Amy Hoots

First Person: Dealing With Duke

Trying to sell a house that a toddler lives in can provide a challenge. About 10 days ago, we were cleaning up our house in preparation for a showing the following day. I had some stuff to haul down to the basement for storage and I had set the items on top of the steps leading down. After taking the first load down, I was about to make my way back up the stairs until I looked up and was met with my son’s beaming face at the top. 

In his hand, he held a small can of paint.  

In our house, we play a game that consists of Brady throwing balls down the stairs and us throwing them back up. A round object is clearly different than a cylindrical object, but a toddler such as my son is inclined to ignore that type of frivolous detail. 

It is not difficult to see where this story is going, just as it was not difficult to see every paint splatter on the carpet and walls after my son heaved the paint can down the stairs. He ignored my desperate plea of “noooo” and in an instant, created his most memorable art project to date. Brown paint, meet our white carpet and white walls.

I was mad, discouraged, and frustrated with the situation. Most people can understand why I felt upset about the pools of brown paint on our carpet and the light walls (which could no longer be classified as such). And inconveniently, it was the one wall color in our house that we didn’t have matching paint. But only someone who truly loves a sports team could understand why that anger in the stairwell was nothing compared to what I felt a week later sitting in the Smith Center trying to wrap my head around what was happening in front of me. Like brown paint on white carpet, it was ugly.

Duke had control of the game from the opening tip and never let go. I found it more frustrating than the Great Paint Incident of 2013 for a few reasons:

1) The calamitous art project was begun and completed in a mere second. The dreadful basketball game drug on for 2,400 painful ones.

2) For Brady, it only took one bad shot down the stairs for misfortune to strike. For the Tar Heels, it was missed opportunity after missed opportunity. If you found yourself saying, “One of these 3-pointers has to go in” you stood corrected time after time. If you looked at the other basket and found yourself saying, “They have stop falling eventually,” that “eventually” came way too late. 

3) As soon as I saw the paint can in my son’s hands, I knew with certainty what he was going to do with it. I could see it in his devilish beautiful blue eyes and when it was done, it was done. It was my fault for putting a can of paint with a loose lid on the top of the stairs. I’ll take my punishment and deal with the aftermath. However, at the Smith Center, I didn’t see it coming. Admittedly, I went into Cameron Indoor Stadium a few weeks prior mentally prepared for the worst, but I was not prepared for what I saw at home on Senior Night.

One of the first things I said to my husband during the paint cleanup was that someday, we would laugh about it. Someday came quicker than I expected and even now, when I walk next to the stained carpet and freshly painted walls, it’s hard not to chuckle.

I don’t expect to ever laugh about the debacle in the Dean Dome, but I can only hope that their play during the ACC tournament and beyond will help me forget it.

First Person: Winning Matters

 It hurts to lose.  It’s fun to win.  We learn these truths early in life.  Perhaps it was hearing, “last one there is a rotten egg” or some other eloquently stated maxim that made us first realize that in life, there are winners and there are losers.  Growing up is a lesson in how to do both well.

It’s a lesson I’m still learning.  After 30 years, I don’t do losing particularly well, although I’ve improved in the area.  This has come mostly out of survival, as I married a man who also doesn’t wear his losses well.  He once refused to get in the car with me after I beat him senseless in a few “friendly” games of squash (proving wrong his declaration that “you will never beat me in a racket sport”).  Not that I’m blameless: there is at least one broken tennis racquet at the bottom of a landfill somewhere that was the recipient of my bad sportsmanship after a frustrating game.

So if losing a silly racket sport can foster so much rage, why do we play? 

Well, the winning, of course. 

But after watching the men’s basketball team suffer a particularly tough last a few weeks back to NC State, it got me thinking, are the highs of winning high enough to make the lows worth it?  Sometimes it feels like winning is nothing more than escaping a loss.

I was lucky in my own participation in competitive sports to play on teams that were successful.  My high school basketball team won the State Championship my junior year and my college basketball team won the Division III National Championship my sophomore year.  Both bring up fond memories, but they are not nearly as vivid as my memories of losing.  I can still feel the pain of sitting in the locker room my senior year of high school, crying after losing in the final game.  I remember my senior year of college, sobbing in the locker room after a loss in the Sweet Sixteen, knowing that my missed free throw at the end of the game may have sealed the end of my playing career.

