This was never supposed to happen.
I’ve often seen those “House Divided” flags with UNC/Duke or UNC/N.C. State and smugly thought that this was something I’d never have to worry about.
My wife’s collegiate alma mater, Gonzaga, was a whole continent away from mine in Chapel Hill. They’d rarely, if ever, meet on the basketball court.
Divided? Not our house. We have always been actively UNITED behind each other’s school.
I learned to love the scrappy Zags, who’ve gone from one-time Cinderella to full-blown March Madness royalty. I’ve corrected those who mispronounced the name (Gon-ZAG-a, not Gon-ZAH-ga). I’ve told people where the school is located. (Spokane, Wash. And that’s Spo-KAN, not Spo-KANE). I know the famous Gonzaga alums such as Bing Crosby and John Stockton.
In turn, my wife, Becky, has donned light blue on numerous occasions and joined me in cheering for the Heels. She understands – or at least gamely pretends to – the storied history of players like Jordan, Worthy, Ford and Cunningham. She gets why the Carolina-Duke game is a bigger deal than the Super Bowl and why Dean Smith is one of the most famous North Carolinians ever.
When our daughter was born, we were equal opportunity when it came to clothing bearing college pride. A Carolina baby onesie here, a “Go Zags” hat there.
When our daughter, Parker, was born, we were equal opportunity when it came to clothing bearing college pride. A Carolina baby onesie here, a “Go Zags” hat there. Becky didn’t even flinch much when I taught toddler Parker anti-Duke cheers. (Don’t worry, it was the family-friendly phrase “Duke is yucky!”)
The Heels and the Zags have met twice on the basketball court, and our marriage has survived just fine. Gonzaga won the first matchup, an early-season game in November 2006. Becky was a gracious winner. In the NCAA tournament in March 2009, they faced off again, with the Tar Heels triumphing. I was the gracious winner then. (Note: This is how I remember it. Becky might disagree. Good thing she’s not editing this.)
True, there have been a few hiccups of discord through the years. One March brought disagreement over whether the Tar Heel flag or the Gonzaga one would fly over the Ogburn backyard. (It was settled when the Heels bowed out of the tourney early while the Zags had a longer run.)
And there are things about being married into Carolina fandom that Becky still struggles with. The superstitions about what to wear during a game or where to sit or stand. (Longtime UNC announcer Woody Durham always said “Go where you go and do what you do.” For Becky, that sometimes means going to another room or even out of the house away from me.)
All the pacing, shouting, standing, sitting, eating, drinking and, um, sometimes cussing that I may do during a UNC game are also things my Gonzaga wife will probably never truly understand.
All the pacing, shouting, standing, sitting, eating, drinking and, um, sometimes cussing that I may do during a game are also things she will probably never truly understand. But that’s OK. I’ll never truly understand why she must watch “You’ve Got Mail” EVERY time she finds it on or why after every episode of “Fixer Upper” she proceeds to tell me all the ways Chip and Joanna could fix our house. Hey, marriage is about compromises.
Which brings us to Monday night and the epic third matchup between my Heels and her Zags.
Parker, now a 16-year-old who has been known to play her parents off each other as 16-year-olds are wont to do, has waffled in who she’s supporting. At last check, UNC seemed to have the edge – mainly because she finds Joel Berry II just so darned dreamy.
Becky, of course, is all in for her Zags. They’re certainly due, and this looks like the team that can finally win it. Really, who could begrudge them?
Well ... maybe the team that came so, so close a year ago. The team that’s been on a mission of redemption.
Someone in the Ogburn household is going to be smiling wide late Monday. Someone else will likely be a little down.
But Tuesday morning, we’ll all get up and be just fine. And by week end’s, there will be a lot of new championship gear in our house. It’s just a question of what shade of blue.
UNC vs. Gonzaga
When: 9:20 p.m. Monday
Where: Glendale, Ariz.