Let me preface all of this by saying — as a sportswriter, I pride myself on my journalistic integrity.
For as long as I’ve been at The Daily Tar Heel, I’ve regarded UNC sports as a “they”, not a “we”. I’ve found that, in order for me to do my job as best I can, it helps to distance myself from the traditional throes of Tar Heel fandom. I never cheer or root for any UNC team as loudly or unabashedly as anyone else, and my friends often mock me for being a supposed UNC “hater”.
Of course, I know the truth — I’m not a hater, I’m a journalist. I live and die by what I write and how I interpret the things I watch, and bias can affect that. That’s why you’ll rarely see me making wild claims about a Tar Heel team being better than I think they are, or yelling “GDTBATH!” at the top of my lungs. I can’t let that fandom seep into my writing.
With all that being said — Hubert Davis, from the bottom of my heart, thank you and your squad for making me look like an idiot.
When this season began, never in the most fantastic corners of my imagination did I think that these Tar Heels could make it to New Orleans. I didn’t even think that was a controversial opinion. A first-year head coach, three new transfer players to replace two dynamic departing big men and all on the heels of a first-round blowout loss to Wisconsin in last year’s tournament. What was I supposed to think, that a Final Four run was on the way?
Many of my friends, though, vociferously disagreed with me. They saw potential, energy and a dynamic new edge to this squad that made them different, unpredictable. They saw something I clearly didn’t see. And they proved me wrong.
I thought Marquette might give the Tar Heels a game. I was wrong. I thought Baylor or UCLA would overpower them. I was wrong. Hell, I thought the St. Peter’s Peacocks’ storybook run had a chance to reach the Big Easy. Well … I was wrong.
And now, after showing me just how wrong I could be and reaching their first Final Four since 2017, all I can really say to the Tar Heels is: thank you.
Thanks to this team’s improbable run, I now get to jump in a car with two of my closest friends and drive halfway across the country to report on what is undoubtedly the biggest event I have ever covered. This is UNC-Duke, the greatest rivalry in college basketball, for the first time ever in the NCAA Tournament, in the Final Four no less, in a 70,000-seat stadium — and I’ll be there for every second of it.
And it’s all because I was so incredibly wrong about this team.
Sure, that wrongness has led to jeers from my friends in group chats and my peers in classes whenever they ask me what I think about how UNC might fare in this or that game. I’ve heard “Told you so!” or “Would ya look at that?” more times than I’d care to admit this season. I’m not going to pretend it’s fun being wrong — but, I mean, it could be worse.
As a sports writer, of course I live and die by what I write, but I also live and die by this team. My stories are only as good as the stories they tell on the court. Wherever this team goes, my staff and I go.
It just so happens that, in light of my impeccable streak of bad takes, “wherever this team goes” turned out to be the Caesars Superdome for the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. And hey, wherever this team goes, I go.
Again, I’m not a fan. On Saturday night, I won’t be rooting for the Tar Heels, even in one of the most important games in the history of the storied Tobacco Road rivalry. But I will be there, and it’s only because of this team. For that, Tar Heels, I am so grateful.
And for my sake, I wouldn’t mind if you kept proving the world wrong.
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