First Person: The Postgame Report
I’m now in my fourth season writing the Carolina football postgame column for the official athletics web site, GoHeels.com (formerly TarHeelBlue.com). I’ve tried to get the process down to a science: Make my way down to the field with a few minutes to play, rush to the interview area after the final whistle, talk to the available players and try to pick out some thread of a narrative for the column. Sometimes, it’s easy to identify the story. Sometimes, I’ve got nothing. Other times, I don’t feel like writing anything at all.
At home games, I usually sit with my wife on the North side and just walk down to the tunnel around the five minute mark of the fourth quarter. I’ll watch the final few moments from the sideline. Away games are trickier, because usually there’s an elevator or a significant amount of stairs involved in getting to the field. Do I leave early and risk missing a key moment in a close game, or do I wait out the game in the press box and then try to navigate through thousands of fans? There’s no right answer.
Over the past three-plus seasons, and 42 columns and counting, I’ve tried to be the ‘voice of the fan.’ I’m a fan (and alumnus) too, so that part’s been easy. What hasn’t always been easy is taking off that fan hat and putting on my writer’s hat to try to convey my feelings on the game, win or lose, in a positive manner. I don’t always get it right, but I certainly try.
Here now are some memories from columns past:
•You may have read this story before: In 2009 at Virginia Tech, I hustled down to the field from the press box late in the fourth quarter with football communications director Kevin Best and Lauren Brownlow. ‘Which way to the field?’ we asked a security guard. He directed us down an aisle. The wrong aisle. We asked again, and again went down the wrong aisle. By this point, it was getting into crunch time, so we hopped a barrier and landed near the trainer’s table on the home sideline. This was just as the Virginia Tech offense was coming off the field after Ryan Williams’ fumble that would lead to Casey Barth’s game-tying kick. Needless to say, we were staring up at some unhappy Hokies. In the weeks before that game, I’d written about ‘the moment,’ that brief period of time when a game can go one way or another depending on the outcome of a single play. To that point, Carolina had been on the wrong end of several of those moments. That Thursday night in Blacksburg, a week after a heartbreaking loss to Florida State, the Tar Heels seized that moment.
•Hunter Furr will be on the visiting sideline in an East Carolina uniform on Saturday, but before he transferred, he was a hero at Florida State. Furr came in at running back when Carolina had nowhere else to turn. His three carries for 27 yards helped secure the win in Tallahassee. It was awfully fun to talk to Hunter and write about his impact on the game.
•My column from the 2010 Music City Bowl took about six hours to write, but it didn’t feel like it. I was proud of the team and wanted my column to capture both that feeling and the craziness of the contest. The game in Nashville was one of the most remarkable finishes I’d ever seen, and it put a cap on a tumultuous, drama-filled season.
•A few months prior (to what?), I’d witnessed the Tar Heels pull off a near-miracle comeback against incredible odds in Atlanta. Carolina didn’t win that game against LSU, but it didn’t really feel like a ‘loss,’ either, even though the Tar Heels’ record would go to 0-1. Radio host Taylor Zarzour asked me what I though after that game. “I think that’s the sweetest loss I’ve ever seen,” I said.
In some ways, last weekend’s loss at Louisville was a lot like that game against LSU. Carolina had no business having a chance to win at the end, but there they were. Certainly the circumstances are different, but this year’s Tar Heels can learn from and build off of the nail-biter in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium just as they did two seasons ago. That’s what I wrote about Saturday. (Full disclosure: if that game had ended like it appeared it would in the first half, I already had my column title picked out: ‘Trouble Over Bridgewater.’ Thankfully, we were all spared.)
It’s impossible to be the voice of every fan, because everyone will see the game through his or her own eyes. So, what I’ve tried to do is relate my own experience watching the game and convey that in a positive manner. Folks won’t always agree with me, but that can’t really be helped. Frankly, sometimes this fan is mad about the result of the game and annoyed about having to relive it in words. That’s just part of the job. Some games are better than others, and that’s true of columns, too. Most of the time, though, it’s a true pleasure to get to editorialize about my favorite team.
I was a bit frustrated two weeks ago at Wake Forest. I’d thought Carolina was pretty much finished losing those types of games. Hopefully, one day they will be. In the meantime, I’m glad I get to write about the journey.