February 10, 2004

another road trip, another loss


One thing about having a blog with actual readers is that you find yourself becoming uncomfortably aware of your audience. Back in the beginning of my online diary life, I didn't post any pictures, I waxed rhapsodic about the sexual problems Celexa was giving me, and I was occasionally content to fall asleep half-way through writing it. I'm humbled and stunned by the fabulous people that show up here, but you realize that it has made it a lot harder to talk about shoving suppositories up my ass while driving, don't you?

I ask these questions because occasionally you're going to hear me squawk on about the University of North Carolina Men's Basketball Team, and to many of you, it's a subject that you
a) don't understand
b) understand, but don't care
c) understand, and root for another team
d) don't understand and don't care
...which I totally grok, dudes. Sure, my boys Andy, Andrew, Jon, Tanya, Chip, Steph and Greg will probably not skip paragraphs but if you are going to keep coming back into this literary rumpus room, you're going to have to accept that you will be randomly hit on the head with a sky-blue-colored basketball. Yes, that means YOU, Garrity!

"Well, okay, Ian, but could you bother to make it interesting?"

Yes, yes, fucking all right. But to get it, you'll have to read my Dean Smith Manifesto, which will take me a few more weeks.

In the meantime, I went to downtown Atlanta tonight to see my beloved Tar Heels get waxed by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. It was another miserable loss in a season that has plenty of them, and I did something I never do: I left early. Sure, it was about 120 seconds early, but there was no way I was going to sit in my seat, watch them storm the court at my emotional expense, and then endure taunts from the Wramblin' Wreck Sig Eps on the way back to the car.

I have been to about 150 games in person, but never in hostile territory. Being ensconced in another man's tribe is a fascinating bit of social anthropology that I highly recommend. The language is a little different, the songs are warped, and the colors are foreign. It reminded me of the last scene in that Ray Bradbury short story "A Sound of Thunder" when the guy in the time machine steps on a butterfly, and when he gets back to the present day, everything is slightly askew.

Apparently they're making that into a movie. Must all of my favorite things from childhood be co-opted by the Man?

Anyway, if I'm going to talk about my Celexa and years of anxiety disorders and rage, rage against the chowderheaded simians currently running my country, I suppose I should also get to the bottom of why these basketball losses still put a dagger in my heart. Dean Smith said "If you live or die by winning and losing, you're going to do an awful lot of dying." I'm all ears as to how I can keep from dying every time.

Posted by irw at February 10, 2004 11:02 PM
Posted by: Bud at February 11, 2004 7:08 AM

A couple of things to keep in mind re sports:

1) You have absolutely NO control over the outcome of sporting events, unless you're there, and then you have as much influence as the proverbial butterfly in China.

2) 95% of high-profile athletes, even Carolina basketball players, are complete jerks, and wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire.

Hope that helps.

Posted by: Steven Garrity at February 11, 2004 7:27 AM

Dude - that photo of the NCU game with everyone in blue was so cool it actually became a dinner conversation-piece when I visited my parents last week (my Dad grew up in Springfield, Mass and I was raised a big Celtics fan).

So, I'll keep reading your weblog, basketball/mullets and all, if you keep reading mine, XML/HTML and all. Deal?

Posted by: steph at February 11, 2004 7:44 AM

Ian, Finding the middle-ground in the highs and lows of sports is key whether you are the fan or athlete. Some would say this negates passion but I would think the best coaches and players have this coping skill whether they know it or not. I would discourage the all-or-nothing type thinking.. even if a win is a win and a loss is a loss. It's possible to come away from a loss feeling satisfied in the performance. I have never been able to truly embrace the "loss is unacceptable" thinking; but losing still hurts if you played with all heart, which would explain your suffering. Unless it's a season-ending game, it's best to focus on the corrections to be made so that they don't happen again and the strengths and weaknesses of the next opponent. The heart of the fans can be influential as the players aren't robots unaffected by environmental factors, though the best ones camp out "in the zone" or the task at hand and well, are not very affected by the shirtless dweebe with "you suck" painted on his chest. I digress...

My mother would say "it's only a game" but that's the yin/yang of my athlete father!

Posted by: Tanya at February 11, 2004 8:35 AM

Ian, Darling. I have to agree with you wholeheartedly on the "dying every time" feeling. Every loss is painful. No matter how well we played or what we may or may not have learned from them. I'm through with the learning, let's get on with the winning already. That being said, I HATE that I love the Heels so much. If I didn't love them, then I wouldn't care, and I wouldn't wake up in the morning with the first of my thoughts focusing on the loss the night before and wishing it was all just a bad dream.

And I don't blame you for not sticking around. When we lose, I turn off Woody and Mick the minute the final score is announced, I refuse to watch the news that night lest they mention the loss, and I avoid goheels.com (or whatever university-sponsored site it's now watered down to become). My way of coping with loss is basically the same as an ostrich's response to fear.

It isn't pretty, but it works for me.


Posted by: Alan at February 11, 2004 8:48 AM

Ian, Garrity is also too humble to tell you that he is also the meanest amateur power forward pound-for-pound outside of the USA, jams from the free-throw line and would smoke you one-on-one in any game you call. Set the time, place and date. I want to see it.

Posted by: Andy at February 11, 2004 11:26 AM

I'm with Tanya on this one. Losing sucks. And if you live around Chapel Hill like I do, you have to do an awful lot of avoiding to not hear about losses the next day. It's 2pm and my morning newspaper is still sitting on my driveway because of this very reason.
Here are my random thoughts:
1) It's a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, losing against Tech hurts. It was the 3rd game in 6 days with the last 2 on the road. But look at our next 5 games and tell me we don't have an excellent chance to come out of there with 4 and possibly 5 wins. Maryland at home. Florida State at home. At Virginia. At NC State (they're going to implode sooner or later). Clemson at home. That would put us on a roll and confident heading into the game at the evil place.
2) If the losses didn't hurt so bad, the wins wouldn't feel so good.
3) The losses this year have hurt because they've all been winable games. Remember getting blown out by 40 at Maryland last year? It wasn't the same feeling because we didn't even have a chance to win but I don't want to go back to that point.
4) We'll be fine. I am uneasy going into some games this year but feel utterly confident about the future of the program. Last year, I felt *pretty* good going into *some* games but felt utterly horrified about the future of the program. This team is learning fundamental basketball all over again but have not been able to shake all of the bad habits and boneheadedness. Yet. It's like losing a bunch of weight. You can drop a bunch of water weight fast in the beginning but the last 10 pounds are the hardest to get off. But if you do it the right way, you'll build good habits and rarely gain that weight back.
Keep the faith, brother Heel!

Posted by: Ian at February 11, 2004 7:43 PM

Hey, I was outside the Zap Your PRAM conference shooting hoops on Dan's goal, and I didn't see no Garrity out there! Methinks he was waxing electronic to shield himself from my wrath!

Posted by: Alan at February 12, 2004 4:37 AM

You must have failed to refer to him as "Hoopmaster DJ Snazzy Steve" - if you don't he sulks a bit.

Posted by: Steven Garrity at February 12, 2004 6:29 AM

When I was in the sixth grade, I was a great basketball player. Then everyone started to get taller two years before I did. Now I do computers.

Posted by: Alan at February 12, 2004 6:42 AM

You know, there is still something in your elbow play even over a keyboard - cleaning out the lane...

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