If John Henson broke my nose

Ahhhh, Carolina. The smell of freshly cut grass, the ever-collegiate aesthetic pleasure of brick walkways and Corinthian columns, school spirit that hangs in the air like thick autumn fog. Welcome back, everyone!

Personally, I think it safe to declare our beloved University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill the best school in the world. (Possibly even the universe, but we’ll have to check with the astrobiology department on that.) We have the prettiest girls (sorry guys, but there are too few of you to include you in this statement), the best bang-for-your-buck reputation and — most importantly, of course — the best basketball team.

Our basketball team has received my AAA rating not only because they are destined for NCAA 2012 glory, but because they kicked off this academic year humbly, coming out of their Ram’s Village apartments to play a few pick-up games with fellow students at Cobb courts Sunday afternoon.

After picking up a scrumptious meal from Whole Foods, one of my roommates and I headed to the courts: she in her athletic garb, I in strappy wedges and camera gear. We also brought along with us one Mike Dematteo, a New Yorker and general sports fan who has just transferred to UNC from Pepperdine University near Malibu, CA.

We arrived a few minutes before 2 p.m., the predetermined time as set by Kendall Marshall on Twitter, to find that about 100 students had already arrived. By the time team members arrived and began to play, that number had at least doubled, and students lined the court’s boundaries.

It works like this: to earn a spot on the student team, one must rush to the free-throw line, elbow his or her way as far forward as possible, and be one of the first five to make a shot.

The games are first to seven, with a new student team each time, offering eager students several opportunities get in on the action.

This play-with-the-players tradition began after a couple of team members spontaneously decided to join a student game after their season had ended. Since then, Marshall, John Henson and a number of others have announced when and where they plan to play with students via Twitter.

While my intrepid roommate repeatedly fought the mass of hopefuls, Mike and I stuck to the sidelines, enjoying the dramatic dunks, humorous mistakes and crowd reactions.

“This is awesome,” said my new peer. “I can’t believe they come out and do something like this. So cool.”

My personal favorite moment? When I overheard someone a few yards away say to a friend, “If John Henson broke my nose, I would never fix it.”

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