Papal Elections with a UNC Tar Heel Twist


Ordinarily I wouldn’t choose to write two consecutive columns that would be described as “current event based fiction,” but since my options are to pontificate on the horror that was the Miami drubbing or do something totally random, I’m choosing totally random.  So last week was Tar Heel Super Bowl commercials, and this week is Tar Heel Papal Elections.  With a little luck, next week we can discuss a Tar Heel basketball victory.

Credit: Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

With the impending resignation of Pope Whoever-Is-Pope-Now coming at the end of February, everyone is brushing up on their Papal Election knowledge.  “Is it the Electoral College that gets to decide the next Pope?  They smoke a cigar after they choose a Pope?  I’m so confused!”  In an effort to help you remember this information long term (possibly all the way to the next Papal election), what follows are the rules of the election analogized to something you have more knowledge of…Carolina Basketball.

When it is time to elect a new Pope, the College of Cardinals (all Cardinals of the Catholic Church under the age of 80) is called upon to make the selection.  Think of the College of Cardinals as the search committee that is formed after the termination of a basketball coach – Matt Doherty, for instance.  One slight difference of note between the College of Cardinals and a basketball search committee is that the College of Cardinals elects the Pope from amongst themselves, whereas the search committee is more of a third party choosing from an external pool of candidates.

Up until recently when they decided it was okay to stay in a fancy pants hotel, the College of Cardinals was locked in the Sistine Chapel (the building with the ceiling painted by Michelangelo) until they elect a new Pope.  In our analogy, this would mean that the search committee would be locked in the Dean E. Smith Center (a building named after the Michelangelo of coaching) until they can find a new coach.  This isn’t how it actually works, as the search committee has to spend a lot of time on the phone with potential candidates, but it’s safe to say that they camp out around the clock in the basketball offices unless they are flying to, let’s just say Lawrence, to meet with a potential hire.

The College of Cardinals must choose a new Pope by an overwhelming two thirds majority.  Votes are cast by secret ballot, and once they are counted the ballots are burned.  If a two thirds majority was reached, they burn only the ballots so that a white smoke signal is revealed…and if they failed to make a decision, they add straw to the ballots to turn the smoke black and indicate there was no victor.  This is where the search committee analogy breaks down and I come to the realization that it would actually have been much easier to make a Selection Committee analogy since those guys truly do form a committee that locks itself in a room for days on end and then when they are finished announce their decision in grand fashion on CBS with a lot of guys blowing smoke while they talk about the decision.  But alas, I’ve already committed to the coaching search bit, so I’ll soldier on for one more paragraph.

Hopefully it will be a while before Carolina fans actually have to deal with the departure of Ol’ Roy, but when they do and the College of Cardinals/search committee locks itself in the Sistine Chapel/Dean Dome and finally sends up a smoke signal/holds a press conference to announce the new hire, let’s all cross our fingers that it will be the correct decision.  And there is really only one logical choice.  The man who has been known to Tar Heel fans as the Pope since 2005: Jackie Manuel.