Mike: Making the Trip

By the time you read this, I will be somewhere on the long road between Birmingham and Chapel Hill.

From moment to moment I go back and forth on whether I have a real handle on why it is that I am spending at least 18 hours out of a 72 hour weekend in a car. Something about this game, however, makes the trip seem like a good idea – or, at the very least, a game that I just can't miss.

What most Tar Heels expect this weekend is the classic confrontation of head and heart. The rational view of the head is that there is just too much talent coming in from Austin this weekend for Carolina to prevail. Statistically, one could make a very convincing argument that if Texas plays it's best game, it won't matter how well Carolina plays.

And yet, the heart has a way of slipping little darts of hope past what the brain is thinking. There's the issue of Chris Simms' somewhat erratic history when he is hit often enough. Perhaps clever blitzing schemes could accomplish this and cause him to fling a ball or two into the waiting hands and willing legs of Michael Waddell and the game could swing on a long interception return. If only Parker and Lewis could run as wildly as our imagination sometimes can.

I am sure that I will continue to go back and forth with these alternate outcomes for Saturday night as I wind my way up I-85, and when the game kicks off I doubt that I'll have any better idea of what is going to happen than any of the other 60,000+ people in attendance. Of course, that's why they play the games.

If the rational prediction of the game's outcome is correct, the bigger question for me will concern whether this was a wasted trip. Some people (like my wife) would look at an 18 hour round trip drive for a football game which was lost – possibly in a big way – as a waste of time, energy and money. My response to them is that if I knew for sure which team would win and by how much, I wouldn't be heading for Chapel Hill, I'd be heading for Las Vegas.

I learned a long time back that you cannot make road trips for Carolina games (football or basketball) if a precondition for it being a good trip is a victory. Despite the contorted emotions many of us display while watching the Tar Heels either in person or on television, the second that the overall experience of watching a game – win or lose – is not a good one, we need to find something better to do with our time.

That's why I know it's worth the trip. At the very least I will be spending a weekend with family and old friends – who make the trip worthwhile regardless of the game or it's outcome. Moreover, I will share a common experience with Carolina and Texas fans on a night when history may be made in Kenan Stadium, if only in setting a new attendance record.

In this space two weeks ago, I spoke about the crowd in Kenan Stadium having an impact on the coming season, and suggested that the time has arrived for Carolina Fans to begin "putting their mouths where their money is." I believe that win or lose on Saturday night, there will again be a real feeling that "big time" football has arrived in Chapel Hill.

If that feeling of electricity when the whistle blows and the ball is teed up for the first time can be replicated time and again in Kenan, I have absolutely no doubt that the Heels will win more than their share. I'm proud I will have a chance to be a part of that atmosphere, and hopefully the start of something great.

So, on Saturday night I'll be in Kenan and on Sunday morning I'll begin the long trip home. I know it's going to be a great trip, if a little tiring. And maybe, just possibly, if the right blitz is called on the right down and the ball pops loose….

See you Saturday night – I'll be wearing blue, making noise, and having a great trip.


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