Sunday, March 15, 2015

What It's Really Like Pulling for a "Bubble Team"

Most people know that I’m a North Carolina State fan.  I didn’t go to college there and acquire the allegiance; nor am I the bandwagon fan that hitched a ride with the “popular team”.  I’ve always been a State fan.  When most kids were getting bedtime stories about fairytales and castles, I was getting a history lesson on a different kind of Cinderella story, where Lorenzo Charles and Dereck Whittenburg played the leading roles. I likened Monte Towe and Tommy Burleson to our founding fathers. My stuffed animals would run the triangle-and-two (which, as a child, just meant running up and down the court as I, the coach, yelled ‘triangle and two’).  I think I might have learned to spell "Corchiani" before I learned to spell my full name. 


Most of the time, the ‘playlist’ at the Lane House consisted of the Wolfpack’s fight song, the “Red and White” song, and a western sounding song I’ve never heard anyone but my dad sing about the 1983 basketball team.  My family photo album even had a 1983 team photo alongside my baby picture, both signed by Coach Valvano himself. 

My dad had a Jim Valvano trading card that he kept in the back of his closet on the top shelf.  He’d pull it out and give it to me on certain occasions where a little extra luck would come in handy.  I would stick it in my shoe and hope that I could absorb just a piece of the luck that Jimmy V had because, throughout most of my childhood, I grew up believing my dad when he’d joke that Coach Valvano had a horseshoe crammed up his…
...yes, I was naïve.



While those are all great memories, they’re not the reason I love being part of the Wolfpack now that I’m a little older.  North Carolina State’s most recent NCAA Basketball Title Banner was raised over 30 years ago now.  Most anyone in the world of sports views State’s basketball program as mediocre at best, undeserving of top ranked players and coaches.  Fans of other more prominent North Carolina teams often mock State fans for being delusional dreamers that meet each new season with the hopes of being nationally ranked, or leading the ACC, or even winning a long overdue national basketball title. 

But when everyone sees NC State as the inconsistent, the second-rate annoying little sister, the hanging on by a thread bubble team where every game is a must win, State fans see Trevor Lacey’s buzzer beater half-court shot to win the game (although the shot clock disagreed),

they see the wins against a top ranked Duke, Carolina and Louisville during regular season play,
they see a team with a shot blocking giant named BeeJay Anya. 


And even when we're down by 27 points at the half, State fans will stay in their seats and keep watching because even when it looks like there’s no way to win, State fans don’t see it that way.  We still have the fight of the underdog.

So, what the hell does all this have to do with the Foy Family?  Everything! 

It’s fun to pull a team that wins most of the time.  To walk into a stadium filled with national championship banners.  And all those jerseys of current NBA stars must only amplify the confidence fans and players already have of that guaranteed win against their unranked opponent.  Teams that win most of the time acquire bandwagon fans by the masses and show off championship rings during recruiting visits.  But,there are more empty seats than there is excitement when their team comes back to win after being down by 12 points with 2 minutes left in the game.  That’s not The Pack. 


Eddie and I are not only raising our kids to pull for the Red and White from State, we’re trying our damnedest to teach them to think like the Wolfpack.  Instead of conforming to the play book of a systematic coach, I hope that they think more like the unpredictable Jim Valvano, matching a 6 foot point guard to a 6-10 power forward…not with the intention of shutting him down by blocking shots but to “annoy the heck out of him.” 
I hope that our kids will be the kind of friend that’s there to catch an “air ball” (???) and slam it in for the National Title, making it look like an alley-oop in the process. 
I hope they believe in themselves, waking up each day ready to beat any odds because they’ve learned that you have to survive to advance.  
I hope they have the leadership of Cat Barber, maintaining confidence in his team even during the low point in the season and ensuring that the job gets done.
I hope they have the work ethic of Ralston Turner, who busts his butt on the court every game to open himself up for 3-pointers. (Do you know how difficult that is?)
I hope they find something, anything they are so passionate about that they smile as big as BeeJay Anya and their enthusiasm causes them to split the seat of their pants the way Coach Valvano would at least a few games a year (Okay…that’s a metaphor.  I would never wish for one of my kids to split their pants in public.  But if they do, I hope they remember ‘V’). 
 And of course, I hope there’s the voice in the back of their mind reciting Jimmy V’s most recognized quote: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up” while they’re sitting in the stands still cheering like hell and down by 12 with 2 minutes to go in the game. 
I know it's a long shot, but we've got a shot.  And in true Wolfpack fashion I believe, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, we can bring home the title. 




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