Column: This is our religion. This is Carolina basketball.

Editor-in-chief Jane Wester

In 2007, long-graduated DTH columnist Ian Williams wrote that “Every religion must have its Devil, and ours are Blue.”

Well, of course they are. And the way we hate Duke tells a story: we hate the flopping, the elitism. It’s a low blow to focus on just one ex-student, but we definitely hate Richard Spencer. As Tar Heels, we’re supposed to be everything Duke fans are not.

We don’t flop, and by that we mean we try to tell the truth and we try to be brave. We try to fight for justice. We try to show the best of what public education can be.

We certainly don’t always live up to everything we say we’re proud of, but we have something — somebody — to remind us to try and do better. He’s been gone for two years now and he hasn’t coached in two decades, but Dean Smith’s legacy still shows us who we ought to be.

In my house growing up, Dean Smith was a figure of near religious reverence; the guy you want to raise your kids to be just like. Point to the passer. Stand up against what's established. When you’re in a position to do good in the world, do it.

Anyway, on Saturday night, the Tar Heels beat those devils in the Dean Dome. My friends and I got lucky in the lottery, and after waiting in line for just 11 hours, we landed in the second row right behind the basket. Thirty feet from Joel and Justin; thirty feet from — cue the screaming, though I think I simply froze in shock — Michael Jordan.

Forty-five seconds left and it could still go either way. Don’t even think about running to Franklin Street until you’re sure. With near religious devotion, follow the Woody Durham rule: “Go where you go and do what you do.”

We weren’t going anywhere. Not when this is our last night under the light blue rafters, our last time linking arms for the alma mater. Go to hell Duke, indeed.

Ten seconds left. Grayson and his pals can’t come back now. Now it’s time to scream and hug and watch Roy cut down the net and stay for the senior speeches, because we’re leaving soon, too.

Nate Britt said he’d never felt like he had so many people in his corner as he did right then. For maybe the last time that night, the crowd went wild.

And just like that, it’s over. We’ll never see another game in the student section. Most of us are going into journalism, so we won’t be able to afford seats like this again for decades, if ever — and if we hit some jackpot, it sure won’t be the same.

Honestly, I’m OK with that. Going to every game isn't nearly as important as trying to make Dean Smith proud.

UNC fans, UNC basketball and UNC as an institution are all imperfect, but the parables and ideals passed down through the legacy of Dean and Roy, Phil and Antawn, Tyler and Marcus keep us fighting for something better.

We really have found our religion.

Thanks for reading.

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