And just like the burger I had last night, UNC is In-N-Out of the NCAA tournament because of a missed defensive rebound. Scratch that. It wasn’t just one play. It was a myriad of mistakes.
All March we’ve heard this madness compared to the Taylor Swift song. Writing names in the blank spaces of our bracket. Hating players, but loving the game. You get the picture.
Well, this game left me breathless and with a nasty scar.
It was the definition of a nightmare dressed like a daydream (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, I’m done now).
A game filled with so many ups and downs that it felt more like a rollercoaster ride—but not the good kind. It was that ride you stand hours in line for on a hot day, just a little too close to the stranger next to you who forgot to put on deodorant. But you’re bursting with eagerness, expectations high and attitude positive. This is THE ride. It’s the one you’ve been waiting all day for. And when you slide into your seat, you begin to realize it was worth the wait.
You shoot off; this ride is new and unfamiliar. You’ve been on rollercoasters before, but never one like this. It’s something that grabs the attention of people all over the park. Everyone is watching and waiting for this one ride, and you’re there. You get to experience the ride. Sure, others can see it from a distance, but you’re on it—and you love every minute of it.
The unexpected twists and turns. Your heart pounding. Your stomach plunging. It’s everything you dreamed of and more. You can see the big finale. Goosebumps appear on your arms.
But then the ride stops. It breaks down right before the big drop—the moment you’ve been waiting for, taken away, and you have to do the walk of shame back to the park, anticipation unsatisfied. All that time spent waiting, imagining the outcome, gone in just an instant because of an error you couldn’t control.
The Wisconsin game was my rollercoaster ride.
This story isn’t going to be one filled with quotes about what UNC did wrong or what’s going to happen next year. I’m not going to talk about NBA draft speculations or if Roy should have called a timeout just a minute sooner.
Because as I sit in the media room after watching the nail-biter of a game, after interviewing the once ecstatic, now somber players, and after chatting with fellow Tar Heel media who found staying “unbiased” after a defeat like that just a little too challenging, I realize I don’t want to talk about this game.
Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, but not tonight. Tonight, I don’t want to think about the “what if’s”. Tonight, I don’t want to analyze gameplay. Tonight, I just want to go to sleep.
Someday, when I’m a grown-up and have a job, I won’t get to avoid a story. But, tonight, I’m still a senior in college. And, tonight, I’m going to write something a little bit different.
I’ve paid my dues and worked my way up to covering men’s basketball—the holy grail of Carolina sports. I’ve sat on the baseline and filmed every game. I’ve been trampled by players trying to save wild passes. I’ve heard the words uttered under players’ breaths. I’ve danced my way onto the jumbotron, camera in hand. I’ve had a front row seat for Marcus Paige swishing a three and Brice Johnson celebrating a dunk. I’ve interviewed Roy and players, past and present, after Dean Smith passed away. I’ve watched fans celebrate a victory and mourn a loss to Dook (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) on senior night. And, now, I’ve been sent to Los Angeles to cover the Sweet Sixteen.
Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t sweet.
You know those Sour Patch Kids commercials: sour, sweet, gone. This is was the opposite. It was sweet, oh it was so sweet. I saw a spark from the Heels that I haven’t seen all season. There was a certain drive that gave Carolina fans a hope that we haven’t felt in a long time—a hope we desperately needed after a season filled with stress from the media and loss that hit a little too close to home.
But then the lead started to slip away. Wisconsin gained momentum. And, before I knew it, Wisconsin was ahead.
Sweet. Sour. Gone.
That was the hardest part. We had it. We could have won. But we didn’t.
The number one seed beat the number one team in my heart.
And the sound of the final buzzer woke me from my Indianapolis filled daydreams.
Another season was over. Another reminder that my time at UNC is nearing completion. Another loss I’m not quite ready to discuss.
But with heartache comes hope. Tonight, I caught a glimpse of the team we could have been all season. A team that we can be we will be next year.
And as the cheese heads dance in the stands, I look forward to 2016. I may not be a student, I may not be at the NCAA tournament, but after four years at my dream school, I know who I’ll be rooting for, and I know they won’t disappoint me.