It's been nearly a year since North Carolina's Tar Heels ended a quarter-century of frustration by defeating Georgetown 63-62 to win the NCAA basketball title. But if you walked into The Shrunken Head Boutique on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill today, you'd think they'd won it yesterday. A tape of Woody Durham, the voice of the Tar Heel Sports Network, machine-guns the play-by-play of that game: "...it's good, over the top of Ewing! Michael Jordan gets his 14th point!" The tape runs continuously every working day, and it's music to the ears of the customers—bank presidents from Charlotte, insurance salesmen from Greensboro, farm young 'uns from Pink Hill—who still flock to the store to buy a piece of the glory.
The championship ended 25 years of disappointment for the Tar Heels, and to Coach Dean Smith it was the end of 20 years of fielding one national power after another and falling short after reaching the Final Four six times. But for many other North Carolinians the win marked the start of a multimillion-dollar souvenir industry.
Within minutes after Sleepy Floyd's last desperate shot fell short in New Orleans' Superdome, T shirts and bumper stickers hailing the Tar Heels' championship were being sold on the streets of Chapel Hill. A university official says he knows of one student who took a chance, had 10,000 bumper stickers printed in advance of the opening tip-off and sold them within 24 hours after the game.
The Shrunken Head Boutique, which does its own printing, opened up after the game and peddled shirts and stickers right out of its front door.
When Carolina reached the finals in 1977, optimistic UNC school stores had iron-ons for T shirts all ready, but, alas, the Tar Heels lost to Marquette. The iron-ons were stored away, gathering dust. More cautious this time, the management of the school stores drew up designs for shirts but told the producers not to print and ship them until the title was secure. Faced with a two-day wait and not wanting better-prepared entrepreneurs to steal away potential profits, management hauled out the old iron-ons, snipped off the reference to 1977, ironed the decals onto shirts and sold close to 400 of them the day after the game.
Within three days, stores around the state had set up special sections for game souvenirs. The alumni newsletter and Carolina Blue, a newspaper devoted solely to UNC athletics, bristled with ads for championship goods.
This happens whenever and wherever college teams win championships, although not generally to the extent it happened in North Carolina. Or in neighboring South Carolina after Clemson won the mythical football title a few months earlier. Clemson people are wonderfully crazy, too.
The most popular Tar Heel items have been the usual—T shirts and bumper stickers. The Shrunken Head Boutique carries perhaps 25 different T shirts that tell the world who won, while the UNC school stores have an additional half-dozen styles. Other outlets phrase it their own way. The bestselling bumper stickers say things like DEAN IS MEAN IN NEW ORLEANS and NOW MORE THAN EVER, CAROLINA NCAA CHAMPIONS NO. 1 and BY DAMN DEAN DID IT and—straight to the point—ON THE SEVENTH TRY, DEAN CREATED A CHAMPION.
Also on sale, proclaiming the Tar Heels champs, are combs, pencils, pens, coffee mugs, napkins, ashtrays, banners, pillowcases, tennis towels, wristbands, beach towels and blankets, clocks, buttons, decals, pseudo license plates, photos, posters, plaques, paintings, key chains, paperweights, handkerchiefs, plastic telephone covers, several kinds of drinking glasses, greeting cards, umbrellas, liquid soap, sunglasses, bibs, aprons, can coolers, playing cards, golf balls, rugs, mirrors, a record entitled Here we come New Orleans, a cookie cutter shaped like a foot ( Tar Heels, get it?) and even Christmas ornaments.
Clothing items include five-piece ensembles for infants, socks, shirts, belts, shoes, shoestrings, slacks, sweaters, wind-breakers, underwear, caps, visors, cowboy hats, jogging shorts, jogging suits and nightshirts.