In Asheville, a nationally recognized artist with numerous critically acclaimed paintings settles in beside her husband, a former Tar Heel player, to do what she's done every fall since 1960 – cheer on the Heels. About 30 compatriots join her with the same thing in mind.
In Charleston, a lawyer who somehow missed being featured in the ABA Journal's recent "Law in the Low Country" gathers just under a hundred fellow Tar Heels at watering hole overlooking Charleston Harbor to study his favorite weekend feature, Carolina football.
In Ham's of High Point, a somewhat smaller crowd suddenly realizes the other half of the crowd they expected must have gone to the alternative location, Looney's in Greensboro.
And in the capital city of Raleigh, Triangle Heels, forty or so strong, met at Blinco's wondering just how well their heroes will fare against the mighty Sooners.
Who has organized these gatherings of the Tar Heel clan? The General Alumni Association? The Rams' Club?
What you're reading about is the latest phenomenon of Carolina fandom, the "mini-Bash".
Now these are not to be confused with "The Bash", the annual gathering of football enthusiasts in Chapel Hill following the spring scrimmage first organized by Darcy Miller in 1998 and looking for its fifth anniversary in 2002. But they spring from the same source and are its intellectual children, having been organized ad hoc by fans that first met electronically before ever they saw one another face to face.
Their organizers and attendees are known, with much more certainty than their given names, by their Internet "handles". Who set up the Raleigh meet? "Highnooner" (Jim Bryan), with help from "MysticBlue" (Jim Lampley). In Charleston, it was "evfg" (Vernon Glenn); in High Point and Greensboro, "nutz4Dheels"(Jobe West) and "Derf".
The attendees are likewise more comfortable with their handles. (Those nametags are hard to read in dim saloons and pizzerias.) The handles are often geographic, as in "Upstate Heel" from Greeneville, S.C. or "BurkeCoHeel", from, well, Burke County ("Leon Johnson grew up just down the road"). Or they may be just for fun. Spurgeon McDade, for example, is " Trommelmeister".
They are bonded by a love of Carolina and a passion for Carolina sports, especially football, and bound to one another by the Internet, where their most frequent watering holes are the Inside Carolina message boards.
Saturday night, they wanted, hoping past all hope, for Carolina to beat mighty Oklahoma.
They are disappointed. The first quarter is awful. Bunting was mistaken to take these guys on, wasn't he just? But by the fourth quarter, hope has sprung eternal. Is this team different? Damn right they're different. You can see it in Bunting's eyes, so you can.
So, group-by-group, they depart, already planning more such events. The ASHBASH crowd, which draws from East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and Upstate South Carolina, will wait for the Texas game. The Low Country Heels, geographically more compacted, will gather again for Maryland.
And the mini-bashes are getting bigger. The one at Asheville has tripled in size since '99, despite less than spectacular football success in the meantime. Its adherents expect it to keep growing. The Low Country event is new, but has come to life like Venus emerging from sea foam. Similar events are planned, or have been held in Richmond, Va. and in Wilmington.