UPDATE, 5:42 p.m.: Right about the time the sleet started coming down in Durham -- and coming down hard -- common sense prevailed as well. Tonight’s Duke-North Carolina game was unavoidably postponed when Duke’s team bus wasn’t able to make it to campus, let alone Chapel Hill.
If that’s what it took to pull the plug, fine. It was insane the game was a viable concern for that long.
When a school tells its own fans not to come -- “People with tickets to this evening’s game are encouraged to stay off the roads,” according to an afternoon North Carolina press release reaffirming the intention to play -- surely that’s a good indicator that it’s not the best idea in the world to play a basketball game.
There was no legitimate reason to send a single person, fan, game staffer or team into this weather and this traffic on this night, even if that meant ESPN’s 9 p.m. time slot went unfilled.
ORIGINAL BLOG POST: At 2 p.m., the Chapel Hill Police Department announced, “Pretty much every major road in town is gridlocked.” If that’s not enough to get the ACC to think better of playing tonight’s game between Duke and North Carolina, what is?
The conference places a high priority on playing games when the teams, game staff and officials can get there. The show, the ACC always insists, must go on -- which is how North Carolina ended up playing Georgia Tech last month in the middle of a storm that shut down Atlanta for days. ESPN and Raycom sent their production trucks into town early for just this eventuality. Duke, as of 2:30 p.m., hasn’t left yet. The 10.8 miles from Cameron Indoor Stadium to the Smith Center would, at the moment, take 69 minutes according to the very optimistic estimates of Google Maps.
So here we are, less than seven hours before game time, and there’s almost no way to get to the Smith Center that isn’t a bumper-bending, snow-sodden parking lot. Accidents, abandoned cars, slippery hills -- it’s dangerous out there. So dangerous, that it’s time to postpone tonight’s game before anyone gets hurt because of it.
Sure, fans should stay home whether the game is played of not. Of course they should. And if it were Georgia Tech visiting the Smith Center tonight, perhaps they would. But it’s the greatest rivalry in college basketball, and there are people who would rather lose a limb than miss this game because of a little snow. So they’ll put that bargain to the test on the road tonight.
And then, when it’s over, thanks to the loathsome 9 p.m. start dictated by television, everyone from fans to the teams themselves will try to head home in the middle of an ice storm that’s expected to glaze the area with as much as a half-inch of ice.
In other words, if it’s tough getting to the Smith Center tonight, that’s going to be a piece of cake compared to getting home.
Meanwhile, down in Atlanta, tonight’s Boston College-Georgia Tech game has been postponed until Thursday. Basketball games all over the state have suffered a similar fate. But because it’s Carolina-Duke, because it’s the 9 p.m. showcase on ESPN, there are real barriers to prevent the ACC from making the same decision with this game.
Better not to play at all than play with people’s lives like this.
UPDATE: At 3:45 p.m., North Carolina released a statement announcing the game would still be played. “ACC policy states that we should play the game if the teams, officials and games operations staff can safely get to the arena,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham said in the statement. “As of right now, we believe that those critical personnel will be able to get here.”