Back in Bible days they’d call what I’m fixing to say blasphemy, but here goes: It’s almost a shame that the UNC Tar Heels won that game Sunday night.
No, I haven’t been sniffing Coach K’s socks or living in Durham too long, but think about it: Had Duke and UNC both lost NCAA tournament games on foreign soil – in South Carolina – that weren’t played in Greensboro because of the HB2 boycott, legislators would be tripping all over themselves to ensure that such future impediments to success were removed.
Because of House Bill 2, known as the Bathroom Bill but encompassing way more than that, the NCAA spirited many of its sporting events out of the state. The bill, as critics contend, is discriminatory against transgender individuals who wish to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. It also, among other things, prevents local governments from setting minimum wages or adopting their own nondiscrimination laws to protect gays and lesbians. It’s the bathroom component, though, that has the rest of the world regarding us as weed-bending hayseeds.
You know how Michael Jordan is supposed to have said “Republicans buy tennis shoes, too” when explaining why he refused to publicly back Harvey Gantt in his senate race against Jesse Helms?
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
He’s right, if he said it: Republicans do buy tennis shoes, too. Most of the ones who aren’t mere carpetbaggers also love Carolina basketball and know what it means for the economic and psychic well-being of the state.
When Duke, NCCU, Carolina and N.C. State are all good at the same time, there is no better place to be a basketball fan. You can’t even pump gas without the stranger pumping next to you going “Did you see that bad call that cost us the game last night?”, and the person at the other pump demurring “Aw man, he traveled before he got fouled.”
In a year in which it looked as though we might get Christmas in April – a UNC-Duke national title game – Duke was beaten by a South Carolina team playing essentially on its home court, and North Carolina was in dire straits with three minutes to go in front of a crowd rallying behind the underdog.
Had those games been played in Greensboro, from which they were moved, it’s unlikely that South Carolina would have been within sniffing distance of Duke.
HB2 has already cost us millions in lost revenue, jobs and reputation: Now it’s costing us basketball victories.
Oy! Had the state’s top two basketball schools gone down to inglorious defeat at the hands of lower seeds in another state, a state of emergency would have been declared and Gov. Cooper would have gotten on the horn to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. He would have gotten a busy signal, though, because Berger would have been trying to call him at the exact same moment.
You know that scene that’s a staple of every TV sitcom in which a warring couple tries to apologize to each other and keeps saying the same thing simultaneously? That’s what would’ve happened when Berger and Cooper finally reached each other:
Berger/Cooper: I’m sorry.
Cooper/Berger: No, I’m sorry. You go first.
Berper: No, you go first. Okay. We’ve got to find a way to make this bathroom bill go away. You’re so cute when you’re angry. Hah hah hah.
Before you could whistle a three-seconds violation, political opponents who days earlier had been at each other’s throats would be seeking a solution to ensure the only thing draped around Carolina necks were the nets from the rims where the championship game was just played.
The first step in accomplishing that would be to make sure our teams got to play early rounds in the friendly confines of Greensboro. At least two of our teams would advance, and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim might combust: a win-win-win, right?
Remember in the movie “Hidden Figures” when Kevin Costner’s character took a crowbar to the “whites only” sign over the bathroom door?
Had the Heels and Blue Devils both lost Sunday night in South Carolina, legislators of all political stripes would be crowbarring down not just “women” and “men” signs, but entire walls.
Republicans legislators would be lining up to sponsor “Skip to the Loo with a Transgender Day” or even riding and waving atop the Trans Van in the LGBT parade.
But Senator, what about when Sweet Thang goes to the baf’room at the state fair?
We can’t worry ’bout that now. We got a championship to win.
I reckon it’s true what Alexis de Tocqueville said: “Basketball makes strange bedfellows.”
And bathroom fellows, too.