Mike: The Tournament Flu

The not-so-dreaded "Tournament Flu" is reaching almost pandemic levels across ACC Country, and is even afflicting "victims" who have spent any time there but are presently elsewhere. People from all walks of life are taken by this mysterious illness, which seems only to manifest major symptoms on one or possibly two workdays each March.

Given the predictability and frequent recurrence of this virus, and the massive reduction in productivity which accompanies it, one would almost expect that the Center for Disease Control would be sending air tight suit clad researchers to investigate. Except, of course, that the victims don't really want to get better – and in reality, it would be hard for us to get better.

Indeed, today is one of the best days of the whole year. Forget about the sales gimmick of "Christmas in July" because for many of us, this is truly Christmas in March. Day one of the ACC Tournament is special, and if you don't believe it, just try to schedule an important meeting that needs everybody's undivided attention beginning about noon today and stretching long into the afternoon. See if you don't find yourself "accidentally" locked in the broom closet for the rest of the day – and don't count on anyone coming back to let you out before Monday.

Here in Birmingham, my coworkers and friends are constantly amazed when I tell them that I have not completed a full day at school or work on the first day of the ACC Tournament since 1980. Frankly, one of the great wonders I have about my own life is why I spent an extra half-day in the third grade. I'm thinking that there must have been some sort of a guarantee that there would be a television in the classroom, as I seem to remember watching the Tournament in school.

Despite the fact that I'm not exactly sure what to look for from the Tar Heels tonight, I have come to conclude that participating in the Tournament – either in person, or by watching on television – is almost greater than my love for the Heels. I know this as surely as I know that my cell phone will ring at 10:30 this morning. It will be my mother and father, calling to ask me if I'm ready to come home for the day. (A tough trick, considering that they are in Ashe County and I'm in Birmingham.) We'll laugh, and talk about the games coming up and know that we'll exchange several more "Did You See That?" calls throughout the weekend.

Sometimes, the only real side effect of this illness is getting homesick.

But I'll survive, because I have been able to find other victims here in Birmingham! We're quarantining ourselves in a sports bar this weekend, and plan to make sure we keep our strength with lots of food and tend to our spirits with lots of, uh, fluids. I recommend that everyone who was well enough to read this column to try the same. Tell your boss that you'll be better by Monday, but that the threat of relapse in 365 days is close to 100%.

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