A.C. Snow

Snow: For true fans, it’s never ‘only a game’

North Carolina’s Joel Berry II (2) makes a steal from Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell (11) during the first half.
North Carolina’s Joel Berry II (2) makes a steal from Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell (11) during the first half. rwillett@newsobserver.com

As we all know, there’s a wrong way and a right way to do everything.

There is even a right way to watch a college basketball game.

As we emerge from the annual orgy of post-season basketball, I offer some tried-and-true personal thoughts on how to watch the game.

I’ve often thought of how a coach’s family must suffer after his team loses a big game. Does he walk in the door after a loss the same person who left home earlier to head for the coliseum? Is he man enough, self-controlled enough to, as it were, not bring his work home with him?

Does his wife greet him with a cheerful, “Remember, dear, it’s only a game?”

If you’re a mentally mature grown person, the right way to watch the game on TV is to sit calmly in your easy chair, analyzing each missed shot, cheering each three-pointer and lambasting the coach for not calling a time-out or making substitutions when the game is not going well.

If you’re a mentally mature grown person, you pace the floor from tip-off to the final whistle. If your team is behind by 15 points, you’re allowed to leave the house and walk around the block.

Although God doesn’t suit up for basketball, if you’re a mentally mature grown person, it’s still OK to drop to your knees in prayer when the score is tied with five seconds to play and your team has the ball.

If you’re a mentally mature grown person, you don’t sulk for days after your team loses.

Years ago, we and another couple, close friends, socialized together almost every weekend.

Ernest was an N.C. State grad who bled Wolfpack scarlet. When State lost in football or basketball, he would go into a two-day funk that torpedoed whatever plans we had made.

He suffered so severely that when State played Carolina, I almost pulled for the Wolfpack in order to salvage our weekend plans. Almost, but not quite.

If you’re a mentally mature grown person, you don’t start passing around a petition to fire the coach if he has lost two games in a row. You wait until he’s lost at least five.

I recently asked a friend how he survives close games involving his alma mater. He replied, “I cuss a lot.”

I’m not saying that how I watch a Carolina game is ideal, but it works for me.

Sometimes, in the case of a night game, if my team is behind or even if the game is as tight as Dick’s hat band, I simply go to bed and read.

However, I do allow my wife to bring bulletins from time to time. But only if the Heels are ahead. As the song says, “Don’t bring me no bad news!”

When I don’t hear from her, I know my team is trailing. So I lie there, unable to concentrate on my book or magazine, anxiously yearning for the sound of her footsteps coming to bring good news.

When she does eventually appear, and I read tomorrow’s sports page headline on her face, I don’t even want to know the final score.

The best way for a mentally mature grown person to deal with a game in doubt is to go to bed if his or her team is trailing and to fall asleep while silently repeating, “It’s only a game … It’s only a game …”

Then, next morning, the mentally mature grown person gingerly picks up the newspaper from the driveway, slides out the sports section, closes his or her eyes before glancing sidewise at the banner headline, “Heels’ Drought Over.”

Then, only then, is it a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

However, that same mentally mature grown person realizes that the headline might as easily have read, “Heels’ Season Over.”

Mentally mature grown basketball fans sincerely try again and again to rationalize that “It’s only a game.” But most inwardly know it probably never will be just that – not if they’re a true blue mentally mature grown sports fan.

Snow: 919-836-5636; asnow@newsobserver.com