POSTED BY JESSEAs a child growing up in the Triangle in the 80’s, I was adrift as far as my allegiances were concerned. I don’t even remember when I learned that my father began his college career as an undergrad at Duke (he later dropped out and joined the army and finished at Maryland) but I know they had already been nixed from the list of possibilities. But as a reared Raleighite, I was able to attend a number of N.C. State games growing up, and some of my pre-school friends’ parents swear I was a pretty big Wolfpacker in my time.
I’d like to think that I was already seeing the light (blue) by the time Lisa attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (I believe I was 9 at the time), but I do know that is what sealed it. Lisa was a proud North Carolina alumna. I wouldn’t say she was fervently passionate about the sports teams, but we tackled it in tandem: she gave me my first behind-the-scenes, in the dorms, in the Dean Dome experiences in Chapel Hill, and I, in turn, kept her abreast of anything significant she needed to know about the basketball team for the next 20 years.
I remember Lisa taking me to see Jeff Lebo and the Tar Heels take on John Crotty and Virginia in 1989. I got to stay with her in Cobb dorm and I felt like the coolest kid on the planet. I remember sitting next to my family’s only other known sports nut, my maternal grandfather, and watching King Rice throttle Bobby Hurley in 1990. I can’t remember if Lisa got us those seats or I just assumed she did because Lisa had become my tour guide to Chapel Hill.
So it is with no shame and much Tar Heel pride that I have and will continue to evoke the memory of their late mother as I strive valiantly to ensure that all three Tanner children are Tar Heels. I have a couple things going for me:
- Danny is not a huge sports guy. Like my sister did, he cares about his school’s sports teams. At times he likes to attend a game and socialize with fellow fans. However, he has never broken an appliance, lied to a girlfriend, or made other questionable decisions with lingering long-term effects based on which team he pulls for. You know, things that passionate fans do. Simply put: I care more than he does.
- Danny is an N.C. State grad. I will save the petty taunts and not-so-subtle digs for another day (or another team), but even Wolfpack fans would have to admit: it’s kind of a tough sell bringing in newly recruited fans over to team NCSU these days, no?
- I’m dedicated. I realize this is not an overnight process. I am slowly implementing my strategy. I also recognize that picking a team to root for is not high on the Tanner girl list of priorities, so I don’t push too hard. But when I find a moment to point out that their mother was the embodiment of a UNC fan–graceful, elegant, intelligent, classy, and incredibly humble–I do it.
- I’m conniving. Aside from the aforementioned plan to guilt them with their mother’s wishes that they all cheer for UNC (I’m not positive it was one of the priorities she wrote out for Danny about raising the girls, but I am certain it was on her heart), I am sneaky about it. For example, when Danny and I took Michelle and Stephanie to an N.C. State hoops game a few weeks ago, I didn’t say much. I watched like a casual fan, chatted up some folks around me, and was not bothered when the girls were asking Danny to use his phone to play games on. When I take them to a Carolina basketball game, we will get there early, go eat some place they’d like, point out people the girls might know, find things that will appeal to them (like Carolina girls in cool clothes), and generally “sell” the program a lot more. And I’m not above resorting to lying and overplaying stereotypes.
I also look for spots where I can make some headway, and a great one presented itself at St. Timothy’s Spirit Week. After Pajama Day and Wacky Tacky Day, the week ended with Team Day, where kids could wear hats and shirts showing off their favorite team colors. Danny and the girls have a few Wolfpack red shirts, but they were no match for my collection of UNC jerseys and other gear. I put Stephanie in a Rasheed Wallace get-up, Michelle rocked a Raymond Felton jersey-gown, even DJ donned an old collared Carolina shirt until some teacher gave her a huge generic XXL jersey to drape over her.
I think I’m winning the battle. Stephanie looked way proud of her mesh Tar Heels hat. Michelle seemed to enjoy being one of the elite in light blue. Even Kimmy Gibbler was happy to don a Jerry Stackhouse 76ers jersey (so what if none of the other kids at the school realized he was a UNC player).
They might even watch the UNC-Duke game with me tonight, since they’ll do almost anything to stay up a little bit later and watch TV. I may just have to show them last night’s episode of Glee during halftime to keep their attention.