Mike: Clemson nerves

This week was supposed to be my big week of basketball. Since I live in Birmingham, I obviously don't get to Chapel Hill for games as much as I would like. Naturally, I was looking forward to coming up for the Virginia game and then catching the Clemson match up on the way home.

But, as is sometimes the case, vocation got in the way of avocation, and I ended up unable to make the 8.5 hour trip to Chapel Hill due to extenuating circumstances at the office.

To properly tell this story, I must take you back to before the season when the powers that be at Inside Carolina were putting the assignment schedule together. As is usually the case, I was asked to cover the Tech game in Atlanta, the Clemson game in Clemson, and the FSU game in Tallahassee. Following my usual pattern, I asked for a February game in Chapel Hill, as I am always willing and ready to make the trip.

The return email kindly offered the N.C. A&T game.

With all due respect to Curtis Hunter and the aforementioned Aggies, I politely replied that I would be making a trip to Tallahassee, Fla. just three days before Christmas. I further replied that the journey to the armpit of the universe (Tallahassee) and back would be much more pleasant if there was, perhaps, a more appealing match up to anticipate in Chapel Hill. Realizing that this was a valid point, and remembering that I didn't ask for hazard pay last year during my trip into Lexington, Kentucky, our fine editor offered the Virginia game.

I enthusiastically accepted, and was truly excited until circumstances dictated that there would be no way that I could attend. I joked with all my friends down here that if they were betting people, they should load up on the Heels, as I was sure that my sudden cancellation would be more than enough for Carolina to win and win big.

All of this brings me to my next point: I'm afraid to go to Clemson.

You see, when I am supposed to attend a game and somehow find myself unable to go, Carolina wins a big one. Three cases that immediately come to mind are:

* FSU at Carolina, 1993 – 21 point comeback, George Lynch dunk.

* Carolina at Duke, 2001 – Forte, Haywood, Crucial foul called on Battier.

* Virginia at Carolina, 2003 – McCants, Felton, Noel's dunk.

Yet when I actually show up, the results have not been quite so pleasant. My wife will not soon forget traveling to Chapel Hill in 1998 for the Miami University football game, or the more recent journey to Charlottesville for last year's football game. I was quite unfortunately sitting courtside as Clemson knocked Carolina from the number 1 ranking in 2001, and started the slide from which that team never quite recovered. Heck, just two weeks ago I was in Atlanta for the massacre at Tech.

You will forgive me if I am just the slightest bit nervous about making the trip to Tigerland. I even have suspicions that a friend and fellow Tar Heel here in Birmingham may be planning to slash my tires late tonight to keep me from jinxing the Heels on Saturday.

If Carolina wins at Clemson, I will be confident that the awful cloud has lifted and begin making plans to somehow get to the Duke game in March, as I will be in North Carolina that weekend. If the Tigers prevail, don't bother telling the Highway Patrol to meet me at the state line - I'll be canceling my visit for the good of everyone involved.

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