beat state!

In honor of our last football game tomorrow, here’s a “color feature” story on the game itself!  Go Heels!

The Rush

In a sea of Carolina blue, I am a minnow.  The sun glints off the metal bleachers of Kenan Stadium and the sunglasses of 60,000 wild fans.  There is nothing like the surging adrenaline, the crowd-wide pandemonium and the passion of game day at UNC-Chapel Hill.  It’s the rush that floods your mind between a throw and catch that makes a Tar Heel football game truly spectacular.

A streak of brown leather soars across the sky as flashbulbs flicker wildly like tossed glitter.  The crowd holds their breath.

Eyes shift from the quarterback, T.J. Yates, to the target at hand: the grasp of Johnny White amidst an inferno of Clemson University orange.  Conversations halt.  Suddenly, the ice cream in the hand of hungry college boys does not matter.  A stream of slow-churned bliss glides down the cones and rolls over fingers that swell in the heat.  He is unaware of his impending sunburn.  A millisecond saunters by as slowly as rush hour traffic.  It is as if the universe has stalled into slow motion.  Typically oblivious to the cataclysmic events at hand, Rameses would have nibbled at a rectangular hedge if he were here.

Now, I know nothing about football.  The rules and strategies are explained to me every season, yet I remain illiterate in the language of Head Coach Butch Davis and his team of armor-bearing, helmet-haired, spandex-donning beasts.  The phrase “third and twenty-six” is as foreign to me as a love for this enemy team.  But I recognize the gravity this moment.

The ball hangs in the air like the gaping mouths of the mass that watches it.

I stand with 60,000 of my closest friends.  Somehow amidst the wave of commotion and frequently joyous hysteria, we are connected by an impenetrable bond.  We are Tar Heels, and with this crucial similarity, status, race and heritage are tossed to the wayside as we await the end of that blistering second.

Sometimes the crowd is as still and silent as a frozen river.  Speechless, motionless, enthralled, they are a torrent of anticipation beneath the surface.  But most of the time cheers reverberate off the stadium, creating an indistinguishable clamor of screaming, chanting and rattling bleachers.  Memorized cheers pick up momentum as the crowd unites in two voices: TAR!  HEELS!  TAR!  HEELS!

Contact.  White reaches out his hands, and the oblong leather ball tips his fingers.  A rush of orange tigers swarms.

This is the climax of anticipation.  Anxious faces shield their eyes from the glaring midday sun as they try to grab a glimpse of the catch to be— or the incomplete pass.  The hearts of the Tar Pit hang on a string as delicate as a spider’s web.  Painted bodies tense, hidden beneath an itchy layer of peeling school pride.  My heart thunders inside my chest.  The weight placed on White’s shoulders is as heavy as the stadium he plays in.

White sweeps his hands down, the precious cargo in tow, and tucks it under his arm like a stolen treasure.

The tension, the anticipation, the excitement is released like exploding dynamite.  The crowd erupts in a frenzy of commotion, the rush of impending victory pulsing in their veins.  It is unstoppable, undeniable, out of control.  Blue and white pom-poms look like the blurred foam of crashing ocean waves as fans wave them ferociously.

Everyone knows what will happen in four yards.  In a moment sunburned strangers bonded by triumph will hug, high-five and shake hands.  The rush of a mere second has brought them together.  Adrenaline, elation, pride, exhilaration will embody this minute segment of history.  White crashes into the end zone.

Touchdown!

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