It’s the curse of playing, or cheering, for a winning team.  The expectation to win can occasionally damper the joy of winning and magnify the pain of losing.  I admit that secretly, I enjoy “down” years for Carolina Basketball.  I know the games will be exciting, each win celebrated and appreciated, and my favorite, the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of an upset!  When you’re on top, the only thing that is upset is you, when your team loses to a less talented team. 

Of course, all bets are off come March, when I want my team to be so much better than everyone that I’m able to read a book through each game because it is so boring.

A wise man once said, “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”  Perhaps he’s right.  I certainly don’t want our coach, our players, and even are fans to become “good” at losing (although civility should be maintained lest you be confused with neighboring fans). 

So with all the potential heartbreak, would indifference be a better alternative?  Living in that world, Eric and I would have patted each other on the back and walked arm and arm out of the squash courts.  I would have a working tennis racket.  And we would be happy for our Raleigh friends for finally beating us in basketball.

No thanks, I’ll take the losing with an extra side of pain, please.

First Person: The Must List

A few weeks back, I interviewed wrestling coach C.D. Mock, who is a joy to speak with. He loves his University, he loves his program, and he loves wrestling. We spoke at length about a common and necessary practice in college wrestling: weight cutting. Not a conversation most people have before the holidays and I only felt slightly guilty about eating and drinking liberally while writing the story.

The most interesting part of the conversation was our discussion about hydration. I knew wrestlers had to limit their food intake, which sounds terrible enough, but I had no idea they had to endure not only hunger, but thirst. When wrestlers are cutting weight, much of what they’re losing is water weight, to be quickly gained back later.

One thing Mock told me stuck in my memory. He said, “Most people have no idea what it means to be thirsty. The minute anybody gets thirsty they can quench their thirst. When you have to go to bed at night and your tongue is sticking on the roof of your mouth, it takes an ungodly amount of discipline to endure that.”

Think of a time when you were so incredibly hungry and you had that first bite of food. Pretty good, right? Now think of a time when you were so incredibly thirsty and you were finally able to gulp down that big glass of water. Even better! When you get to that point of extreme thirst, a glass of water can be more satisfying than even the most delectable food.   

Mock is right, I’ve never been truly thirsty, but the closest I ever remember was during a flight a few years back. I was sleeping when the beverage cart wheeled by and when I woke up, I was parched. The flight attendants had settled in for the long flight and were nowhere to be seen. The flight attendant call button tempted me from above, but I felt too much like a little kid calling for her mom in the middle of the night, so I sat and tried not to think of how thirsty I was…which of course made me thirstier.

So I have I no idea what it’s like to go to bed with my tongue stuck to the top of my mouth, but if it’s anything like my flight from hydration hell, I’ll pass.

It got me thinking, besides water and food, what are some things I’d rather not limit or eliminate from my life? This is a different kind of Christmas list. It’s not things I want, but rather things I could not bear to lose. Let me keep these this Christmas, Santa, and I promise I’ll be good all year.

Sleep: You know those people who sleep about 5 hours a night but as long as they have a cup of coffee in the morning and they are up and running for the day? That is not me. I prefer 8 or 9 and will settle for 7. Get much below that and I’m sorry if you run into me that day. My second child is coming in May and I can only hope this baby loves sleep as much as his or her mom.

Online shopping: I remember a few months ago having to recite my credit card number to a man and when I didn’t have to pull it out of my wallet, he seemed impressed (or possibly disgusted). I was struck with the idea that many people don’t know their credit card or debit card numbers by heart. To my defense, I pay our family bills, all of which are electronic. But yes, I like online shopping and consider myself pretty good at it. In the past few years, my Christmas shopping has felt like cheating. Take online shopping away from me and you might not find a present in your stocking.

Library card: I love reading and I’m one of those crazy people who reads actual books. The Kindle, Nook, Nexus and all other tablets are fantastic inventions, but they just aren’t for me. I go through books too fast and I’m a bit too frugal (don’t let my online shopping fool you) to be an avid tablet user (which requires you buy books). But did you know you can go to the library’s website, reserve a book, and the friendly librarians will grab it for you, put it on a shelf with your name on it, and call you up when it’s ready for pick up? And it’s free?  It’s a great version of online shopping with no financial penalties.

