I may have mentioned that one of my regrets about my time here is that I never managed to get to an American football match, or a basketball game. I didn't realise that the football season ended in December, and the basketball games normally sell out within five minutes of tickets going on sale.
On Monday night, I received the day's clump of mass-mailings from the university. One of them informed the university that the UNC basketball team had been invited to perform in the NIT on Tuesday night, and that tickets would go on sale Monday morning. Useful.
But I read the university newspaper on Tuesday morning, which sad that only 6000 tickets had been sold, and that students were almost guaranteed a ticket if they went to the Smith Center Box Office before 5pm. So I managed to get to a basketball game after all.
College sport is a big business in this country, and the UNC Tar Heel basketball team is historically one of the best in America (Michael Jordan made his name here, for instance). Recently, they've been going through a rough patch, although beating Duke two weeks ago made up for a lacklustre season. Or so I think; I know very little about basketball beyond the part where the players throw the ball around and try and get into the basket.
Anyway, after thirty minutes of brass band playing, chants, requests for the audience to respect the officials (ha!), and the inevitable national anthem, they finally start playing. For the first five minutes, DePaul runs rings around UNC, going 0-4 up. And then the ball goes out of play, and everybody stops.
The clock reads 15:21, and they've all stopped? The cheerleaders are back out on the court, and the band is playing. What's going on?
It seems that during a 20-minute half, play often stops for 'time-outs'. I'm not entirely sure whether these are TV-induced (the game was on ESPN), or part of the normal game, but they're rather annoying. You wouldn't expect everybody in a Man Utd v. Arsenal game to politely sit down after five minutes while the people back home are informed about Ford's newest car, would you? There would be riots.
By the ten-minute mark, UNC look halfway decent, taking the lead, and scoring an impressive number of three-point shots. But then they start literally dropping the ball, and by half-time, DePaul has 35 to UNC's 29.
There then follows more cheerleadering, a poor man trapped in a mascot suit, and a brass band playing DJ Otzi's Hey Baby. The horror.
The second half started with UNC drawing level within the first minute, and ended with the Tar Heels winning comfortably with a 83-72 final result.
So I got to see a basketball game. One thing that struck me was the friendlier atmosphere than you'd get at a football game; admittedly I haven't been to a match for a few years, but there was no constant hurling of abuse at the opposition that you normally get at these sort of events (the referees were fair game, but even then criticism was respectfully directed at his eyesight, rather than violent accusations of his parentage).
I'm off to go and pick up my comics. And this week's Angel? Funny. In a Superman III-type way...