Happiness is a Warm TV

On ACC Friday, recalling fond memories of rolling out the TV cart at school

Athletic World sporting goods store owners Chris and Lisa Barnette, both UNC graduates, found their customers nonexistent during the 1998 ACC tournament Friday afternoon game between UNC and NCSU. They pulled up a small TV and watched UNC beat NCSU.
Athletic World sporting goods store owners Chris and Lisa Barnette, both UNC graduates, found their customers nonexistent during the 1998 ACC tournament Friday afternoon game between UNC and NCSU. They pulled up a small TV and watched UNC beat NCSU.

“Back in my day …” is a phrase usually met by a sea of rolling eyeballs, and rightfully so.

But when you hear that phrase in North Carolina this week, it’s probably followed by some oldster waxing nostalgic on the magic of the “good old days” of the ACC, back when North Carolinians cared so much about the college basketball tournament that they happily sent their kids off to school on ACC Friday knowing they’d spend much of the day watching basketball on TV.

I’m drawing from my own memories from the '80s, when the ACC Tournament was such an indelible part of North Carolina life that rolling TVs into classrooms on AV carts so that children could watch basketball games was never even questioned.

If you were in a class with an uncool teacher — a teacher who did not believe in suspending a few hours of education for such a treasured life experience — you came armed with permission slips that would get you excused from that awful class to join the lucky kids.

It’s a memory many recall fondly far into adulthood.

North Carolina natives never even questioned why this was allowed. Was it to keep teachers and students from taking sick days en masse? Or was it just because it was the right thing to do?

The good ole days

Those were simpler times. A time when the ACC was small and geographically cozy; when it was a three-day tournament with the championship game held on Sunday afternoons with a 1 p.m. tipoff — a fact of life that prompted many a preacher across the state to deliver abbreviated sermons so that parishioners could speed home and devour their fried chicken lunches before the jump ball.

I remember my mother getting up early on ACC Championship Sunday to have Sunday lunch mostly cooked before even leaving for church. And then we’d gulp down our food, save the dishes for later, and go to “second church” in front of the TV.

We’d watch the best of the best — Dean Smith, Norm Sloan (or Jim Valvano), Mike Krzyzewski and Turry Holland (we loved the way Maryland coach Lefty Driesell pronounced Virginia coach Terry Holland's name — plus, “Turry” was from Clinton, NC, practically a hometown boy to kids in tiny Garland).

Team allegiances were plenty strong, but the fandom wasn’t as toxic as it seems now. Plus, these days there are so many teams in the conference and from such far flung locales — South Bend, Pittsburgh, Syracuse — that who can even keep up?

And maybe strangest of all, the championship game is held on a Saturday night. Who ever heard of such a thing?

Sundays feel so empty. (And while we're at it, get off my lawn!)

Brooke Cain: 919-829-4579, @warmtv, @brookecain

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