GPS: There are some lost arts with the newest generation. Cursive, for instance, is one discipline many schools are no longer teaching (my grandmother was aghast when she learned this and solemnly asked, “How will they sign checks?”). Another abandoned skill is the map reading, and I will count myself among the lost causes. Coupled with that, my internal navigation system is completely broken (actually, I’m not sure it was ever functioning). I can be in a hotel room for an entire week, but when I step out of my room, I’ll need to look both ways to see which way the elevator is. Some deficiencies life you make up for with practice and discipline….and some you just rely on technology. Thank you, GPS, for (usually) preventing me from driving around the Triangle aimlessly.

Hot showers:  Everyone can agree that cold showers are terrible, but to me, a lukewarm shower will probably mean no shower at all.  I love visiting my in-laws, but they have that kind of shower.  The kind where the first few minutes are ok, but you keep turning the knob further and further to the left until it won’t budge any further.  It’s a slow progression from hot to warm to tepid and I’m scrambling because I haven’t even put the conditioner in my hair yet.  And forget about it if someone has taken a shower before you.  Take shorter showers, you say?  I’ll save the world in other ways, thank you.  Before I buy my next house, I will insist on a full 20-minute shower and if my skin is red by the end of it, hand me the papers to sign.  But hand me a towel first.

So there you have it. Just let me sleep, shop, shower, read and navigate this Christmas and I’ll be merry.

What’s on your Christmas list?

First Person: The Highest of Highs

If you’re a Carolina Football fan, there is a good chance your face closely resembles the jack-o-lantern sitting on your neighbor’s front porch.  Not the frightened one with the crazy eyes, but the happy one with the glowing face and the unbending smile.

It’s hard not to smile this Halloween.  The feelings from the weekend are slow to leave, and I’m thankful for that.  At church on Sunday, a fellow church member stood up in front of the congregation to report on the budget.  He admitted it was difficult for him to address the congregation, and not just because of the sensitive topic of money, but because of his misguided allegiance to the Wolfpack (my words, not his).   

Maybe you walked in to work on Monday morning with an extra pep in your step, eager to provide a friendly hello to your coworker who might not have experienced the great weekend you did.  It’s a game you could talk about forever, and probably will.  Here’s what I remember from the game.  

At halftime, I sent my husband on a mission to get me a warm soft pretzel.   I’d been eyeing the one eaten by the lady in front of me during the first half and the need to have one myself took over.  My husband came back with a great looking pretzel and despite my frustrations with how things played out during the first half, at least I could have this moment with my pretzel.

It was not warm.  It was not soft.  It was stale.

Despite my instincts to the contrary (I had a similarly disappointing pretzel earlier in the year), I allowed myself to get excited about this pretzel.  For some reason, I thought this time it would be different.

Maybe you felt the same way during the 2nd and 3rd quarters.  Maybe you were like me, angry at how excited you let yourself get…again.  Frustrated that it mattered so much (we’re talking about the game now…I got over the pretzel around the middle of the 3rd quarter).   Maybe you were fuming as you imagined the hours, days, weeks, you’d spend thinking about what could have been.

Or maybe you were a believer the entire game, no question in your mind of the game’s inevitable outcome.  To you I would say kudos…and then I’d ask you if you’ve ever seen a Carolina Football game.

Regardless of how you may have felt during the first few quarters of the game, the way you felt during the last Tar Heel possession made you remember.  Made you remember why you let yourself get excited. Made you remember why you cared so much.  Made you remember why you kept coming back.  Made you remember that without the lows, there can be no highs.

And Saturday was the highest of highs.

Enjoy the moment and make it last.  And if a sad looking wolf comes to your door tonight, toss him an extra Butterfinger.  He’s had a tough week.

First Person: Return On Investment

In 2007, I was finishing up graduate school and just landing my first job at the Rams Club.  At the ripe age of 25, after finally receiving a real paycheck, I decided celebrate my financial independence and do some investing.  I was no longer a broke college student, and with a bit of disposable income on my hands, I decided to sock a few thousand dollars away in the stock market.   My investment knowledge was limited, but I knew you were supposed to buy low and sell high.   With the market down a bit from the previous few months, it seemed like a perfect time.  Maybe beginner’s luck would strike and I’d find the sought-after bottom.

