All Dressed Up in Baby Blue and No Place to Go
by Brian Strong
Put yourself in the unused patent leather shoes and spiffy tuxedo of Jason Capel. When this young man stepped off the court at the Charlotte Coliseum recently, wearing the untucked mesh No. 25 for the last time ever, imagine what he was feeling. No North Carolina senior in 27 years has stepped off the court the same way. For four-plus months now, he has had to walk into the barber shop and look into the eyes of Jason Williams, Chris Duhon and the rest of the Blue Devils who share his same chair and apron and then quickly dart his eyes toward the floor to face facts. From the moment it all started: From the exhibition embarrassment and the early losses to schools with populations similar to that of the jersey count in the Dean Dome rafters, it was very apparent that he would bear the burden of being the veteran leader of a team that would disappoint the diehard Tar Heel fans like no team had before.
Now, this is by no means an attempt to point fingers at Capel. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. Because when Jason Capel left the floor after fouling out of the ACC quarterfinals, he had the look of a man who had learned and moved on. He was not completely satisfied, but he held his head up. He shook Coach K’s hand just the way he was taught by this program. He reflected on the good times, which for him included two trips to the Final Four, and although probably wishing that he could have one more run, started looking to the positives that lie ahead for him.
So, it would behoove all of you, who have loved Dean Smith, Mitch Kupchak Phil Ford, #23, Shammond Willams and now Capel, to do what Jason has done – move on to the next great triumph and yearn for more Tar Heel basketball. Even as you watch America’s finest team sporting event this March and early April sans Tar Heels, I ask you to minimize your disgust. Be excited for the young players who gained valuable experience this year and, better yet, the class of talented youngsters who can’t wait to run out of that tunnel on South Campus anymore than you can wait to see them appear on your 2003 tournament bracket.
Should the Tar Heel nation of coaches, players, and staff settle for substandard? No. But should it be happy right now? Yes, because there is still so much potential to enjoy what will be.
So when you’re sitting at home feeling sad for yourself while everyone else is at the Dance, remember that there was some night, somewhere amongst the millions of good times when, Hugh Hefner didn’t have a date either. He seems to have rebounded quite nicely.