From Raleigh, with Love

It’s 10:30 pm and I’m feeling nervous.  Almost physically sick.

Was it the evening meal?  The sudden change in weather?  The lack of a state budget?

No, it was half-time last night and the UVA Cavaliers are trailing the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (which is French for “rooster”, no seriously) by the score of 35-30. 

A few hours earlier, based upon the “this may never happen again” theory of parenting, I had pulled my eldest daughter Eva out of school and driven 250 miles south, along with my best friend, taking I-85 into the Raleigh-Durman area, where the sub-regional games were taking place on the NC State campus. 

NC State is a big state campus situated on farmland about ten miles north of Raleigh.  We picked up our tickets at the “Stub Hub” depot (a local Hampton Inn) and got to the PNC arena, just in time to see a taut affair between Memphis and George Washington which ended with a narrow Memphis victory.  Around us, the fans made up a montage of teams that had played that day:  Tennessee, Duke (lost), Memphis, GW and Mercer, as well as local fans wearing the ubiquitous Carolina or NC State gear. 

UVA took the court to wild applause and got out to an early lead.  Just as quickly, Coastal Carolina surged back, dropping threes and following shots  on the boards.  Suddenly, the Cavs were down ten points.  Then five at halftime.

Anytime a #1 seed is trailing a #16 seed at half-time, that is cause for concern.  Then mix in the fact that we had pre-bought the next round of games on Sunday — and you’re talking legitimate panic. 

Thankfully, the shots started falling in the second half and UVA “pulled away” to win by eleven points.  It was a closely-contested game all the way, and the Chanticleers gave a great account of themselves.  There are no easy games in this tournament.

We got back to the hotel after midnight, in time to have a victory beer at the hotel bar (with my friend, not my daughter).  The bar still had games going on all the TV sets.  It was packed with GW boosters and even players; it was the team’s hotel and the season was over.  There was nothing left to do but talk about it. 

This morning, I woke up and took a run into downtown Raleigh, site of the State Capitol.  The downtown was clean and quiet.  Not a lot of weekend traffic.  The Capitol didn’t compare to our Capitol Square (what does?) 

I got back to find that the evil NCAA had moved UVA’s Sunday game from the early afternoon until Sunday night at 8:30 p.m.  (Aren’t there any West Coast games for that time slot?  Are the fans supposed to stay at the hotel until that time?) 

The time shift killed our opportunity to stay around for the next game, as there are too many obligations on Monday morning.  (Kid — back to school, Dad — back to Richmond).

So we went back to Hampton Inn to put the Sunday tickets on “Stub Hub” and then said goodbye to Raleigh, rolling back in Fairfax this evening, thirty hours after leaving. 

Yes, we saw a “1-16″ matchup and covered 500 miles to do it.

March Madness.

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