I’m a believer

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

If basketball is a religion here at UNC, then we’ve just visited its inner-most sanctuary.

After countless unsuccessful attempts, I finally won student lottery tickets to the Heels game this afternoon against Virginia. The entrance for students is phased in stages — we were phase 1, which meant seats on the risers immediately behind the basket if we were willing to arrive 2.5 hours before tip-off. We weren’t, and instead headed up to Carolina Brewery for a couple of Sky Blue Golden Ales and a plate of beer-battered boneless wings.

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About an hour before game-time, we hopped on the free trolley offered by the brewery and joined the mass exodus to the Dean Dome. Despite the huge influx of fans, UNC actually does a great job of directing and moving traffic and people (guess practice makes perfect) and the shuttle bus dropped us directly in front of the stadium. We hopped off, joined the sea of 20,000+ Tarheel Blue-clad fans and made our way to Gate D.

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Inside, we found that much of the student seating had been filled and our best bet was on the second tier, in section 205A. We hiked to the top and found a pair in row R. While they weren’t nearly as good as the reserved seats from my last Heels game, it was still pretty fun sitting among all the die-hard fanatics. The first 20 minutes of the game was pretty sloppy, with the Heels shooting terribly. At half-time, Hall of Fame inductees, including Larry Brown and the man, Dean Smith, were honored as a new banner was raised to the rafters.

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The second half was a different story and the Heels soon pulled away. Leaving the Dome, with thousands of exuberant fans — faces and chests painted, wearing every imaginable shade of light blue — who were excited and proud of their team, made me realize what a spectacular place this is. The sense of spirit, camaraderie, community is unparalleled.

And it’s another reason that I’m glad to have “joined the faith” and become a Tarheel.

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