With the end of midterms and the beginning of Fall Break having finally arrived, the excitement for Zero Dark Thursday has reached a peak here in Chapel Hill.
Despite a lackluster start to the season, there is a palpable sense of anticipation that has been mounting for ZDT ever since fans caught their first glimpse of the new black unis way back in April during halftime of the spring game. This buzz is about more than just a fresh look, though: it’s about students getting to blow off a little steam.
Having experienced a lifetime’s worth of noon and 12:30 kickoffs, most undergrads are excited simply to escape TV scheduling purgatory for a night. The major advantages of a late kickoff include 1) not having to set an alarm to wake up for an early trek to Kenan and 2) having plenty of time to tailgate. I myself have never been a huge tailgating enthusiast, but I can more than appreciate what it does to enhance the gameday atmosphere.
Not only will campus be littered with pregame parties and tailgates adorned with red solo cups, but Franklin Street itself will be closed off from Columbia to Mallette St. as Tar Heel Town hits downtown. For a student body accustomed to an almost complete lack of pregame festivities, Thursday might just serve as a sensory overload.
This is all part of Coach Fedora’s attempt to revolutionize the gameday atmosphere in Chapel Hill. Last season, in a similar move, Fedora instituted Carolina’s first ever whiteout of Kenan Stadium. Despite a 12:30 kickoff, the stadium filled in quite well and a large majority of fans did their part to support the Heels by ignoring the rules regarding which colors are acceptable after Labor Day. With this being our only precedent, I would venture to bargain that the crowd for Thursday night will have no dearth of fans willing to participate.
Of course, the older generation of Tar Heel fans is sure to have mixed emotions about sporting a color that’s not technically in the school’s repertoire. Granted, if the all-navy uniforms and chrome helmets from the State game last year weren’t enough to send traditionalists into cardiac arrest, they’ll probably survive one more attack on our conventional gridiron garb. Fedora has claimed that the inspiration for the new uniforms was the black in the tar of the Tar Heel logo. Sure, I’ll go with that. Whatever we have to tell ourselves to justify some slick new duds.
One thing is for certain: the Tar Pit is more than happy to embrace the darkness. I’ve yet to find a single student who doesn’t welcome the Heels’ new look with open arms.
More than that, though, it’s nice to finally hear people around campus talk about being excited for a football game. The general consensus seems to be that Thursday will be one heck of an atmosphere for football, regardless of the end result. People excited for the atmosphere of a Carolina football game: now there’s a novel concept.
Who knows, maybe something crazy will happen. This is the ACC after all, where inconsistency is the norm. The last time I witnessed a night game against a top-ten ranked Hurricanes team was in 2004, when a freshman named Connor Barth had 120,000 eyes glued to a 42-yard kick that sent Kenan Stadium into pandemonium. Not much was easily discernible in the mass of humanity that swarmed the field on that late October night, but I’ll never forget looking on as the police tasered some poor guy for trying to carry off one of the torn down goalposts with his buddies.
In the end, I’m just excited to experience Kenan under the big lights again. In front of a national audience, the Heels have a chance to make a statement to themselves, and to the world, that Chapel Hill knows football. The normal excuses are out the door, so I fully expect to see the Tar Pit painted black.
Here’s to hoping someone gets tasered for all the right reasons.