The People of Tobacco Road - GUEST POST

Anna's Lucky Jersey, the honored #40, once sported by late 90s/early 2000s shooting guard Joseph Forte and recent fan favorite Harrison Barnes.

Anna's Lucky Jersey, the honored #40, once sported by late 90s/early 2000s shooting guard Joseph Forte and recent fan favorite Harrison Barnes.

Well, it's always good to see students surpass their teachers. It means we've helped a little to move them forward. I taught Anna in 9th grade Honor's English, so I feel like I got her going on all those punctuation and grammar rules, helped her develop a writing style with a mastery of simple, compound, and compound-complex sentences.  And lucky for Warhorse, Anna was and still is one of my former students who helped me lay the foundation for Warhorse Solutions.  Thank you Anna, and thanks for this wonderful insight into An Alternative Education.

Here's in insight into Anna's education:

College basketball lore is told in the hills of the West to the capes of the East.  Tobacco road stretches well beyond the Triangle. It’s the pavement that connects us, literally and figuratively. It’s the element in which being a North Carolinian is built upon and it is how we determine good from evil.

My story isn't unique. It's one that countless children blessed to grow up in the state of North Carolina have felt, breathed and lived. It's akin to Sweet Tea in our veins, Duke's Mayonnaise on our tomato sandwiches, and dogwood trees in our backyards. It's a story about college basketball, the sport that binds us season in, season out.

Growing up I was allowed to voluntarily miss one day of school per year. No ifs, ands or buts about it. My mother would write my empathetic teacher a note and that was that.

I’m the daughter of a high school principal, granddaughter of an elementary school teacher, niece of a retired librarian and cousin of an education lawyer—a proud product of the North Carolina public school system. Thus, missing a day of school for any reason was a big deal.

For 12 years, I played hooky the day following the Duke at Carolina match-up. Win or loss. Ecstasy or pain. The day after was our day of rest. A day of reflection, but frankly, a day to eat at Elmo’s Diner. As a twenty-five-year-old young professional, I half-expect to be given this day out of human decency. But alas, the rest of the nation doesn’t revolve around Austin Rivers draining a last-second dagger, or Marvin Williams’ epic put-back, or Tyler Hansbrough’s 4-0 bout in Cameron Indoor. And for that, my heart pangs for them.

I didn’t grow up in a family of exaggerated wealth. This has since allowed me to realize how special it was for us to religiously attend this celebrated game. We might not have lived particularly large, but we had priorities, damnit.

The pilgrimage from Columbus, NC, to Chapel Hill takes roughly 3 hours and 29 minutes if you take I-74 to I-85, but if you choose the more scenic I-64 to I-40 route, it will add exactly 8 precious minutes to your travel time. Word to the wise: The preferred method is a polarizing topic in our family so, for both our sakes, let’s assume we traveled the former.

On game day, we would leave school early (another permissible transgression) and begin our familial trek. More than likely my brother and I would be at odds, arguing about who could cite more state capitals and/or presidents (we were cool, I think?).  Since it was almost always a 9 p.m. EST game, we would stock up on necessary provisions at Bridges Barbecue (Red, if you must ask) in Shelby. 

Then like clockwork, I would wail to use the restroom somewhere between Salisbury and Lexington, even though I had previously assured my parents I was fine before leaving the restaurant. Around Greensboro, the car would go silent. By Burlington, it would be even more silent. And as we would pass Mebane, it was as if we were holding a vigil. We all had the same sadistic thought, but no one was brave enough to voice it: What happens if we lose?

“For 40 minutes, the Smith Center was my classroom. Carolina basketball, better yet Carolina, gave me identity.

Upon arrival in Chapel Hill, our self-prescribed mecca, we would merely continue the traditions. Drive down Franklin: check. Get a Tar Heel face tattoo at the Shrunken Head: check. Walk across a chilly campus: check. Arrive at the Smith Center an hour before tip-off: check. Listen to the Woody Durham pregame show: check. Find Ramses: check. Beg for Dippin’ Dots: check.

As a child of the nineties, there was no Tweeting, no Instagramming, no Snapchatting or even texting. We would simply sit together as a family and soak up the noise, relish in the sea of heavenly blue and prepare for the ensuing two hours of unbelievable joy, or dare I say it, agonizing defeat.

Each game was unique. Each team was elite in its own way. But, the air inside was permanently heavy and the stakes reliably high. Our belief in the deity known as Dean Smith should’ve always been sufficient to guarantee victory, but life is funny in that bad things happen to good people. Once we were there, all we could do was watch.

I hope those after me can experience anything as unforgettable as witnessing Ed Cota command a floor, senior bench players (now better known as “Blue Steel”) line up as starters in the most-hyped game of the year, Vince Carter as a young Vince Carter, proper Southern grandmothers wearing graphic T’s advising “Duck Fuke,” and the crowning moment of the rivalry – the Blood Bath of 2007.

For 40 minutes, the Smith Center was my classroom. Carolina basketball, better yet, Carolina gave me identity. It taught me baby blue looks good on everyone, no matter the skin tone. It taught me the luxury of a public education, the true meaning of equal opportunity, and that Carolina is as it was meant to be, a university of the people. But maybe most important of all, it taught me never to hate beyond the final whistle.

An Alternative Education, from a larger piece in Bit + Grain's The People Of Tobacco Road, was crafted by Anna Feagan,  a graduate of Polk County High School in Columbus, NC. Anna's Bit + Grain Bio:

Proudly hailing from Western North Carolina, Anna Feagan is a media expert. With a journalism degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and 3+ years working in marketing in New York City, Anna is now advertising Fortune-500 brands through the evolving power of social media. She is a retired sports editor, a closeted history buff and a born-again champagne addict. Ask her about Carolina's upcoming football season, Asheville's burgeoning toursim economy or how to make her mother's famous pound cake. you can follow her on her favorite current medium, pinterest.