You can stop laughing now.

Of course, it wasn’t the bottom, not by a long shot. One year after my initial investment, I had lost almost half of my money.  Welcome to financial freedom.  This was not exactly what I had in mind. 

I wasn’t alone.  You probably lost money too, probably much more than I did.   But when you’re just starting out and not accustomed to the ebbs and flows of the stock market, seeing $2,000 turn into $1,000 quickly was disheartening.  As the market continued to plummet, it was tempting to pull out what was left and walk away.  I had already lost enough.

You may have experienced some similar feelings of disappointment lately.  These are some tough times for Tar Heel alumni, students, faculty, and fans.  It seems like we can’t seem to catch a break.  A small scandal here or there is an unfortunate reality of a University as large as ours, but what has unraveled in recent months has taken everyone by surprise. 

As an investor, you probably weren’t eager to check your portfolio during the recession.  This year, you probably aren’t eagerly rushing out each morning to check the headlines of the local paper, if you haven’t cancelled your subscription all together.  You are invested, so bad news hurts.

So what did you do during the recession?  Did you take all you money out and bury it under the mattress?  Were you so fed up with the state of the economy that you pulled out entirely?  Or did you ride out the storm?  Did you have faith that although we were in dark times, our nation’s economy, the strongest in the world, would eventually see prosperity? If you did, you’ve recouped your losses and you’re seeing brighter days.

As an American accustomed to prosperous times, events like the recession can knock you off your feet.  If you haven’t already gotten up, hopefully you’re well on your way.  It’s the same with our University.  How do I know we will overcome these difficult times?  The same way I knew our country will.  Because those who stand behind it love it too much to let it fail.  Because at its core, it is good. 

First Person: Olympic fever

For die-hard sports fans, summer can be a bummer. It’s off-season for most sports and some crazed fans may find themselves digging out highlight tapes from past seasons to get their fix. But every four years, sports fans find sweet relief in the Summer Olympics. Whether you cheer for UNC, NC State, or that other school down the road, the Olympics bring rivals together in a quest for gold.

I ran track in high school and I had the pleasure (or pain) of competing against one of the world’s fastest women. Lolo Jones attended a neighboring high school and I often found myself matched up against her in the 100 meter hurdle race. The good news was that six other girls shared my fate. The outcome was never in question and the only way the race would have really been a race would have been if the hurdles were removed in every lane except Lolo’s…and even then, it would have been close.

I grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa, not exactly the typical breeding ground for Olympic athletes, but Jones was not the only Olympian to come out of the area, and not even the most successful. Shawn Johnson, the gold-medal gymnast who participated in the 2008 Summer Games, was born and raised just a few miles away from where I grew up. Gabby Douglas, the Olympic sweetheart who snagged two gold medals and many people’s heart, moved to West Des Moines a few years ago to train. And my own high school produced a 2011 graduate who competed for the U.S. women’s archery team in London.

Of course, Carolina has its own hometown heroes capturing gold. Tobin Heath and Heather O’Reilly traveled to London to help defend the US women’s soccer gold medal. Between the two Tar Heels, they have collected five gold medals.

So for some personal reasons, I had Olympic fever. This was not without its drawbacks. My sleep suffered during the first few weeks in August. Generally, I’d make it to bed at a reasonable time, but the TV, kept on as background noise, would draw me in and I’d find myself straining to keep my eyes open to see the last events of the night. My favorite sports always seemed to play until midnight and I’d find my mind and body at odds on whether or not to stay awake.

London seemed to be a fine venue for the Olympics, but the time difference was less than ideal. My first spoiler came in disappointing fashion when I opened up a news website and learned that Gabby Douglas fell off the beam, spoiling her chance at another gold. That night, my excitement for my favorite Olympic sport waned. I learned that to watch the Olympics how I wanted to watch it (which meant not knowing the results), meant shunning other forms of media for the day. This time zone problem should be rectified in 2016, when Rio de Janeiro hosts the Olympics.

I overheard an Olympic lover commenting on how she wished the Olympics would come more often. She loved the unity the event brought and felt its effects could be greater if seen more frequently. I thought about it for a moment, but then remembered my love for candy corn. Every Halloween, I’m reminded how tasty the tri-colored treat is and I think, “I should really stock up on this delicious treat so I can enjoy these all year around.” Of course, I know in my heart that they would lose their luster…and my waistline may suffer. It’s much better to gorge in October and spend the next 11 months in eager anticipation.

