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Xavier Smith: A date with the Dean Center

dfox • Updated Dec 1, 2015 at 10:41 PM

This past weekend I was in Knoxville for the UT-Vanderbilt game. I’m not a fan of either team (Geaux Tigers), but I knew I’d enjoy Neyland Stadium having gone before.  

The biggest reason for the trip was to spend time with some of Lindsey’s relatives, specifically her aunt and uncle, who just happens to be one of the biggest Volunteers fan I’ve ever seen.

For the majority of Saturday, her uncle was like a kid in Toys ‘R’ Us with a blank check. A military veteran who lives in the Gulf Shores region of Mississippi, the University of Tennessee campus was like sacred ground. 

During one of our conversations, he said it was just nice to be around like-minded people, or Volunteers supporters. He said in in his region, he’s always surrounded by Ole Miss or Mississippi State fans, and Knoxville felt like home.

When he made that statement, all the photos and excitement over what seemed to be little things – the University of Tennessee walking bridge, a banner in the hotel welcoming Vols fan, the dozens of pictures with anything Vols related – made sense.

Because, for the first time ever this weekend, I’ll be in Chapel Hill, N.C. to watch my beloved Tar Heels in person. (Similar to me this weekend, I know that may not mean much to you, but humor me).

It’s not often I find a UNC fan. I can count on both hands the number of Tar Heels fan I know. So, it’s hard to express my love for the Tar Heels without getting a response from a Duke, UT, Vandy or Florida fan. 

I’m also a Saints, Red Sox and LSU football fan, but my love for those combined don’t equal my love for the Carolina Blue. I dare say it’s not even close.

The Tar Heels were my original favorite team. I’ve always played sports, but never really watched or even cheered until about middle school.

That’s when my road trip partner/brother/best friend introduced me to the world of the Tar Heels, and I’ve been hooked every since.

From the 2005 and 2009 championship years, to the National Invitation Tournament appearance in 2010 and all the good and bad in between, I’ve never wavered from my love for the Tar Heels.

This weekend’s game isn’t against the best opponent like Duke, Maryland or Kentucky, but have fun trying to convince me otherwise. To me, it’ll be the biggest game of the season.

On Sunday, the Dean Smith Center is Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of basketball, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is sacred ground.

For the majority of Saturday, I’ll be like a kid in Toys ‘R’ Us with a blank check. And I’m ready for it. 

Xavier Smith is a staff writer for The Democrat. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @wilsonnewswritr.

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