My NCAA bracket got shot all to heck after the first round, and my $5 contribution to the office pool should've been spent buying groceries. But I don't care. We won!
Admittedly, UNC is not my team. I've always been a NC State girl, I guess starting from when I was little and wanted to go to veterinary school there. I haven't wanted to be a vet for a good fifteen years now, but I still pull for the Wolfpack over anybody. But when you live in North Carolina, you have to love college basketball and you have to pull for the Atlantic Coast Conference. It's a rule.
Okay, I know a lot of exceptions to that rule. I know lots of ACC team fans who won't pull for one of their supposed rivals during tournament time. I don't understand those people. I especially can't understand the people who can watch a game and not root for someone, anyone. I start watching a game and within five minutes, I'm emotionally involved. I want someone to win for some reason, even if the reason has something to do with the mascot or the way the point guard does his hair. I don't get any enjoyment out of a game where I don't have a dog in the fight. Even if I don't think I have a side, when the game's over and I notice I'm feeling disappointment or happiness over the outcome, it's clear the way I wanted things to turn out.
But I don't understand how you can root against a fellow ACC team when your team isn't involved. There are some huge rivalries around here, and it's not uncommon to hear some blush-inducing obscenities hurled at the opposing team during the regular season or the ACC tournament. But when that's all over, a conference team is a conference team. It's not a matter of disloyalty. It's a matter of something bigger than the rivalry between two teams. You want what's best for the conference.
Because, let's face it, the ACC rocks. It was pure luck that I was born smack dab in the middle of all this, and I can't help but feel sorry for those who weren't. Those people should think about moving so that their children don't have the same misfortune. I live within two hours of four big ACC schools (all of which were in the tourney, 3 of which made Sweet Sixteen). I live within fifteen minutes of Wake Forest, and it was like a day of mourning around here when they lost. How could anyone not get caught up in this kind of excitement?
So last night, even the most hard-core of Wake Forest fans in this town pulled for the Tarheels. We cursed them all when Wake played them, but now it's the Big Dance, and it's a different set of rules. We learned the players' names and yelled for them without including curse words as their middle names. We felt relieved when we pulled away and got nervous again when it got close again. We jumped from our seats when Felton made that last steal. We cheered when it was all over, though maybe not as loudly as we would have had it been our favorite team. We live here, and it's our team, too.