The last football game played in Kenan Stadium was over seven months ago. If that seems like a lifetime ago and football season can’t seem to come quick enough for you, just remember that the greater the lull, the greater the joy.  

Three Things: Carolina Camps

In the June THM, Amy Hoots' feature explores the benefits of Carolina's athletic camps. Here are three more things she learned:

  1. Coach Hatchell loves her camp.  During our 15-minute interview, I might have said a dozen words.  Hatchell literally brims over with information and enthusiasm about the Sylvia Hatchell Basketball Camp and she’ll answer questions before they’re even asked.  “I’m different than a lot of coaches,” Hatchell said.  She takes a lot of pride in her camp and is very hands-on.  While she came short of inviting me to her house to continue our discussion over dinner, I was left with the feeling she genuinely loves camp and would have talked to me all day about it if I had let her.
  2. Not every coach loves camp quite as much as Hatchell, but the benefits camp provide greatly outweigh the negatives.  High on the list of advantages is recruiting.  Camp provides a prime (and legal) opportunity for coaches to control workouts and evaluate talent.  It also gives coaches an opportunity to get to know recruits better, and gives those recruits an opportunity to evaluate the program and the school.  It’s like a “free” recruiting visit that doesn’t need to be monitored and recorded for the NCAA.
  3. Camps have become highly specialized.  More options than ever are offered to potential campers.  The volleyball camper can choose from beach training camp, setter camp, or hitter and libero camp, just to name a few.  Many teams offer specialized camps not only for different positions, but for different skills levels.  The Carolina Girl’s Lacrosse Camps seeks to touch on all skill levels by offering Elite Camp, Rising Stars Camp, and Young Guns Day Camp.  Team camps are also hugely popular and are offered by most coaches.

Cutting Room Floor: Basketball Coaching Shuffle

In our June 2012 issue (in mailboxes early next week), Amy Hoots writes about the Tar Heel basketball coaching shuffle that includes Wes Miller snagging the head coaching job at UNCG, Jerod Haase becoming the head coach at UAB, and several other Tar Heel coaches who changed places this spring. What follows is content not included in the magazine piece that still provides a nice look at how UNCG is marketing Miller.

If you attended the first round of men’s basketball tournament, you may have seen a familiar face outside the Greensboro Coliseum.  A prominently placed billboard features the face of Wes Miller, former Tar Heel and current UNCG head men’s basketball coach.   What is notable about this UNCG billboard is not that Wes Miller is on it, he’s the head coach after all, but that the focus on the billboard is so clearly on Miller. Miller’s name takes up about half of the billboard, overwhelming the school’s name and website.

As part of their marketing efforts, UNCG has rallied behind their coach and has used Miller’s name and image in their marketing campaign.  UNCG Athletics even has an official website backing their coach, www.ourgreensborocoach.com.  Purchase season tickets and you’ll receive a Wes Miller bobblehead. 

After the bobblehead is released, Miller will have the chance to see himself in both oversized and undersized form.  While Miller is comfortable on the sideline in his new head coach’s seat, he’s a bit uncomfortable with the all the new attention bestowed upon him.  But he is willing to do whatever it takes to put his team in a position to be successful.  Miller said, “I want to promote the school in any way I can and if it means I’m uncomfortable for a couple months because they think it’s a good idea, I’m on board.  But long term, the face of our program will be our players and that’s what I’m most comfortable with.”

FIRST PERSON: A GOOD HAIR DAY

I’m having a bad hair day.  Actually, it’s more like a bad hair year. 

When I had a baby, I expected the dirty diapers and sleepless nights.  However, nobody prepares you for certain things and hair troubles were one of those unexpected side effects.  When my son was about four months old, my hair started falling out.  Blond hairs could be found everywhere, and this process was expedited by my baby, whose fingers were often full of the hairs he had extracted.  My thick head of hair was thinning before my eyes. 

A Google search revealed that this hair loss was normal, and that it would grow back.  Much to my relief, a few months later, it did stop, and I thought my troubles were over.  At the present moment, those hairs are growing back.  However, they have not returned as the same length of the rest of my hair, as I had foolishly hoped.  Instead, those regrown hairs are now two-inch long wisps, many of which frame my face, giving me makeshift bangs that look like a child took scissors to my hair.

