First Person: Icon
The Durango was packed to the roof with baseball gear and my son was decked out in his Rivercats uniform. It was his last tournament as a league-age nine-year-old, and we were headed to Wilmington. I could practically smell Britt’s Donuts as I caught up on my reading. The July 2012 issue of Our State Magazine had a feature about “What is a North Carolina Icon?” Such a great question!
My mind immediately started racing..., first to my parents. They were both born and raised in a small mill town in North Carolina. Although I was born in Virginia, they raised me as a Carolina girl. Icons surrounded me.
The feature author, Michael Parker, hit it home when he said, “It’s more than a person or a place or an industry. It’s something that becomes part of our belief system.” Part of being a true Tar Heel fan is supporting our team through thick and thin. Sometimes it can be a challenge to stay true to ourselves while standing up for our team, especially in the current atmosphere surrounding college athletics in general. It can be easy to veer off track and forget what it really means to be a Tar Heel. These icons are the things that ground us, that help guide us back, and give us the reassurance that we are standing up for a great university.
I grew up believing in the Tar Heels. Maybe it was the awe of my first visit to Chapel Hill; the fact my dad and I could bond over a football or basketball game; or Carolina Blue is just a great color. Growing up, there’s no doubt that Dean Smith was a man we could all admire, look up to, and believe in.
Since being named the Director of Marketing at THM, I have reflected on what a privilege it is to be associated with The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I can now say going to football and basketball games are “work”. I have a credible excuse when those who don’t identify with, “The Carolina Way,” question why my family attends so many events at UNC.
I am still in awe when I visit iconic locations on campus, whether old ones, new ones, or renovated ones, like Boshamer Stadium. I cannot help but get goose bumps standing in the batting cages looking up at all the team photos and College World Series banners. Mike Fox has become a college baseball icon. His strong beliefs in having not only a great player on the field but a great young man off the field makes him a worthy icon in my eyes. It’s not only the on-field accomplishments but off-the-field behaviors instilled in the athletes that make for a true role model.
As I began my walk to Kenan Stadium for the 2012 home opener against Elon, I noted some changes from previous seasons: The new fences protecting the trees and plants around the stadium; A new sign naming the Blue Zone; Redesigned bag and no-bag lines (which went much quicker this year); and new fanfare lining the path of the Old Well Walk are but a few to name. However, once I entered the stadium, the familiar iconic feeling of past years quickly crept back. The excitement of the season, freshly painted field, the opportunity and possibility that laid before a new coaching staff were all being soaked into and drawn from memory bank.
It was at this point that I thought of my 2-year-old cousin who came with us to the game. It was his first experience on campus, and one that he may not specifically remember, but one that has planted the seeds of the many Carolina icons. After the game, as my son played catch with his young cousin, we walked past the Old Well. I know this icon, like many others, will continue to offer that reassurance for another Tar Heel generation.