Priceless Gym

Did anyone else think the Danbury Mint was a place the United States printed legal tender until you were around age 25? No? Yeah, me neither.

The Story Behind the Object
As a few of you know (and I mean a precious few), over a decade ago my former roommate and I started a website called Carolina Water Cooler to write about UNC athletics. It was not unlike Argyle Report, except, you know, far less popular and far less professional. Other than that, exactly the same. If memory serves, we launched in June of 2006. That's right, we launched a site that wrote about Carolina sports heading into a three month period in which there were no sports to write about. True geniuses.

After a couple of attempts at serious columns and a few articles about the Diamond Heels trip to Omaha (which ended in heartbreak, but at least provided a couple of weeks of content for the site), we spent the rest of the summer writing sarcastic and sometimes Onion-esque pieces. That's when we realized that our best course of action was not to try to compete with (this was so long ago that goheels was still, but not so long ago that hadn’t turned into yet) or Inside Carolina, but to pivot - business buzzword, for the win! - and write humorous columns about the Heels.

In general, we mocked Carolina's opponents, particularly in game previews. The first preview I ever wrote came in advance of the season opening football game against Rutgers. It mentioned their ineptitude in bowl games, their ineptitude at the sport of football in general, and even tossed in a reference to Dr. Joel Fertig, Team Dentist (why I still remember his name, I have no clue). Despite our site only being around for a few months, Scarlet Knight fans lit up my inbox with their objections to my wit. I'm pretty sure they found the column thanks to RutgersAl, a poster who spent a lot of time on the Inside Carolina message boards that offseason. We should really have thanked that guy for boosting our page views.

The only column I remember that drew more ire from opposing fans was a Virginia Tech preview in which I mistakenly asked what the heck a Hokie was. Woo boy. Do NOT do that. They will be sure to send numerous emails describing not only what a Hokie is, but how it came to be their mascot and, in some cases, exactly what you can do with said mascot. (Actually, that didn't happen. Most of the emails were incredibly nice and truly sent with the intention of educating. But man were there a lot of them.)

In addition to mocking our opponents, there were times (you know, like John Bunting's tenure) in which we had to mock ourselves. While that wasn't always easy, we'd like to think that we helped sprinkle a smile or two into an otherwise depressing era of Carolina football.

At some point we also launched a "radio show," which had to be downloaded from our site and saved to your computer in order to be played. Many of our readers actually did that and listened, but in hindsight, it probably would have been far more successful had we been tech savvy enough to know how to get it on iTunes. Or tech savvy enough to even know that iTunes existed. Or that everyone else in America would have called an “online radio show” a podcast.

Our intentions with the site weren't all pure, though. At my core, I'm a guy that loves business and trying to figure out ways to make money. So fairly early on we started selling ads. We actually had a relatively decent number of advertisers, though considering we charged most of them something in the neighborhood of $25/month, it was hardly a get-rich-quick strategy. But in our search for additional revenue generators (boom, another business buzz phrase!), we decided to print and sell t-shirts.

We had a lot of shirt ideas that we couldn't actually print due to licensing issues. A lot of phrases are off limits in terms of printing a shirt - you can't print Tar Heels, Carolina, an interlocking NC, or hundreds of other items that reference the University in any way. But finally, we came up with a blockbuster idea.

We'd take a picture of the Dean E. Smith Center and put it on the front of a shirt, along with the text "Priceless Gym." Get it? Priceless Gym. As in "Carolina, Priceless Gem, receive all praises thine." Except instead of gem we said gym because the Dean Dome is a giant gymnasium! Oh, you got it before the explanation? Well, good for you.

I don’t know why, but rather than driving two miles to take a picture of the real Dean Dome to use, we took a picture of my replica Dean Dome. We then somehow put that image into Microsoft Paint (that’s right, we were super high tech) and used it to created a silhouette of the mecca of college basketball to put on the shirt.

Carolina Collectibles Description
This miniature version of the Dean E. Smith Center is remarkably similar to the replica Kenan Stadium I wrote about at the start of football season, but was produced by the Danbury Mint instead of Collegiate Collectibles, which made the mini-Kenan. According to the certificates of authenticity and registration, it is an officially authorized and finely detailed replica of the legendary home of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and was expertly crafted and hand painted to capture the authentic details of the arena.

I don’t think I could have described it better myself, though they didn’t detail the size, which is 9” x 8.25” long and wide, and about 3.5” tall. Also, the top of the dome is removable, allowing you to open and see a detailed replica of the inside of the arena, right down to the banners hanging from the top of the dome. It appears to have been produced just after the 1998 season, as there is a 1998 Final Four banner hanging from the ceiling (or roof, whichever you prefer), but no banner for the 1999 NCAA appearance. Darn you, Weber State!!!

Carolina Crap Comparison: The Actual Dean E. Smith Center
I think this is one of the last items I have that makes it so easy to come up with a comparison. I’m going to have to start getting more creative in this spot soon. But hey, so far I’ve compared items to Geoff Crompton and Orlando Melendez, so I’m not sure getting creative is going to be an issue.

Carolina Crap Rating: 5 Stars


When the Danbury Mint says this was expertly crafted and hand painted to capture the authentic details of the arena, they weren’t kidding. It is exquisite. I find no flaws and award it 5 stars.