Adding to my woes, I haven’t had a hair appointment in six months.  My dark roots are exposing my dark secret: that my sun-streaked hair is actually manmade.  I already pay too much to cut and highlight my hair and paying a babysitter to watch my child while I get my hair done just hasn’t been in the books.

Of course, fresh perspective is always good and the BaseBald event at Boshamer Stadium last week gave me just that.  Following the Georgia Tech game on Saturday, the Diamond Heels teamed up with St. Baldrick’s Foundation to host a fundraising event to benefit the pediatric oncology unit at the Lineberger Cancer Center. 

Prior to the event, I watched the game with Bobby Frasor.  He had been asked to participate, but was nervous and wasn’t so sure if he’d be able to pull off the bald look.  During the game, Bobby stepped out of the sun, fearing the contrast between his white scalp and tanned face.  He had held out hope that the razor would have a guard on it so he’d have a little something left on his head.  Perhaps he had a premonition that UAB’s SID would call him the next day to ask him if he could get his headshot taken for the media guide.  He asked if he could get that pushed back a bit.  Of course, there were no regrets for Bobby, especially after seeing the other brave souls who answered the call.

Before the Diamond Heels took the field to shave their heads, other volunteers came forward.  The first was the Nicholson family of five.  Cole, who is now five and cancer-free, was diagnosed with leukemia just before his second birthday.  His mother, Emily, held one of her young sons in her lap while he was shaved, and murmurs spread through the crowd that the whole family was to be shaved.  Sure enough, the mother of three proudly smiled as the shears came close to her head. 

Her family’s fundraising “team” was suitably named “Bald is Beautiful” and that day in Bosh, it certainly was.  Following her haircut, Emily bore striking resemblance to Demi Moore in “G.I. Jane,” only she didn’t get paid for losing her locks.  Instead she sacrificed her hair in efforts to raise money and raise support for childhood cancer.

Emily wasn’t the only brave woman.  After taking her turn in the chair, one young woman raised her long blond braid up in triumph.  Several other female volunteers bravely sat in the barber’s chair, including a 10-year-old girl, who gained my respect immediately. 

Each person who participated in the event that day showed bravery, but the women and girls who signed up to shave their heads made the biggest impact on me.  Those ladies showed courage, and the girls and boys who they were representing are forced to be even more courageous, some no older than my son, who is the reason we’re talking about my hair in the first place. 

Cancer is a reality to many parents and if losing some hair helps find a cure for someone’s son or daughter, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Mike Fox, his team, and other volunteers stepped up to the plate. 

That’s worth a bad hair day, any day.

 

Three Things: Men's Basketball Banquet

The men’s basketball team had their annual team banquet at the Carolina Club on Thursday, April 19th.  Here are three things we learned:

1. Walk-on Stewart Cooper stole the stage with his senior speech.  As with any good speech, he thanked those who had an impact during his time at North Carolina.  He thanked trainer Chris Hirth for attending to all his injuries, most of them non-basketball related.  He also thanked him for “not asking too many questions.”  He thanked C.B. McGrath, “fearless leader of Blue Steel” and congratulated Jerod Haase on his new head coaching position at UAB.  He expressed his disappointment that it didn’t happen earlier because “you could have recruited me and built a program around me.” He also thanked Coach Holladay, who told him his freshman year that he’d never make varsity.

2. A usually stoic McGrath showed his soft side on the stage.  He shared with the crowd the typical post-game bus routine that followed road games.  Steve Kirschner would be on his phone, getting updated scores from around the ACC to share with Coach Williams.  Eric Hoots would be checking his phone finding out if Duke lost.  Beginning next season, C.B. McGrath will also be checking his phone to see if his new favorite team, UAB, won their game.  McGrath told Haase, his sidekick of 18 years, that he would be his number one fan.

3. Michael Crowe and New Media put together another exceptional highlight video.  Most Tar Heel fans know North Carolina’s performances on the court are impressive, but the video also encapsulates the energy and antics that go on off the court. The video is not short on smiles, laughter, or dance moves.  Despite a string of unfortunate injuries and an early ending, that really captures what the season was all about.