Sporting Gone Awry

By Suzy Barile

Like every good UNC-Chapel Hill grad, and as my parents – both alums – dutifully taught me as a child, I yell, “Go to hell, Duke” at the end of singing the UNC fight song. I lovingly taunt my other-ACC school friends when the Tar Heels beat them, and proudly wear Carolina Blue, whether we win or lose.

But I also ask “What’s a Rutgers?” while reminiscing the drubbing one time of an ACC team by this seemingly unknown school, because I always support ACC teams when they play outside the conference. And I do it even if it’s Duke or Maryland, which I have disdained equally since a Terrapin med school graduate made a vertical cut, instead of the favored horizontal one, on my Tar Heel abdomen when my daughter was born 27 years ago.

All these likes and dislikes have been foremost on my mind in recent weeks as Ben McCauley fouled and cried “not in my house” to a bench-warming Tar Heel player with a chance to make a slam-dunk at NC State, when Duke players sang an unflattering song to Ty Lawson (forgetting and forgiving, I suppose, the antics of JJ Reddick), when Maryland’s fans chanted the name of one of their hard-hitting players while a Blue Devil player lay motionless on the floor, and as Maryland coach Gary Williams called for his students to raise the noise level in Comcast Center during the Terp’s game against the Tar Heels.

When, I wonder, did the term “visitor” become synonymous with “enemy”?
Remember the days when scoreboards read “Home” and “Visitor,” indicating the other team wasn’t native to the court or field, but was there with an invitation? When guests visit in my home, I ask such questions as “Can I get you anything?” “What would you like to drink?” and “Are you comfortable?” and beg them to “Make yourself at home.” Perhaps I’m glad when visitors finally leave because life can resume some sense of normalcy, but never do I taunt and berate and make life miserable for them.
Now, I must also admit I have done my share of banging on the bleachers on an opponent’s third-down attempt; I once threw ice at the bald spot on Lefty Driesell’s head when the Terps were playing NC State; and I let out a loud “boooooo” when the poor little boy who agreed to pose as a Duke fan comes on the jumbo screen and talks up the benefits of ACC sportsmanship. That child’s parents will think twice the next time they sign a commercial contract for him!

While in Washington, D.C., for Barack Obama’s inauguration, I was taken aback by the presence of 2 million people crammed into a tight spot and all getting along, even as we waited an hour to exit a Metro station. Only once was I somewhat apprehensive of what might happen if one person in a block-full of people trying to get out of the National Mall stumbled and fell. Would that person be trampled like we hear happening in European soccer stadiums? Would anyone care? As several young men standing on street barricades tried to direct the throng on how to undo the logger jam, I decided we would all be OK.

How can it be that I am not fearful in that crowd of strangers, but I know how I would be treated as a UNC fan wearing Carolina blue at a Duke or Maryland or Georgia Tech or Miami or Boston College or UVa or Virginia Tech or NC State or Florida State or Wake Forest or Clemson home game? Been there, done that, as the old saying goes.
I so badly want to go to a Tar Heel basketball game and I have season tickets for UNC football. But the more I see and hear how we as home fans treat the visitors, the more I wonder if my support is encouraging this unseemly behavior. Where does it stop?

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