After UNC title win, Franklin Street alive with students and lifers
Generations of Tar Heel faithful returned to Chapel Hill celebrate on Franklin Street
They came from all over to celebrate a fifth national title like it was their first
For students the experience is new; for everyone else it has become a way of life
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Every college campus in America with any charm to spare has this spot. A place where legend yanked ahold of fact long ago and created a magical story to be passed down to freshmen for eternity.
At the University of North Carolina, where I graduated seven years ago, that spot is the old Davie Poplar tree, hovering over the north quad here, a symbol for romantic dreamers.
The first Davie Poplar story is that Revolutionary War General William R. Davie supposedly stopped at Davie Poplar's trunk, picking this site to build the newborn country's first public university, chartered in 1789. That's likely not true.
The other Davie Poplar fairy tale is that any two people who kiss underneath its branches are destined to marry. That one is definitely not true.
The Davie Poplar's buds have become baby leaves by this Monday morning, just as they have every April for hundreds of years. But something is amiss.
Inside of colonial brick buildings all over this Southern campus, tenured professors must be bemoaning their half-empty classrooms. That's because many of their students are about 200 yards to the other side of the Davie Poplar, lining up for the chance to partake in a more tangible local legend.
The celebration of a men's basketball national championship on Franklin Street.
Every person on Franklin Street today has a story to tell. The folks' ages range from yet unborn to well into their 70s. Many of them have nothing in common except for the baby blue shade of their clothing and that they hope to God to be high-fiving each other tonight in what they call the "Southern part of heaven."
I'm no different. I see myself in all of them -- the little girl amazed that everyone in town is wearing blue as easily as I see myself in her grandfather whose hand she's holding crossing Franklin Street as he explains that there's a big game tonight and they embark on a stroll down the red-brick walkways of campus.
To borrow from another mythical character, Terence Mann, there's a reason we're all here. Despite the fact that the game's being played 492 miles away.
There's a reason why you can still buy a framed panoramic photo here of the mob scene on the 2005 title night (only $129.95!), and why I had a photo of the 1993 celebration on my bedroom wall as a teenager. And why that photo came with me to my dorm room in 1998.
There's a reason why I wore fondly for years the shorts that had a hole burned into the leg from a Franklin Street bonfire during the 2000 Final Four run.
There's a reason why the Chapel Hill police estimate that 50,000 people, roughly double the student population, will descend upon this street after the game, if the Tar Heels win.
There's a reason why the police have asked local businesses that sell paint to restrict their distribution of light blue.
There's a reason why Surplus Sids ran an ad in Friday's student newspaper boasting "We Have BLUE BODY PAINT!" anyhow.
There's a reason why a police officer told The Daily Tar Heel a story from 2005's fiesta, when cops had to stop a group from carrying a couch-turned-potential-kindling down the street to toss upon the already raging fires.
There's a reason why even though I turn 30 this year and am now officially too old to crash on friends' couches, that's exactly what I'm doing tonight.
There's a reason why the same scenes and anticipations, only in green, are playing out in East Lansing, Mich., today.
We want to be a part of this all, and we want this all to be a part of us.
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