As I’m sure you’re aware, the underdog New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl the other day. They’re probably still partying in NOLA. It was a great game, and a joy to watch, and I’m really happy for those guys, and their city.
Normally, I’d be getting really psyched for this game. We usually play the spoiled crybaby prima donnas from Duke and their rat-faced little coach at least two, sometimes three or even four times a season (depending on the tournament brackets), and each game, by virtue of the intense rivalry between the teams, becomes the Biggest Game of the Season.
It’s difficult to explain to outsiders just how intense this rivalry is. It can best be summed up by the title of a book (yes, an entire book) by Will Blythe about it: “To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever.”
But I’m not foreseeing much happiness tonight. See, the problem is, the Tar Heels SUCK this year. I mean we really, REALLY suck. We’ve lost six of our last seven games. We lost to COLLEGE OF FUCKING CHARLESTON. It wouldn’t be so bad if we hadn’t, you know, WON THE NCAA TOURNAMENT LAST YEAR. I know it’s a rebuilding season, but JESUS, I cannot BELIEVE THESE GUYS…
Oh. Sorry. Was I shouting? I get a little carried away. Our old dog used to get up and leave the room every time he heard the sound of shoes squeaking on a basketball court on the TV, because he knew that yelling was soon to follow. It’s kind of a family tradition.
So, anyway, it’s probable that we’re not going to do all that well against those smug, insufferable pantywaists and their coach with the ridiculous and unpronounceable name. And it’s kinda got me down.
It’s not just me. UNC Coach Roy Williams, as you might imagine, is really in the dumps about how poorly our team is doing. In a recent interview, Roy (we call him Roy, ’cause we’re all like family) said : “The way I’m feeling now, I’m wondering if I’m worth anything, wondering what I’m doing.”
I read that, and I thought, “hey, that sounds familiar.” And I bet it does to you, too, if you’re a writer. You know the feeling I mean. The one you get after getting a rejection that things suck, they’re never going to get better, that let’s face it, YOU suck, and why do you even try? It’s even more discouraging if, like a lot of writers, you had some success in the past few years, only to get caught in the recent publishing bloodbaths. Clearly, any success you had was a fluke, an aberration, a mistake. Just admit it and move on, right? There are wonderful opportunities waiting in the ever-growing food-service industry.
But, you know, the team’s had bad times before, most recently in what we call The Dark Years (2000-2003), when Matt Doherty, who was clearly not ready for the stress, took over. Doherty managed to not only lead the Heels to their first losing record since 1962 (8 and 20), but also managed to drive away both key players and long time Athletic Department staff by, basically, being a world class jerk.
But we bounced back from that, with a vengeance. Did I mention last year’s NCAA Championship? And that makes it easier to believe we can do it again.
In the mystery world, look to the example of Charlaine Harris. Her first novel, REAL MURDERS, got nominated for an Agatha. But subsequent books and series did not, as her website delicately puts it, “set the world on fire.” Until she wrote DEAD UNTIL DARK, the first Sookie Stackhouse book. It won the Anthony, and more importantly for Charlaine’s career, hit the NYT bestseller list, as have the sequels. The Sookie books became a series on HBO, and I hope they’re making Miz Harris dirty rotten filthy stinking rich, ’cause she’s a nice lady.
So, despite the bleak season, the Heels lace up their shoes and get out on the court, and we go back to the keyboard. In the meantime, Roy has some more words of wisdom:
“I don’t think there’s any question you need to enjoy the ride and enjoy the journey…If you don’t enjoy the good times, the bad times can just kill you.” Williams said.
Amen, Brother Roy.
And, in writing as well as in sports, I always try to remember this classic conversation between two fans of the British football club Arsenal in the original UK version of the movie FEVER PITCH:
Fan 1: What about last season?
Fan 2: What about it?
Fan 1: They were rubbish. They were fucking rubbish.
Fan 2: They weren’t that bad.
Fan 1: They were fucking rubbish last year. And they were fucking rubbish the year before. And I don’t care if they are top of the League, they’ll be fucking rubbish this year, too. And next year. And the year after that. I’m not joking.
Fan 2: I don’t know why you come, Frank. Honest I don’t.
Fan 1: Well, you live in hope, don’t you?
Yeah, Frank, we do. Who knows…it’s the Atlantic Coast Conference. Anything can happen!