WE DID IT!!!
So this is a week late. I know that. It's taken me this long to get back acclimated to that little thing I forgot about for three weeks called school. And on top of that, I've been battling some insane illness that has had me by the throat for over a week now. I just hacked up a lung while I wrote that sentence.
But you know what, none of that matters, because WE DID IT!!! Yeah, I can say "we" because I was there. I was part of the support staff, however minor my role was. I was with them in Greensboro, in Memphis (barbecue...) and in Motown. I was there when LSU tied the game up in the second half and it looks like the dream run would be cut short. I was there when we rolled the Zags. I was there when Blake Griffin realized that he alone can't handle the Tar Heels. I was there when the Wildcats were tamed and sent back to Philly. And I was there when Ty Lawson got a record-breaking eight steals; when the Heels broke the record for points scored in the first half of any NCAA championship game; when Bobby made a wide-open lay-up in the final minutes of the game; when Coach Roy Williams called a time out with one minute to play to put in the third string; when Tyler Hansbrough bear-hugged the entire bench; when over 60,000 people dressed in green and white were silenced. I was there when the UNC Tar Heels won their fifth NCAA championship!!
And it was awesome.
I don't get emotional over much, but Carolina basketball does it to me. Before the tournament started, I watched a recap of the 2005 season when the Heels won the championship. I got a little teary when Sean May pulled down that last rebound. But for about 39 minutes Monday night, I held my composure. I didn't want to get excited to early. But when Coach Roy called that time out, it was all over. The water works started and I couldn't help it. By the end of the game I could barely play "Carolina Victory" because I was choked up. You can hear the tubas playing it in the broadcast of the game, but I promise you I wasn't the loud one.
I watched a replay of the game just last night and got choked up. I just can't help it. I feel some special attachment to these guys because we were freshman together. I spent my whole college career watching Danny, Bobby, Marcus, Cope and Tyler grow up and improve. I was there when they lost a heart-breaker to Georgetown in the Elite Eight in 2007. I watched them fall apart against Kansas in the Final Four last year. Then I saw all of them come back for one more year. Tyler wanted a ring. And, man, it felt so good to see him get it.
Back at the band hotel, fans were still waiting to see us when we arrived at sometime after two in the morning. We had a "champagne" toast, where the band director really made it all sink in. He said, "Since 1793, three students have worn a mascot uniform when the Tar Heels won a championship. Thirty-six students were in cheerleading outfits when a national championship was won, and 87 band members. Welcome to an elite group. Cheers."
On the plane the next day, the boys and Coach Roy were tired. I heard they didn't sleep all night because they had to be on the CBS Early Show. But they were happier than I've ever seen them. Coach Roy came onto that plane clutching the trophy like someone was going to steal it from him.
Maybe it's because I'm getting ready to graduate and this chapter of my life is ending, but there was something special about this team, this group of seniors and this season that I will remember for the rest of my life. Alumni now say can say that they were there in '82 with Jordan, or '93 with Vince Carter, or '57 with Rosenbluth.
But now I can say I was there in '09 with Tyler, Bobby, Danny, Marcus and all the boys.
Way to go Tar Heels!