Out of the closet: Hubert Davis & Co. get to even the most die-hard ABC fans

Published 12:50 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2022

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The sun peeked over the horizon, revealing the most beautiful Carolina Blue sky.

It gleamed. One could envision a chorus of angels taking flight, their melodies as comforting as grandmother’s blanket on a cold winter night, the sun glistening against their snow-white forms.

It was this morning. In North Carolina.

For those of us fortunate enough to have lived here for a few decades or more, it’s just another day to enjoy what has been handed down before our very eyes.  It’s here every day. We just have to notice it.

We’re in North Carolina.

The Tar Heel state.

Pretty fancy introduction for a column about sports, huh?

For the first college basketball season in as long as I can remember, I decided to pull for the UNC Tar Heels this year. Over the years, my disdain for anything related to UNC basketball has dwindled. I guess we soften as we get older.

First, the disdain.

I’m not even sure of the names of the players any more, I’m going from memory here. But it was 1969 and Carolina was playing Davidson in the NCAA tournament. It was Charlie Scott, I think, who hit a last-second desparation shot that beat Davidson – tiny Davidson. This 12-year-old country boy from Davie County had already decided he was going to be the next Pistol Pete Maravich and play basketball for Lefty Driesell at Davidson. I worked daily to achieve that dream – right down the the Keds and floppy socks. Practicing basketball on an outdoor goal was given, regardless of the weather.

Remember those days – when you had more dreams than worries?

And since that shot back in the 1969 tournament, I started to hate Carolina basketball. No other reason. I learned to hate that color of blue. I learned to hate their style of getting a big lead and then stalling, what I would call turning it from a game of basketball into a game of keep away.

I would pull for the Russians over Carolina. It was that bad.

But then my favorite sister – I should be careful using the word favorite (Is she the one who reads my column every week or is it the other one?) – went to school there. I had friends who went to school there. I met new friends who went to school there. I had plenty of co-workers who went to school there. It turns out that there was nothing wrong with these people other than their misguided views about college basketball.

Although I was an ABC (Anybody But Carolina) fan, I really never had a favorite school. I’m not a big fan of any ACC team. I pick a new favorite yearly. It’s been Virginia. It’s been N.C. State. It’s been Georgia Tech. It’s been Florida State.

But never Carolina.

Until this year.

There’s just something about that bunch that makes you like them. They were unpredictable and scrappy. They looked like they didn’t belong one minute, like they owned the sport the next. It was the right group of players coming together at the right time.

And if anyone ever really bleeds Carolina Blue, it’s Hubert Davis, their coach. We’ll see if that becomes his curse or his might. How long does it take for a Carolina coach make his players bleed that special color of blue?

Yes, sports is somewhat like life. Look beyond what you think you hate, and find something worthwhile – something you can enjoy.

Thanks for taking us all along for the ride, guys.

– Mike Barnhardt