Return Trip To Greenville

For the first time since 1973, last Saturday I attended a UNC game on the road in Greenville where, as you know, the Tar Heels faced the ECU Pirates. Those of you who have read my bio on the first page know that I attended ECU for several months when I graduated from high school in 1950 and this is only the third time I have been back to Greenville since I left to join the Air Force in early 1951. Greenville sho ain't the town I left and I could only marvel at all of the changes, both at the University and in the town of Greenville. The last football game I saw in Greenville was in 1950 and surprisingly, I can remember the opponent. It was Atlantic Christian College and we played for the "Bohunk" trophy. The trophy was a joke because the word bohunk literally means "nothing." Atlantic Christian, now Barton College, dropped football after that game with ECC and all their players became immediately eligible at other North State Conference schools.

My day in Greenville began at B's. If you have visited B's, then you know what I mean when I say it is my favorite barbecue joint in North Carolina. Notice I didn't say the best because I have learned the hard way that when you say a particular barbecue location is best, all you are going to do is make enemies. Seriously, if you haven't tried B's, then you should and you can decide for yourself.

The lines were long but most people were buying "take out." Surprisingly, we got a seat inside which I never expected. B's closes when they run out of barbecue and I would be surprised if it was open much past noon.

Next we went to the waterfront area about which I had heard a lot of nice things. It is first class. They have it landscaped beautifully and have old gaslight type post lamps. I wish I could see it at night because I'm sure it is even more attractive then. We were fortunate to be able to speak with the construction superintendent who had a work crew applying finishing touches to an amphitheatre which will be used for the first time on Sunday, October 19th. A 43 piece orchestra and a rock group will provide the entertainment and if I lived closer, you can bet that I would be there.

Greenville itself has literally exploded. It is the second fastest growing city in North Carolina, second only to Winterville which is nearby. They have ambitious plans for the future which will someday see the old downtown area completely demolished and rebuilt more in a contemporary style. It would be nice if some of the old buildings could be saved and restored but I imagine it would add appreciably to the cost. Can't have everything.

On to the game. I had heard a lot about the tailgating at ECU but I was not prepared for what I saw when I arrived on the campus. It would be impossible for me to estimate the number of tailgating gatherings there were, but it easily surpassed anything I have ever seen. Numerous tents were set up in an expansive parking lot adjacent to Dowdy-Fincklin Stadium and on numerous other lots around the campus. It was a sight to view all the tailgating from the top of the stadium as well as close up where everyone seemed to have some kind of cooker. The aroma that waffled over the campus provided a thrill in itself for someone who likes pork and poultry like I do. Everyone was friendly and I even ran into my former assistant of many years ago who was there with his family.

We waited for the team and band to arrive at the stadium and had some good conversation with other Tar Heels. I decided not to wear anything to identify myself as a Carolina fan because I had heard some hairy tales about things that have happened at ECU games. My concerns were not well founded. No one said anything smart to me. Maybe it was because of my age, but after the Don Zimmer incident in the playoff game with the Yankees and Red Sox, maybe people had better be cautious about "rowling up" a 72 year old man. Zimmer and I are the same age. :-)

The game itself was all right but not played as well as it might have been in years gone by. Carolina people were nervous at halftime and it was ironic that the halftime score was identical to what it was in Kenan in '01. There were only two incidents during the game that I saw that in any way could be considered negative.

A young ECU guy with his woman and several miniature bottles of booze sat behind me, and I could tell from the outset that it would only be a matter of time before he said something that offended me. He was in top macho form and made liberal use of the "f" word even though young children were seated nearby. I removed my headset just in time to hear my host, who is an ECU grad, say to him. "I wish you had gone to Carolina because you sure are embarrassing the hell out of East Carolina people." Surprisingly, thereafter he was more restrained in his comments. I later asked what he was saying and the best I could understand was that he made several comments to the effect that he wished he had spent all that money and gone to Carolina. Obviously he was being sarcastic but I could see how his remarks would have been embarrassing to East Carolina fans. The irony is that unless there is something involved of which I am unaware, it costs no more to attend Carolina than it does to attend East Carolina. More than likely he was just venting at the image of Carolina people being rich, liberal, arrogant and elite. I was proud of my host for putting him in his place. I did hear of one East Carolina student who yelled, "Why don't you Carolina people just go back to Raleigh." Alcohol does strange things to people.

The only negative thing I saw all day was truly an embarrassment to all UNC fans who saw it. After the last Carolina touchdown, someone threw a miniature bottle from the upper deck that hit an elderly lady who was seated in a lower part of the upper deck. The police came immediately and looked up to try and identify the thrower. I couldn't see exactly what took place when they went up to where the bottle had been thrown, but I am assuming that fans who saw the bottle thrown identified the culprit. He was escorted down the isle away from those with whom he was seated and the worst part of it was that he had a cap on with the interlocking NC. The police went to the lady and she then accompanied them out of our area and I assume it was to determine if charges were to be brought. I later talked to one of the stadium employees about it and he told me that throwing a bottle constituted the basis for a charge of "assault." I would think that it would also be the basis for civil court action.

All in all, it was a terrific day and I'm glad I went. 10 years is too long to wait to play the Pirates again which means the next game in Greenville could be after I check out. That would be a shame because many Carolina fans would be impressed with the game day activities in Greenville and the friendliness of the "down home" folks in eastern North Carolina. I'm a Tar Heel, but I can honestly say I was proud of the Pirates last Saturday.

Newly constructed amphitheatre on the waterfront of the Tar River in downtown Greenville.

A part of my pre-game ritual where I get pumped for the game by listening to the percussion section warm up. By the time they finish, I am ready to play.

For those who thought I was kidding when I said my name was on the Memory listing in the Football Center. Wish we could have gotten closer to the name, but there are limitations on the use of one time use cameras.

A part of the line at B's waiting for "take out."

A segment of the tailgating group. No way to convey the scope of the tailgating without a wide angle lens.