TIME BACK IN
The euphoria associated with winning it all has subsided to the point where maybe I can make a few comments on the events of last Monday night. The euphoria ( I must really like that word) will last, to some extent, until the next Final Four for the rest of the nation, but will never completely disappear or we Tar Heels as long as we live.
I had a strange feeling before the game this time. I get nervous before every game but, for some reason, I felt relaxed before the championship game this time. I honestly think we are a better team than Illinois, and I certainly respect Illinois, but something told me we were going to prevail. Don't get me wrong. I wasn't cocky about the prospects for winning the game, and I knew that many things could go wrong. Good thing you weren't around me when Felton got his second foul or when Illinois made the 3 pointer to tie the game near the end. When I saw the net move on that tieing basket, it felt like a dagger had plunged into my stomach. Even Coach Williams has said that he saw some uncertainty in the players eyes when that happened. That's when you need a credible coach to calm things down and that's exactly what RW did.
I have made a promise to myself that I am going to say NOTHING negative about the game. When you win it all, you can do things like that. It doesn't matter what mistakes might have been made now. They should be and will be forgotten. It might be an entirely situation had we lost. Remember the old saying that all's well that ends well.
One thing, however, warrants a few semi negative comments. I'm not sure what caused it, but I don't think I have heard as many negative comments about UNC from the media as I heard during the week leading up to the final game. I've given the matter much thought and I'm not convinced I ever came up with a plausible explanation for this. At one point, I thought maybe there were subconscious negative feelings towards our team by the media because of the turmoil associated with the Doherty situation. Some people thought the players were trying to get rid of MD and the way the thing played out, I could see where some people might be turned off by that. I didn't see it that way, but remember, I'm searching for an explanation of the negative comments. Another possibility is that some members of the media didn't like the idea of RW winning a national championship at UNC when he had never done so at Kansas. You never know the biases of media members and they can be oh so subtle. It was fun watching the behavior of any media person who, in any way, had a connection with the Big 10, like Clark Kellogg. He got taken down but good by Seth Davis ( Duke grad) for saying that Michigan State should run with Carolina. It wasn't that he just saying it. It was the way he said it and quite frankly I thought the way he disagreed with Seth Davis was offensive. Davis played it exactly right after the game. Everybody knew he had prevailed over Clark Cornflakes. but he didn't say a word about the fact that CK's recommendation had been disastrous. Davis saying nothing was much better than bringing it up. Everybody knew Kellogg was wrong and Davis taking the high road just made it so much sweeter than if he had mentioned it. Both Packer and Nantz mentioned it and a whole lot of people around the country thoroughly enjoyed watching Kellogg being taken down a notch. It was unfortunate because, up until then, I liked Kellogg. I have never seen him get so personal as he did in voicing his thoughts on what Michigan State should do in the second half, He'll have this little episode hanging around his neck for a long time to come.
Another interesting thing to happen was Billy Packer abruptly changing his take on Illinois' screening near the end of the game. He had commented numerous times about Carolina was not fighting through the screens set by the Illini. Then, all of a sudden, and with no warning, he switched from it being a UNC deficiency to it being illegal screens being set by Illinois. Most people I have talked with feel the illegal screens had been employed for the entire game, but Packer only saw it near the end. Maybe he didn't want that observation to haunt him to some time to come either. On the other hand, I'm not sure Packer really cares what other people think. For years, I have tried to defend him, but it has reached the point where it is an impossible task because of his overall negativity.
Not to beat a dead horse, but did you get enough commercial messages during the championship game? Poor Raymond Felton got completely squeezed out after the game because of a need for CBS to raise a few more bucks. They said they were going to return and talk with him, but it never showed in Richmond. I am told, however, that the post game activities were carried in the Research Triangle area longer than they were here. Maybe Felton was shown there, but I doubt it.
I have a few other things I would like to say, but I'm running out of space, so I will have to say them later. In summary, it was a long journey from Santa Clara to Illinois, but one that we all felt could be traveled successfully. Tar Heel fans have had much to disagree with among ourselves for the past few years, but I believe we can all agree that It's good to be a Tar Heel. It's always been true, but it's particularly true at this time.