Monday, December 12, 2011

Unexpected Carolina sports weekend

The Dec. 9-11 weekend was unexpectedly phenomenal on three athletic fronts that had almost nothing to do with the Carolina victory over Long Beach State Saturday evening.

My fiancee and my friend Daniel's wife, Kathryn, lured him and me to Franklin Street at 10 a.m. Saturday for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Holiday Parade. We both resisted at first but caved when we discovered the other had received as much pressure to attend.

"I'll go if J.D. goes," Daniel reportedly said. I had not been out of bed for 20 minutes by the time we accidentally set our lawn chairs next to a dozen children who could barely walk.

The parade was surprisingly enjoyable despite boasting roughly three too many martial arts groups for elementary and middle school children. The RE/MAX float's hot air balloon flame nearly ignited a crosswalk stoplight. The Orange County Jammers Senior Cheerleading Group was a nice surprise.

But my favorite moment came from a trailer full of adolescent girls who signed Christmas carols for the deaf while a musical pickup truck towed them along. The driver either struggled with a sticky accelerator pedal or exercised a sharp sense of humor when he suddenly jolted the truck and trailer forward. The girls lurched for an overhead bar to stay on board. They smiled after a few tense seconds, released their grips and began to cautiously sign what was left of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" with noticeably less excitement.

"There goes Roy," Daniel said just as the parade ended. I spun around in time to see Carolina head basketball coach Roy Williams walk into Chapel Hill Sportswear.

We nervously stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes while we deliberated what to do. Of course we followed him. The receptionist informed me that Roy was upstairs. When we were halfway up the steps, Roy began his descent with a little boy. We were unsure of what to say and whether we should awkwardly continue our climb. Kathryn broke the ice.

"Is he yours?" she asked.

"He's mine all right," he said, patting the big-eyed kid on the head. We smiled and walked up the rest of the stairs. Roy led the Heels to victory over Long Beach State that night after trailing by five at intermission.

The Carolina men's soccer team won its second national championship against in-state rival Charlotte the next evening. Before the game began, I read a national sports story that was most uniquely relevant to me.

Former Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates led his Houston Texans on a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals and clinch the franchise's first playoff berth with a last-second pass to wide receiver Kevin Walter, an alumnus of my alma mater Libertyville High School. Yates has been unexpectedly under center for nearly three games after the starter and backup went down with long-term injuries. The media seemed to write off the Texans, but Yates has proved them wrong with an unblemished record. Yates is the first ever Tar Heel to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. I was eager to spread the news to my friends until I realized that nobody in the world could appreciate the news as much as I did.

Go Heels. Go 'Cats.

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