A few years ago I wrote about North Carolina’s sacred cows and basketball was one of them. But it wasn’t until the Atlantic Coast Conference’s recent final-straw move to relocate neutral-site championships (including its football title game in December and its women’s basketball tournament in March) out of North Carolina in reaction to state law HB 2 that I realized that Gov. Pat McCrory had finally dug the last shovelful of his own grave.
The decision came a few days after the NCAA pulled the plug on championship games for this academic year — including several in the Division 1 basketball tournament scheduled for Greensboro — and in the wake of the NBA’s decision to relocate the 2017 All-Star Game.
It took sports to do it, but just in case McCrory is looking for a few more casket nails, here are a few more Tarheel taboos that ain’t nothing to f*&^% wit.
1. Lighthouses — If states had their own phallic symbols — like birds or flowers or trees — the lighthouse would surely qualify as North Carolina’s. Oh, the books that have been written, the terrible paintings painted, the beach-house gee-gaws crafted and the Our State photos published! Yes, they’ve saved many a vessel from the Graveyard of the Atlantic — but how many of their likenesses have clogged the landfills and Wings stores of our home state?
2. James Taylor — The troubadour of the Tarheel State — and an unarguably talented musician — has achieved cult status worldwide but never as much as within the 200-mile radius circling Chapel Hill. Yes his career has seen both Fire and Rain — but don’t mention this anywhere near Crook’s Corner unless you want a plate of shrimp & grits flung at your head.
3. Carolina — Speaking of Carolina on my mind, the baby blue badinage of the UNC-Chapel Hill is swathed across this state like a beauty queen’s sash. Most of the perpetrators of this pastel assault have never even been to Chapel Hill, let alone attend the university. So watch out if you run into one of these rams — they’re stubborn and will even argue that God took a cue from Carolina when he was shopping for sky colors.
4. Barbecue — Much like the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop rivalry of the 1990s, the ongoing East vs. West barbecue war in North Carolina is full of piss and vinegar (well, vinegar anyway in the East) and goes whole hog (also in the East). This makes the boys in the West see red (must be the tomatoes) and really put their shoulder into the rivalry. Steer clear of this debate.
5. NASCAR — Never in the history of man has so much time, money, blood, sweat, advertising dollars and fossil fuel been spent on guys running around in circles (with the possible exception of baseball). In a state where Richard Petty is king and Dale Earnhardt a saint, it is wise to avoid bringing this up lest ye wind up imprisoned in a lighthouse and forced to listen to endless James Taylor songs.
6. Beach music — In yet another case of the white man ruining the culture of people of color, beach music is essentially responsible for the honkification of rhythm & blues, pop and rock variations of the 1950s and 1960s. Its origins may be from the Ocean Drive area of North Myrtle Beach, SC, but North Carolinians consider it to be the soundtrack of the state.
7. Calabash — The town itself prides itself on being known as the Seafood Capital of the World, when in truth, the word “fried” has been omitted. Ask any North Carolinian if they like seafood and you’ll likely hear, “Yep, if it’s fried.”
8. Pottery — Much like NASCAR’s origins in whiskey running, North Carolina’s pottery tradition has roots in hooch (they don’t call it ‘Jugtown’ for nothing). And while the wet clay wanderers (the tradition extends far beyond Seagrove) have transformed function into a historically significant art form, you’re probably still not safe discussing it within plate-breaking distance of Moore County.
9. Skiing — Yes, the well-honed hills and mountains of North Carolina have carved out a living making ski resorts out of molehills over the years, but whatever you do, don’t compare them to West Virginia or you may have to find a new home there. And while North Carolina has produced more snow than the Medellin Cartel, serious lovers of the white stuff usually have to venture outside of state lines to get the high they are looking for.
10. Basketball — Basketball is to North Carolina as oxygen is to man, as Spanx are to a Kardashian, as Tyler Perry is to box office grosses. But you already figured that out, didn’t you, Pat?