The beauty of having your own blog is that you get to make the rules, so you don’t necessarily have to stay totally on topic. Thus, on the day before the first Duke-UNC basketball game of the year, I’ll show my true colors.
I was a manager with the UNC basketball team from 1981-1985. I spent the first two years primarily with the junior varsity team. There were six of us JV managers, and we were essentially in competition for one varsity spot. We had to hustle out on the floor to wipe up sweat after a player fell. We had to set up the locker rooms before the varsity games. We kneeled behind the benches, usually right behind the coaches’ seats. We wiped the sweat of their chairs after time-outs. I even got on TV a lot, noticing at one point the camera was on me (well, actually, Dean Smith, but I was right behind him). I waved and said “Hi, Mom.” I got called up to Coach Smith’s office the next day, with him telling me, “I’m glad you love your Mom, Dean, but we don’t do that here.” Ouch.
Well, no varsity spot opened up my sophomore year (long story), so I was made “head JV manager.” Now in many ways, that might be equivalent to head fry cook at the McDonald’s (see, I had a food reference here), but the head coach of that JV team was Roy Williams. You might have heard of him, as he’s moved onto bigger and better things. I got to know Coach Williams really well that year, as we spent a fair amount of time on run-down buses. Coach Williams was not much of a food guy. When some of the players were complaining about getting snacks of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of roast beef, Coach Williams told them how PB&J was pretty dang good when he was growing up and that they needed to shut up or they’d just get PB with no J.
Anyhow, I moved onto the varsity team my junior and senior years, where I was introduced to “the big time.” See, I had never even flown on a plane before I went to college. I never had eaten Mexican or Chinese food. When I joined the basketball team, I got to see the world: Greece, Japan, Hawaii, California, New York City and even Pine Bluff, Arkansas! I ate calamari for the first time in my life with Michael Jordan at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens (Michael loved the calamari until someone told him what it was). I drank too much ouzo with Joe Wolf and Matt Doherty in Thessaloniki (where Joe promptly hurled into the back seat of a taxi cab). I experienced a truly authentic shabu shabu in Tokyo and frogs legs in Baton Rouge. So, much of my love of food came from my days with the UNC basketball team. Oh, the stories I could tell (and maybe I will)!
But the reason for this post has nothing to do with food. It has everything to do with “The Game.” And this time, I’m not talking about Tyler Hansbrough and Gerald Henderson in the major smackdown. I’m talking about the UNC managers versus the Duke managers. It seems the managers have started a game of their own, which was reported today in the N&O, and Duke is sort of dominating the Tar Heels. It seems that Duke managers are generally former high school basketball players. In my day, the UNC managers were marginally athletic, but damn, we could keep stats with one hand and wipe up sweat with another. (Although managers did have to run a mile in less than 6 minutes. I think I still hold the record for making it by the narrowest margin: 5 minutes, 59.97 seconds. I sprinted to the finish line, where I collapsed. Dean Smith walked over, looked down at me, and said, “You sure had a lot left in you at the end, Dean. I wouldn’t want my players to hold back that much.” I wanted so badly to vomit all over his Converse sneakers, but I couldn’t.)
I suspect things haven’t changed much at UNC, and as a result, Duke usually wins these games by 20 points or more. I also wonder why the heck Duke has 12 — TWELVE — managers, while Carolina only has six. It takes a village, I guess.
I’d love to go to the next game and root on the boys in baby-blue, but they play late at night — like 11:45. And the game is open to invitees only, although I suspect I could nab an invitation. That might be the only way to get a ticket to a Carolina-Duke game, I suspect. Or maybe they could have a managers’ alumni game, and I could revisit my glory days. And probably end up wanting to throw up on a coach’s shoes again.