Monday, March 12, 2007

Always Faithful

After living in North Carolina for five years (Home of the Big 4: Duke, NC State, Wake Forest and UNC), there is no doubt that my knowledge of the orange ball exceeds common expectations. After all, in NC, babies' first words are almost never "mama" and "dada," but rather, "Boo Devilz," "Woofpak," "Deacs," and for some unfortunate offspring, "Tah-heelz." Women are required to know and love the rock at least as much as their husbands lest they spend many a weekday evening or weekend afternoon lonely.

When it comes to the NCAA Tourney, the atmosphere at the Balla house is always one of pure excitement. Maybe this is because of all the memories that have been created around the greatest sporting event of the year. Who can forget the Laettner shot against Kentucky in '92, the trip to Charlotte (and the "special hand stamp" and coup) of '94, and the crazy double trip to Durham in 2001 to watch a major comeback against the Terps and a win against Arizona for the third National Championship in Duke history (and OUR history with the Dukies!).

One less well-known memory takes me back to my days of teaching at Southern Durham High School. I'll never forget how popular the tournament was for my students. This was, of course, before the days of cellphones and text-messaging. My class begged me to let them watch the games on our classroom TV but I could not do it in good conscience. While this may not be noteworthy, the next twist definitely is...There was a boy in my class who was not normally one to get up during class but on this first day of the tournament he kept getting out of his seat and going over to the windows. I couldn't figure it out. What was the big attraction? Well, on his last trip I also meandered to the window, too, only to find him staring across the quad at the windows of a classroom one floor below. In that classroom was another boy who was writing score updates on sheets of paper and holding them up to the window so my student could see them. Obviously the teacher in that room had cracked under the pressure. It was hard not to...these kids were crazy about the games.

After getting caught up in the fray for all these years, I really understand the sentiment of the North Carolinians. We may not live there anymore but we do celebrate the tournament as they do, in royal (royal blue, that is) fashion. Starting with the picks...my winner is, and always has been, Duke (except in 1995 when they didn't make it). I will pick them again this year over Ohio State 77-72. For better or for worse, through ridicule and cheer, I'll stand by my boys looking for another set of memories. Stranger things have happened, no?

~Desi

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