First, and I think I speak for everyone here on the staff of Keeping it Heel, I hope you have a happy and safe 4th of July. A special thank you goes out to all the former and active military men and women who help protect my ability to raise my little girl in this wonderful land. Thank you very much.
In honor of the 4th of July, I’m going to give you my top five “fireworks” moments that I’ve either been at live, or witnessed with a large enough group of people that there was electricity in the air. These are in no particular order, or maybe they are, because I’m writing them down in the order I thought of them.
I saw this one. It was 1998, and man could Vince Carter play ball. This was before the And 1 All Stars grew to prominence on ESPN, so seeing an off the backboard alley-oop in the flow of the game was unheard of, at least for me. Maybe I live a sheltered life, but it seemed as if roughly 20,000 of my closest friends agreed that what they had witnessed was amazing. It was actually a blessing that Carter missed the dunk. If he had hit it, eardrums would have shattered. Even missing it, the electricity in the air was amazing. Add in the opponent (Dook) and it was even better. Shammond Williams ended up hitting a three seconds after the missed dunk, so it felt all right to be jazzed about the missed dunk.
In 1997, Mack Brown had UNC football ranked extremely high. We had a monster Saturday night game against the Florida State Seminoles, and I got to the stadium about 9 hours early. I remember sitting outside the gates with one of my suitemates, and as the day wore on, the crowd around us grew and grew and grew. I could touch the gate. We were told to present our student IDs, but as they opened the gate, there was a surge from behind us, and we floated into the stadium, riding the front of the human wave. I felt like my feet touched the ground a total of four times before the current dumped us onto the bleachers around the 45 yard line. Still over an hour before the game, the students were wired. The game was a bit of a disappointment, but the crowd before the game was ready to go. It was one of the rowdiest crowds I’ve ever seen at a UNC game. Definitely a great memory.
I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. When you singlehandedly cause an opposing (note I said opposing, not rival. We’ll get into that another time) coach to get fired, you know you did something pretty awesome. That’s exactly what Gio Bernard did. I’ll always wonder about the true thought process behind the decision to kick the ball to Gio.
I could recount each and every one of UNC Women’s soccer 21 National Championships, but truthfully I’ve only been keenly aware of the team since 1997. Still, covering the team in 2010 was one of the most exciting things I’ve done. Dorrance is directly responsible for kindling my fascination with soccer and tactics, and his seem to fit with the UNC mantra. Play fast, everyone plays defense, play a high line, make the other team try to lob the ball over the top, outplay and outlast every team in the country. They are exciting to watch every year. This past campaign, they weren’t the favorite. BYU was ranked first in their bracket. BYU didn’t make it to the Final Four, thanks to the second overtime performance of Crystal Dunn, turning a pass from Kealia Ohai into a trip to the Final Four. The next game? Another #1 falls in double overtime. Ohai beat the seeming brick wall that was the Stanford goalie. Penn State was all that stood in the way. Dorrance adjusted after the game was level at 1-1 and UNC scored three unanswered on the back of great defense. We need to pay more attention to these phenomenal athletes. These three games could easily be three of my top five.
The Stackhouse reverse comes to mind, but I’m thinking something a little more recent. If you looked up the word “posterized” in the dictionary, it should come with a shot of Danny Green throwing down on a floundering Greg Paulus. If that had happened at the Smith Center, the echoes could still be heard bouncing through some of the farther flung hallways. As it was, it happened at Cameron. The silence was deafening. (Other than the minor whining regarding a charge call) I was watching the game at a bar called Bub OMalley’s. There was no silence there. It was only deafening. For five straight minutes. Then the reenactments started. And the cheers and uncontrollable laughter continued. Then we enjoyed half time. Then the unrepeatable jokes started, followed by more cheers and laughter. And with every replay, ear-splitting cheers. You saw it. You know how you felt. I still get that feeling whenever I decide to cruise over to YouTube to watch it again. Try watching it if you’ve had a particularly bad day. Or just feeling sluggish. If it doesn’t put a pep in your step, I’ve got nothing for you.
I’m absolutely missing no fewer than 300 moments I could have written about. I’m already regretting not putting in Ellington’s shot against Clemson. I’d love to hear about your “fireworks” moments. Either use the comments section here or tweet @keepingitheel and @strayUNC. Enjoy your 4th of July.