This was the basis of constant battles in my family as a child. According to my dad he was once left to walk home from the ACC Tournament after Carolina beat my mom's beloved Wolfpack. To this day I have a real understanding of the pure hate the Red and White has for the Blue and White. There is no question it is envy.
For me, I always followed The Photographer. My earliest memories of the love I have for my Dad and all things that are Carolina Athletics is a little black transistor radio. Famous Amos, Lawrence Taylor, and Steve Streeter consumed my Saturdays in the fall. Dave Colscott, Mike O'Koren, and Al Wood consumed me all winter. I remember listening to that radio, and also my mom muttering to herself about how much she hated the sound of Woody's voice. Sometimes my dad was there to listen with me; at halftime we would go outside and throw the football. Dad would throw and I would run like I was coming off the line of scrimmage and slide or dive for the catch that was going to win the game. He would always throw until I was ready to stop, and if I wasn't ready to stop he would bring that black transistor radio outside.
However, most games he did not listen with me because he was at work. My anticipation was always at a high level for him to get home after the game. That's because our hallway bathroom would be transformed into a professional darkroom for photo development, and I would get to see all of the players that I dreamed about being come to life in the chemical trays in my bathtub.
Sometime in the mid-1970s my dad started doing freelance photo work for the Winston Salem Journal. He would shoot all sorts of things for the Journal, mostly Wake Forest football and basketball games, Carolina football and basketball games and even drag and stock car racing at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston Salem. His love was always anything Carolina and that was my love, too. It was always because I wanted to follow the photographer.
My parents use to have a 1965 Carolina Blue Mustang. It was my mom's car, bought and given to her by her father. I look back on that now and realize how strange that was, for a man that was such a Wolfpacker to buy his daughter a car the color of the enemy. I also look back and wish they kept that car and had given it to me when I turned 16. The day my dad traded the car for a 1980 Honda Accord was the day Carolina played Duke on Senior Day in 1980. We picked up the car early that Saturday morning from the Honda dealership on Peters Creek Parkway and dad and I drove to Chapel Hill for the game. We listened to Willie Nelson's "Red Headed Stranger" tape the whole way. This car had a tape deck, and my dad always had the best music. A teenager of the ‘60s, he had a vinyl record collection that any classic rock radio station would kill for. I still have and play all of those records today, although in my crazy years I did sell some of them to the Collectables Record Store in Greensboro. (Sorry Dad).
That day I realized how cool it was to be able to follow the photographer. Dad would walk up and down the sidelines taking pictures and I would follow step by step on the green asphalt, right behind him. Famous Amos and Kelvin Bryant both broke the 1,000 yard rushing mark that day. Famous Amos first and then Kelvin. I remember dad turning around and enthusiastically holding up three fingers, telling me that was all Kelvin needed to break the mark. The next year, on the same green asphalt, I watched as Kelvin scored six touchdowns against East Carolina and handed the ball to Steve Streeter in his wheelchair. Those memories are just like my dad's pictures; they are so vivid in my mind and it's all because I was able to follow the photographer.
During the ‘80s my dad was shooting for the ACC Handbook and he traveled to all of the games. He would put on a weekly slide show at our house for anyone in the neighborhood that wanted to come see the pictures he had taken during the week. I always sat right next to the projector because I liked the heat that blew from the projector fan, and I was so proud of my dad. Sometimes we would have over 15 people gathered in our basement to look at pictures. Most of them were Carolina fans, but occasionally we would have Wake Forest fans, too. It was amazing to me and everyone else when dad would narrate the pictures like he was replaying the game in his mind. It was also interesting to hear the stories about which arenas had good light, which had bad light (my dad never used a strobe flash), which had good food in the press rooms and which SIDs were the easiest to deal with.
I was always the lucky kid growing up. My dad would use his credentials and relationships to take me wherever he could. I've been in countless locker rooms, have hundreds of autographs, and unbelievable pictures of my favorite players. I sat on camera bags courtside in most ACC gyms. I was even an unknown staff photographer for the 1998 Carolina-Duke game at the Dean Dome.
That night I filled in for the great photographer at the toughest ticket in basketball. No one knew it except me, my dad, and an unnamed helper that saved me a spot on the floor. It is hard to believe that just 11 years ago dad still used film to shoot games. I was always just a fan, and never had the skill that my dad had with a camera. I used up the first roll of film he loaded for me pre-game. I quickly blew through 36 snaps of the camera, couldn't figure out how to reload the film, and had to pretend to take pictures for the rest of the game. This was a tough chore for me because I get so emotional during games and I couldn't react to anything. When Ed Cota lobbed the ball off the backboard and Vince Carter missed the monster jam I almost broke dad's camera in excitement. Just for the record, there was not a usable photo in the whole bunch, just a bunch of blur. I think I will just continue to follow the photographer.
As my dad approaches another birthday, I just wanted to give him a quick glimpse of some of the things that I remember about him. I also wanted to thank him for everything he has done for me, especially getting me tickets or "just in" to see the Tar Heels for any game I wanted to see. My love for Carolina is all because of the love I have for my dad. My dad is the eternal optimist when it comes to Carolina, maybe because he gets to watch them through a lens, or maybe because that is just the kind of person he is.
Thank you to Inside Carolina for allowing my dad to continue to do something that he loves, and for allowing me to continue to follow the photographer.
Happy Birthday Dad,