Good Sport: Root, root, root for the home team

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jeffby Jeff Laughlin

Whether or not it matters, I hated most of you before I saw you at the game.

UNCG will have played UNC by the time this article gets published, and they will do so in a hostile environment: their own home court. That is the fault of Greensboro itself.

The Greensboro Coliseum will have been awash in sky blue, chants of “Tar” and “Heel” reverberating from the rafters. A room away, ACC greats remain enshrined in a town where 75 percent of them never really played.

The people cheering for the local basketball team, heavily outnumbered, will have watched in enemy territory, down the street from their homes. This is the modern condition for the scattered UNCG fans.

I did this two years ago. Duke came to town and blew out UNCG. The game entertained the crowd for all of 11 minutes before the inevitable 60-12 run put the contest out of reach. Up 30, the Duke fans still screamed for calls and booed UNCG players when they tried to make plays. When the replacements came in, they were made fun of recklessly. I asked how many of the fans around me went to Duke. I got no answer. I left early.

See, the cheap and easy answers in college ball deal directly with birthright. Ask anyone in the light blue who did not attend UNC, and you’ll get, “I grew up a UNC fan.” That answer makes total sense — I grew up an NC State fan and I get great pleasure in seeing them win… occasionally.

Then I went to a different college. So I cheer for them. Since UNCG does not often decorate the national stage, I still harbor a strong affinity for my birthright school. The second they square off against UNCG? They got to die.

Your birthright means nothing to the greater cause. UNCG, a local underdog, needs more support against a juggernaut, but they won’t get it because of a herd mentality. Doesn’t that seem, at the very least, disingenuous to your community?

Would you have shown up to the Valley of Elah and cheered on Goliath?

Yet, this happens constantly around here. The modern condition in Tournament Town eschews the delightful sports teams here in the Triad to bury ourselves in the carcass of the Atlantic Coast Conference — the same ACC that tolerates us until NYC becomes a real possibility for the tournament. Greensboro’s birthright does not have to directly link with ACC bloodlines, but the people don’t want to cheer for ponies. They want thoroughbreds.

They want winners.

And cheering for UNCG or NC State compares to listening to jazz: it’s all about the plays they don’t make.

So, UNCG will have come out to indifference, at best, on their home floor. The crowd will have stared blankly at their phones while the announcer will have tried to gin up the awkward highlights package before tip-off.

Polite applause may get loud enough to rival the student section while UNCG is introduced.

I know the song and dance all too well. Sickening though it may be, the birthright will sail through the harshest waves, leaving packs of weaker sailors to drown in the wake. The poetic result  would have been for UNCG to shock the world and be relevant for one night — for the Goliath fans to feel the rock between their eyes as they justify the loss with some rehash of “Good for UNCG, they deserved it,” or, “Hey, that means Wes Miller won, and he’s one of us.”

Likely though, this article will premiere the day after a 25-30 point loss for the home team. And the cheers from their own people will rise against them. They will be forgotten for the rest of the basketball season while UNC will contend for titles.

But those brave few that will root for the underdog when they could cheer for the winner? Those foolish heroes should not have to hang their heads alone.

Yet, they likely did.