Syracuse, NY

We made the drive to SU in about an hour and a half. It put is in at about 4:45 PM. The first game didn’t start until 7:30 so we had time to eat and grab a drink. My friend John, the guy I stayed with in Baltimore, graduated from SU a few years ago so I called him once we got into town for a food recommendation. He said Fagan’s would be a good place.

We rolled into campus with a little Beatles tuning (good for all 4 of us), and made our way towards Marshall Street. This is where the bars and restaurants are. We scowered the streets for parking and actually found one on the street (not Marshall) in front of a fraternity house. My Greek Alphabet has lapsed my memory so I cannot say which one it was, but we had free parking. We got out and made our way to Marshall St. and to Fagan’s. It was right were John said and it must be a good place because it was packed to the gills and had an hour wait. I had a premise of staying and enjoying the eye candy, but we wanted to eat and get ready for game time.

I asked the hostess for a place that may be slightly less crowded as I crossed out our name from the list. “Try Chuck’s, every place is busy, but they have the most space.” And off we went across the street and down an alley to Chuck’s. We knew we were at the right place when the sign our front said, “Cheapest drink’s on campus.” We walked in and it was also crowded. It was like a small warehouse with a bar in the middle. There was a pool table and dart board on the right, the bar in the center, and tables and another pool table on the left. The tables were all taken. We kept an eye on them. $5 pitchers were available and we took advantage.

The energy in there was electric. You saw red Wisconsin shirts and NC State hats. You had Villanova fans chanting, even going so far to let you know they are also annoying Philadelphia Eagles fans, letting out an “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles, Eagles, Eagles!” The Tar Heel fans were more subdued, not having wine and cheese, but not ranting and raving. I think we were nervous.

We ordered a pitch and sipped and tired to blend into the crowd. About 3 minutes into our stint at Chuck’s, a table near us opened up. I blundered by not jumping on it immediately, as another, younger group swooped in and sat down. I was PO’d as we stood. We eventually bellied up two wide to the bar and used that as a table. We ate in waves as Dad and Rob started off with some French bread pizza. Then Bryan went and got a pizza and me a hot corned beef sandwich. The default order there was onion rings, not fries, which was different.

Food and beer were down. We wanted to get to the Dome to get our tickets from will call and get ready. I think we had a slight buzz on as we walked out of there into the hills of the campus. Bryan had not been to the Dome before and we warned that seats can be very high, sometimes causing nosebleeds. I had called earlier and was told to go to Gate C to get the tickets.

We made our way to the gate. From trying to get tickets before I knew 300 level were the high ones. The beer may have been talking to me but I was nervous to open the envelope with my name on it with the tickets. The man gave me my ID and the envelope. I pried it open and scanned. Section 109. “Sweet, not 300’s.” Row B. “Nice, that could be low,” I said to myself.

We made our way to section 109. We were all excited that we were not high up. They ushered us into the section and we made our way down. I knew I was in heaven when standing at the aisle of Row B was Eric Montross, a former UNC player who happened to be the last group to win a championship. “Excuse me, Mr. Montross,” I said to him in a normal way, not being starstruck.

We all slid by and sat down in our seats. We all looked at each other in amazement and smiled. High five’s were exchanged. I immediately got out my cell phone to call Bob and Morgan. We owe them big time for this. All of us had our phones out, calling friends to tell them we were 9 rows up from the floor right behind the Tar Heel bench. Montross is a big guy.

There we were, in Tar Heel Heaven. Floor level seats. Good friends. And some good basketball awaited. Wisconsin came out like gangbusters in the second half to win the first game over State. The main event was nerve-racking. I won’t give a play by play, but the Heels led by 10 with 3 minutes to go and ended up winning by 1. The refs were not good. The 5th foul on Felton was questionable and it looked like the travel at the end was mysterious.

Heels win. We come back tomorrow, same seats, for the Elite 8. The only way it could be better is if it were not Easter.

What a day.