drunk and hilariously dancing away shouting “Fuck Duke” at opportune moments. Who says that disastrous things can’t be funny?!

All smiles before the game...
I found my reaction to the game rather interesting. Before I came to Carolina I never really knew of College sports, or even College pride. There is no comparable to UK institutions when it comes to college pride as in America. I guess the closest we get to it is the Oxford-Cambridge race. But even then that doesn’t really count because its either current students or alumni verbally slugging it out over Pimm’s at a garden party (sorry to those of you who go/went to these places – that was just too good an image to not write!). Hear people graffiti University signs and kidnap mascots. No seriously… At least it’s not like the football firms of the 80/90s when they went out and arranged fights with each other though. Anyways, my reaction was one of shock and genuine grief, because I really wanted Carolina to win. I guess I’ve become a Tar Heel now – I wear Carolina blue, know basketball and football players names and recognise them around campus, discuss UNC’s chances in ACC and NCAA etc, watch most games and know the words to the Tar Heel Fight Song. It’s one very small step to bleeding Carolina Blue from there, so I’m told!

The next day there was a sombre mood on campus, with plenty of Carolina Blue still about to show solidarity to the Basketball players, which were excused from class that day. The student paper had to print its title in Duke Blue and put “Duke is amazing” on the front page as part of the standing rivalry between the two schools. I admit that I was upset by the loss (not just because I wanted to party on Franklin and not go to class the next day!) but we face Duke at their stadium in March (which we’re gonna win!) and then have March Madness which is probably slightly more important in the grand scheme of things. Besides, it was said that UNC has never beaten Duke at home in the years they won the National Championship. So here’s a-hoping!

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