Et Cetera

A pat of butter on top of the grits

December 6, 2013 

Wednesday night was one of those warm late-autumn nights that reminds one of why so many of us live in Chapel Hill.

The evening was so warm, a fog form along the wooded neighborhoods of downtown, creating halos around the streetlights and bathing many homes in a gray-white glow.

Such evenings are a personal favorite. The way the fog hugs the earth looks like a fuzzy blanket over a bed just waiting for a weary soon-to-be-sleeper.

Later that night, seconds after the University of North Carolina's men's basketball team had upset Michigan State in a nationally televised game played on the Spartans' home court, distant sounding screams of joy emanated from East Franklin Street and McCorkle Place.

A series of firecrackers and even bigger pyrotechnics could be heard through the fog.

Minutes later, the bell tower on UNC's campus chimed the UNC alma mater and fight song.

It all seemed like some sort of dreamy holiday night, a sense heighten by the mist that gave every thing a blurry aura.

Anyone in one the neighborhoods in the Historic District would have heard the same things.

I like to think I have a more experienced perspective on these moments, having been courtside for national championships and present personally in the midst of Franklin Street celebrations, sent there as a reporter from the scene by the wire services.

As a writer, I've read the reaction by some out-of-towners to such scenes.

It can be ugly.

For some reason, many people can't stand to see others being happy. Some sort of perverse anti-schadenfreude.

Then there's the genuine delight in other's misery one sees too often – in sports, in politics, in watching some Black Friday shopper slamming into a glass door.

I was reminded of this recently upon receipt of a book jacket for “How to Talk to a Carolina Fan.”

It was written by an avowed N.C. State fan. I haven't much of the text, but that doesn't seem necessary to divine its intent.

The cover is a caricature of a series of UNC-related people, like Dean Smith and Butch Davis, jammed into a toilet bowl.

Many Wolfpack fans apparently find this hilarious.

The humor is similar to the quality of writing found in hit TV shows like “All In The Family,” which, when the plot found itself at a dead end, would insert the sound of Archie Bunker flushing a “terlette.”

Knee-slapping stuff.

The book’s evident intent is to delight in the unhappiness found by some Tar Heels in the mistakes of a previous administration – again, something found in both sports and politics.

On the positive side, one needn’t pay much attention. And such things remind one of why other people so often say of Chapel Hill that “it is a pat of butter found on top of a sea of grits.”

Hubris? Perhaps. Especially after a couple of years in which the image of UNC has been tarnished.

But the sights and sounds of a place like Chapel Hill make the presence of a few Archie Bunkers seem tolerable.

Warnock: 919-932-8743

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