You see, North Carolina Tar Heel basketball is as much a part of me as pencil skirts and lip liner. My dad is the biggest fan this side of... well.....Carolina. Growing up, basketball nights on TV were to him as sacred as Mass is to Catholicism. To this day, at age 75, he wears a Tar Heel toboggan almost every day, his favorite sweatshirt is Tar Heel blue and gray, he drinks from a Heels mug and walks in Tar Heel blue slippers. The next time he checks his sugar levels I'm going to check and see if his blood is Carolina blue.
It was a sin in my house to speak during a Carolina basketball game. You could breathe if you were lucky and if daddy was in a good mood - which only happened if they were winning. And EVEN when they were winning it only meant the yelling and cursing was of a kinder gentler variety. No matter the score - even or a double-digit lead - the running commentary never ended from tip off to final buzzer. I knew Coach Smith couldn't hear Daddy's voice from our living room but Daddy didn't. I used to wonder if it ever occurred to my father that the neighbors and half the cows in Texas could hear him as well. I asked my mother, once, if Dean Smith was a member of our family.
I wondered why Daddy would so intimately curse a stranger.....We went to bed at 8pm on school nights - I so hated that - usually about the time the game began. "Grant!" I remember hearing my mother say through the closed bedroom door in the BACK of the house, "Stop that! The children are trying to sleep!"
He would quieten down for a few minutes......1, 2, 3.....until some knucklehead (that was not the word he used) would miss a foul shot and it would start all over again.
If Duke played Carolina, it was much worse. My mother pulled for Duke. Not out of some alumni allegiance but simply to irritate my father. Purely Machiavellian. Oh, it was a loving enough joust between them I suppose.....my mother didn't yell..... but I could feel the vibrational stomps through the kitchen and the bedroom door. And then there were the ill-timed giggles. How could they be so angry with each other one minute and laugh the next?
I was glad to see North Carolina win over Villanova tonight. I knew he would try to stay awake and watch. He's too sick and weak to scream at the TV much anymore but tomorrow when I visit him at least I'll have the last half of the game in my memory to banter with him about.
It's funny. I made notes as I watched tonight and planned a humorous take on the NCAA. I was going to "pencil skirt ya" and pretend I didn't know a thing about basketball (ignore what I just said, Travis). But when I started writing it, all I could think of was daddy's loud and raucous faithfulness to a team he never once saw in person. Not once.
And that made me sad.
There were no outbursts in Bloggingham tonight. No scorching barbs from an armchair coach. No tender ears hiding under pillows. But I realized the longer I watched, just how much the sound of those squeaky shoes set me on edge and made me anxious. The dance of tangled legs I grew up watching came flooding back in a pile of life I'd forgotten. I know the rules like the back of my hand. Three-pointers, fouls shots and free throw lines. The flow of the game. The smell of the gym floor.
And the sounds.
I know them too.
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