Mike: Payback Time

"Lord if you will just get me out of (insert highly negative circumstance here), I promise that I will (insert absurdly exaggerated promise of virtue here) for the rest of my life..."

We have all uttered this promise at one time or another – for reasons varying from life or death importance all the way down to getting out of an unwanted seat assignment on an airplane. And, I would be willing to bet that most Tar Heels –myself included - have uttered a similar prayer to whomever we send our basketball-related supplications in the last two seasons.

"If the Heels could just turn this 8-20 thing around I will never fail to appreciate an invitation to the NCAA Tournament."

"If Carolina could, just once, approach a zone defense with some idea of attack not involving the first semi-uncontested three-point shot, I'll shut up about offensive execution."

"Man, now I know how the rest of the ACC felt for the last 30 years. If the Heels would just get back to winning again, I will never again take a Carolina victory for granted – regardless of how lowly the opponent."

Any of this sound familiar?

I'm not saying any of this to criticize Carolina fans. I happen to be of the opinion that we have handled ourselves pretty well over the last couple seasons. It would also be fair to say that we've been through a lot as fan bases go, and that's not even mentioning the football team's woes. So, it's possible – even likely – that we may have longed to get back to the good ‘ol days on more than a few occasions recently.

Now that it seems we're going to get what we have longed for, I just think that we should remember the subtle promises we made. (Not that our promises had anything to do with our nice turn of fortune, but did make them in good faith and therefore must keep them.)

So, it's Payback Time – to ourselves, that is.

For me, I'll not be looking at the NCAAs as a Carolina birthright anymore, regardless of how many straight appearances are strung together.

I will savor a win over Vermont just like it is a win over, well…Clemson or Virginia Tech.

I will not mail my petition to the NCAA to have losses from last year and the year before assigned to an obscure assistant coach and a women's basketball team.

Lastly, and most seriously, I will remember that the success of the Carolina basketball program was hard earned by numerous players and coaches. I will remember that I was able to bask happily in its glow for years, essentially free of charge.

Being a Tar Heel is something to be appreciated and enjoyed in victory or defeat – as the eve of a new era in Carolina Basketball is at hand, my hope is that we will let the last two seasons remind us of just how special all of this is to us, and never take it for granted.

P.S. I'll also be remembering the phone numbers and email addresses of a few friends who pull for other schools but were always happy to call me with the latest Carolina score.

Senior writer Mike McCracken is also the founder of Tar Heel Moments, which launched this year with the signed lithograph, "Victory on Senior Day," featuring Phil Ford. For more info, head to www.tarheelmoments.com

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