Monday, March 16, 2009

My First Visit to the Dean Smith Center for a Ball Game

I had been to the Smith Center before--saw Rod Stewart there (whew!-in a red leather suit!--
Whew!), visited my daughter at basketball camp there, went in simply to look around. But I had never seen the Heels play there. That was all about to change...

My friend Moneypenny was visiting her folks during February. I got a phone call from her asking if I wanted to go to the dook game. Knowing that we had already played dook at cameron, I knew exactly what game she was talking about. After hyperventilating for a minute, I assured her that if she got the tickets, I was there!

Her friend gave her the tickets. I bought an airplane ticket. It was a done deal. I didn't tell anyone in Raleigh except my sister, Jaymi. I flew in on Friday, and my friend Moneypenny picked me up from the airport. We had a lovely dinner at a beautiful restaurant in Cary, and then we were up and running the next morning. I was up at 6:00 a.m. to get dressed and drive to Wake Forest to see my niece Morgan before she left for school. After a lovely breakfast and delightful company, I drove out to my parents' home and surprised the heck out of them! They had no idea I was anywhere near the state, and I had a short, but great, visit with them. I get tickled every time I remember how surprised they were.

Finally, it was Sunday--the day of the big game. My sister and brother-in-law drove to Chapel Hill with my other niece for breakfast. Breadman's is ALWAYS a great choice. Moneypenny and I met up and shopped a little on Franklin Street, pointing out the changes since we were in residence. Then we trekked down campus to the Smith Center. We waiting in line to see the new museum (which was incredible, but too little history--a lot of current players' items and stats). Then, the game.

We arrived during warmups, which is always fun to watch. Everyone cheered as players came up from the locker room to warm up. I got a photo of Danny Green waving to me! We sat about 10 rows behind Michael Jordan (great seats!). Everyone booed as the dookies came in, especially the former players, I mean, the coaching staff. As the seniors were introduced, each got a round of applause. The most touching thing, to my mind: Marcus Ginyard is redshirted, so he will be back next year as a fifth-year senior. His recruiting class is graduating (on time, I might add!) this year. All the graduating seniors were on the floor enjoying their moment, when one of them (I think Mike Copeland) went to the bench and led Marcus onto the court. Then the game started. I think they scored first, but we led most of the way. I felt pretty comfortable after the 15-minute mark of the second half.

Postgame Senior speeches were fun and touching. Psycho T, the stoic, don't let anyone get in his way, cried during his final appearance at the Smith Center. It was adorable. I cried, and I am not even his mom! It was really wonderful to see ALL the players recognize the time and money and energy their families put into their basketball career.

What a great tradition we have. I know others feel the same way, and I know we all think that "our" tradition is more special than any other. It is, because it is ours. All the people in that gym had one thing in common, even the dookies: we love the game. And that game belonged to the Heels, all those before and all those to come. God bless those Tar Heel Boys!

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