Four out of five of NC’s “major college” football programs won this past Saturday. The 5th one – East Carolina – fell 24-6 to one of those other four — Carolina in sun-drenched Kenan Stadium.
It was a good solid W for the Tar Heels coming off two consecutive near-miss Ls and it was an important sort-of-rivalry W. “Sort-of” in that the in-state series with the Pirates from Greenville does not qualify in the minds of all Tar Heels…. but it is VERY IMPORTANT regardless.
Next week it’s a not-Boise State school from Idaho coming to Kenan. Then we get into serious ACC competition. The ideal football weather of October is just around the corner. A welcome relief from two home games where fans on Kenan’s North Side deserve some sort of “loyalty in the face of a blazing sun” award. I mean, really!
A signature event occurred at halftime Saturday that would go completely unnoticed by all but a 100 or so Tar Heels if I don’t tell you right here and now.
For the first time in recorded history a sitting UNC Director of Athletics visited the Charlie Justice Football Lettermen’s Lounge on the South Concourse. “The Choo Choo Lounge” is that room you see in front of you if you enter thru the South Gate. It is a meeting place and halftime hospitality area for all former Carolina football players at every UNC Home game.
Yes….. “Bubba The AD” took a few minutes from his game day duties to drop by to meet former Tar Heel gridders from seven decades. Bubba Cunningham’s surprise visit pleasantly stunned the several 100 living legacies in attendance. It was a first-class gesture by a first-class guy.
“Wow, a UNC AD who cares enough to drop by to meet us and thank us for our contributions to UNC !!….” was an oft-repeated phrase as the fellas were told “who’s the guy wearing the blue-white striped tie”.
Tar Heels fans can easily name the stars of teams over the past 70-some years. The names that ring the stadium and fill up the record books; but 90% of men who have donned that “blue bonnet” over those years did so in relative obscurity known only to family and teammates.
The Band of Brothers that endured two-a-days, spring practices and countless hours on Navy Field knocking heads with one another as goggle-eyed assistant coaches “aggressively persuaded” them to stretch the limits of their physical and psychological capabilities….. with the only tangible rewards being the Saturday cheers in Kenan Stadium and other less beautiful greenswards.
It is a simple reality in football that fans follow the ball so the players that handle the ball get the recogntion – QBs, RBs, WRs – and, on defense the blitzing LBs and ball hawking DBs. They make up about 40% of the players on the field. What about the other guys? Their teammates know them….. their proud families look for their numbers….. and their coaches know them.
And of the players who “get their uniforms dirty on Saturday” there are another 40-50 who toil in total obscurity making those players better in practice and waiting their turn to block, tackle, run, pass or kick before a packed Kenan Stadium.
“Just call me Bubba” met a roomful of those guys on Saturday. Yes, there were some “names” on-hand that you would immediately recognize….. guys whose larger-than-life action pictures are on the pillars of Kenan Stadium….. but in The Choo Choo Lounge they are all just “teammates” hugging old friends and recounting “slightly” exaggerated stories of by-gone days playing football for The University of North Carolina.
It MEANT A LOT to those guys that Bubba The AD dropped by to say thank you for their contributions to Tar Heel athletics.
If you’re ever walking by The Choo Choo Lounge at halftime, stop for a few minutes and say hi. Ask for an autograph or a picture pose. Trust me…. they won’t mind at all. ….. not at all.
Enjoy BobLee’s commentaries at www.bobleesays.com