Alcohol at UNC Athletic Contests

During my 50 plus years of attending UNC athletic contests, I have seen a complete turn around in the attitude of the UNC Administration and Tar Heel fans towards alcohol consumption at these gatherings. We all know there's still some drinking that goes on at the games and there probably will always be some imbibing in Kenan and the Smith Center as long as we gather there.

What has changed, however, at UNC and the ACC in general, is the attitude towards the consumption of alcohol before, during and after athletic contests. I can remember when the real competition at UNC football games was among the fans to see who could get the drunkest and as long as there was no danger to life, limb or property, very little was said or done about it. In the fifties, I don't remember anybody ever questioning what was in a paper bag being brought into the Kenan and I distinctly remember old timers telling about a fellow who fell down from the old temporary seats that used to be above the permanent seats before Kenan was expanded in the early 60's and he stayed on the chicken wire below the seats for the rest of the game. Everybody thought drunks were funny unless you sat in front of someone who couldn't hold their refreshments and they puked all over you. One of the funniest sights I ever saw in Kenan was a fellow who had a cup to his mouth refreshing himself and his cup was hit by a roll of thrown toilet paper, a fixture at games in earlier years. I don't sit near the student section anymore so I really don't now what goes on there these days.

But sometime in the 60's and 70's, attitudes starting changing towards the consumption of alcohol at UNC sporting events. I don't ever remember any drinking in Woollen, and I never saw but one regular season game in Carmichael, so basically we are talking about Kenan here. The change in attitude coincided time wise with the national movement against drunk drivers and it has been welcomed by most people, but not everyone. There are still those who feel that the "dead" crowds in Kenan are heavily influenced by the fact that the fans are not "loosened up" like they used to be.

Unfortunately, I witnessed the incident which probably served as the catalyst for UNC and the ACC to act on this issue and it wasn't pretty. I was seated on the north side, lower level at about the 30 yard line, on the west end sometime in the late 60's when someone threw a glass whiskey bottle down from the upper deck. The bottle hit a gentleman seated right in front on me squarely in back of his head and the blood spattered everywhere. At first, we thought he was seriously injured but he was lucky and only suffered superficial cuts as far as we could tell. I will never forget him standing up with a blood soaked handkerchief to the back of his head and shouting every curse word he could think of at the upper deck. We all empathized with him but knew that the individual who threw the bottle would probably never be identified. I have often wondered what those people thought who saw the bottle being hurled. Did they go for the police? Did they try to restrain the thrower until the police arrived? Unfortunately, we had no way of knowing what went on in the upper deck. We all like to think if we had witnessed the throwing of the bottle that we would have done something to insure that the thrower was arrested but the reluctance of most people to get involved today in violent situations makes me wonder. We all like to think we are brave until a real test comes along and oftentimes we find that bravery has deserted us, particularly if physical or legal involvement is possible.

I do recall at incident at UVA's University Hall several year ago when someone threw a whiskey bottle onto the court after a Carolina victory and he was restrained by a fan until the police arrived. As it turned out, the culprit was a magistrate. I don't know if he continued to be an officer of the court after the incident or not.

As I said earlier, we all know that consumption of alcoholic beverages still goes on in Kenan. For those who doubt this, take a look at the seats after the next game and see how many "airline" bottles you see that have been discarded. I have not been to a game in Kenan since the new policy was adopted that I did not smell alcohol during the game. If the truth be known, I don't personally mind someone having an alcoholic beverage at the game but the problem arises when someone has too much and no one wants to do anything about it. Many people can have a drink or two without it radically modifying their behavior, but the only way to control those who don't know when to stop is to prohibit everyone from knowingly bringing alcohol into the stadium. I think what has really changed is that the flagrant consumption of alcohol is no longer tolerated in Kenan and there is more scrutiny of packages, bags, ice bags, etc. as one enters the stadium. I'm told the favorite way for "airline" bottles to pass the entrance gate unnoticed is for them to be put in one's socks. Sorry ladies, I don't think this will work for you unless you are wearing a pants suit. At least, we don't have some of the freshmen rolling down the embankments like they used to in the old days. After the first home game, this used to be quite a spectacle. Young folks away from home for the first time, dressed in their Sunday best, staggering out of the stadium and unable to maintain their footing as they tried to find their way back to their dorms or downtown. The funniest was when two would get into about the same condition and would try to help each other. There was not as much drinking by females in the old days and it was not uncommon to see a finely dressed young lady who had probably come down from WC (Women's College-now UNC G) standing to the side of their wallowing date not knowing exactly what to do.

Now for the Smith Center. I attend games rather regularly in the SC but usually I'm up high with the birds. Two years ago, I lucked up and got tickets at mid court for the Duke game and I hardly knew how to act. I took a young friend with me and he was so excited that he telephoned everybody he knew in two states on his cell phone to tell them where he was. I didn't have the nerve to tell him that I didn't understand how I had managed to get such good seats. All I'm going to say is that, for the first time, I smelled alcohol in the Smith Center. To be sure I wasn't imagining things, I asked an adult friend who attended the game with me and he confirmed the fact. No out of the way behavior, just the odor or is it aroma of alcohol. Enough said.

So what's my point. I wish there was some way that alcohol could be consumed in moderation at games by those who want it and, in a perfect world, that would be possible. But we live on earth and until we achieve perfection, I am of the opinion that maybe alcohol ought to stay home on game day. I'm sure I haven't made a lot of friends with the position I've taken, but I'm past the stage in life where popularity is all that important to me.

Go Heels.