Well Heeled

I’m not used to being the Enemy.  One of the Bad Guys*.
But somehow this weekend, the basketball team from my grad school alma mater – The University of North Carolina – became the villain in a “Hoosier-esque” story arc that was manufactured around this year’s Final Four in Detroit.
The Michigan State Spartans were the Big 10 Conference champs (and a #2 seed), which would hardly qualify as a “Cinderella” most years.  But this year, the Big 10 was “down” and the plucky Spartans (or so the media storyline would have you believe) embodied downtrodden “real” America – going through a tough time, but pulling themselves up by their bootstraps (err- sneaker laces) to improbably win it all.  It was going to be the feel good story of the year – especially for the poster state of economic woes, Michigan**.  The “D” word (Destiny) began to be thrown around.  

Of course, in any narrative, a protagonist needs an antagonist and there were the Tar Heels.  Full of blue-chip recruits, they were made out to reek of privilege. North Carolina could only have been set up worse if their campus was on Wall Street instead of Franklin Street. As chance (or fate, depending who you listened to) would have it, the Finals were in Detroit and so the Spartans would have essentially a home game, with probably 60,000 of the estimated 70,000 wearing green.  They had beaten #1-seeded Louisville and #1-seeded UConn impressively.  Why not one more Goliath, right?

Well, there was a Team of Destiny last night all right.  The Heels jumped out early, hitting shots, making steals and overwhelming a Spartan team that was unprepared for that onslaught and/or spotlight.  By the first TV timeout the lead was 10.  By the 10-minute mark it was 20+.  They dismantled MSU the same way they destroyed every team-on-a-mission (Villanova, Oklahoma, Gonzaga) they played, winning every game by double-digits going away.  Simply put, they were the best team.

The crowd at Ford Field was silenced before they really had a chance to get going and the remainder of the game was an exercise for Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg to remind people that MSU could come back with just a couple of well-placed turnovers and key shots.  The biggest cheers in the second half occurred when MSU managed to briefly get the lead under 15, but the Heels were playing it out – keeping the lead comfortably in the 15-20 range.  You had the sense that if Roy Williams had flipped a switch, they could have rattled off another 15 point run.
But only The Bad Guys would do that.
Congratulations UNC!!  GO HEELS!!
*We save that for Duke.
** I wonder who people in Ann Arbor rooted for?

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12 thoughts on “Well Heeled

  1. *We save that for Duke.
    hey. any enemy of Duke is a friend o' mine.
    and congrats to the "Heels on their win. they were the better team. and it was nice to read in the paper that the team's core of seniors and juniors had decided to stay and try for a championship instead of jumping to the NBA last year.

  2. On a tangent, my secret (not so much now I guess) pet peeve is when people root for the underdog, for the sole reason that they haven't won yet. Am I the only sports fan who doesn't believe "we haven't won before" isn't a good enough reason to deserve the win? How about, I'm rooting for them because they play better. They make fewer mistakes. They're more mature. They work harder. Or, they're from the same place as me. But thinking they should win only because they usually lose… I'm just not into that.

  3. Yeah — the story of the four of them was a good one. Hansbrough had decided first and the others came after. I think laying such an egg in last year's Final Four really left a bad taste in their mouth.

  4. Hapa — I think what got me is that this was all about the narrative. Reporters — not the players or coaches — started milking the whole human interest story and it sort of took on a life of its own. Incredibly annoying!

  5. I know we already briefly discussed the game, but wow. From the preseason till last night, the Heels deserved to win the championship. I forget the exact numbers, but in the playoffs, they played something like 240 minutes and only trailed for TEN. And their margin of victory over all opponents was no less than 12 freaking points.I can't tell you how impressed I am when guys like Tyler Hansbrough stick around when they could already be making millions in the pros. It's why I still have utmost respect for Peyton Manning.And Roy Williams — two championships in his six years there? Yeah, not too shabby at all.

  6. While I am not an avid follower of basketball by any stretch of the imagination, there are so many MSU grads that are friends I of course was excited by the possibility of something positive in this state happening. But knowing as little as I do about basketball, I never for one minute felt that it was going to be a cake-walk for State. I found it hilarious that moments before the game started the announcers both picked MSU. Then within 2 minutes of the game they both were backtracking and stating how UNC had been this good all season and State was not well matched in size etc. And then I heard that they beat the Spartans 3 short months ago by 35 points (if I remember the number correctly)!?!?!?!?! WHO in their right mind would pick State so convincingly knowing that fact? Just because they played well against Louisville and UConn? Whatever…. State played horribly and it was disappointing.Congrats to your team. They defintely were the better team and deserve the championship. :)

  7. Those poor Michigan State farm boys! And they had to walk to the championship game too, because they couldn't afford to take a bus, because they had pooled all their bus fare money to buy plasma for anemic ducks. And then their shoes were so worn out from walking that they played the entire game using candy wrappers and whatever litter they could collect from the Tar Heels' wasteful left-overs just to have something to cover their feet. At least that's what I heard.

  8. Kellysouth — yeah the Heels beat MSU in December by 35 — actually AT Ford Field. There were some folks that MSU had injured for that game, but that wasn't going to make up 35 points. But people had kept picking against UNC all season — mostly because I don't think announcers are encouraged to say, "Yeah — this game's likely to be a blowout maybe you should go watch Dancing With The Stars…"

  9. The worst part is that the Heels always stay nice and toasty in their baby harp seal lined sneakers. And they get a lot of rest from sleeping on pillows stuffed with spotted owl feathers — which they only use once and then burn.

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