It’s like nothing else. It’s pure joy.
Your lungs are burning, and your feet are flying under you. They smack the pavement in cadence with hundreds of people around you.
You push faster up the hill, screaming, laughing, and maybe even throwing a quick jump or fist in the air as you sprint.
Then you see it. The blue hue from the lights encircling the balcony of Top of the Hill. You’ve made it. The intersection of Franklin and Columbia.
The other day I wrote about the seven best things about basketball season. This feeling is one of them. The incredible feeling of jumping out of your chair and bolting outside when the Heels beat Duke. Rushing Franklin Street is a fabled experience. It’s part of what makes the rivalry between UNC and Duke so incredible. People from far and wide know that when the Heels win, organized and glorious chaos ensues in the Town of Chapel Hill.
I didn’t truly understand the feeling until my freshman year of college. I wasn’t “born, bred, and dead” like many of my fellow students. I knew UNC and Duke were rivals, but I didn’t truly understand just how deep that rivalry ran. For my friends that grew up in Carolina blue, they thought I was nuts for passing off the game with a relaxed attitude.
“It’s just a game,” I said as they painted their faces and put on their jerseys. There were subsequent dirty looks and scoffs from my friends saying, “how can you say this is just a game?!”
I had so much to learn.
I watched my first Duke game at Granville Towers with a group of friends. I put on the jersey a friend had given me. This was a jersey they wore proudly, and when they decided they wouldn’t be coming to UNC, they passed it along to me. I took it, thinking it was a sweet sentimental gift from a friend. The large “5-0” on the front didn’t really mean anything to me yet.
I passively watched while doing homework. I was tired and it was cold, so I thought maybe I would skip rushing Franklin. I mean, this probably wasn’t the only time we would beat Duke. Rushing Franklin couldn’t be that insane, right?
I was so, so wrong.
As soon as the game ended I heard people thundering down the outside staircase of Granville South. I peeked out the window to see students swarming and sprinting through the parking lot making their way to Franklin Street.
Wait a second. This is insane. I definitely need to be a part of this. This is my school people are running, shouting and cheering for.
I quickly realized that at UNC, basketball is about so much more than just basketball. It’s about a place that you love. It’s about your home away from home. Those boys in blue represent your award winning journalism school, your groundbreaking biology research, and every other amazing program UNC has to offer. Sports aren’t everything, but it’s a way to put a university on the map. It’s a way to get some attention, and get people to dig a little deeper and see that we’re not only capable to taking down a top ranked team, but we’re also a university that’s solving the problems of tomorrow, winning Nobel Prizes and Grammys.
Now, I know who Tyler Hansbrough is. I tear up when hype videos start surfacing on Facebook, chronicling the epic rivalry of Duke and UNC. I fling myself down the stairs and run full speed ahead to Franklin Street. I don’t care if I have a test the next day. I don’t care if I have an early appointment the next day. This is MY school, and we just showed the world what we’re made of.
So, in the words of Ian Williams: “God bless them Tar Heel boys!”
(featured image courtesy of WBTV)