Maybe one day that recent loss to Wofford will be as cute of a story as the 2004 loss to Santa Clara.
The Story Behind the Object
I attended the University of North Carolina almost exclusively due to its basketball prowess. From roughly the sixth grade onward, I knew two things for certain about my future. One, I would be an accountant. Two, I would go to Carolina. I did not want to go to Carolina on the strength of its undergraduate degree in accounting. I wanted to go there solely on the strength of its basketball program.
In fact, it was somewhere around the summer after my freshman year (sorry, “first year” year, because apparently that’s what the kids these days are calling it) when I discovered that Carolina doesn’t even have an undergraduate degree in accounting. I’d have to major in business (or really, anything other than accounting), and then apply to the Masters of Accounting program. But that didn’t matter, because I had chosen to come to Chapel Hill because of Eric Montross, Shammond Williams, and Joseph Forte, not… There’s no end to that sentence, because there is no famous accountant that I, or anyone else, pretended to be in my driveway. (Editor's note: Ebenezer Scrooge?)
So, in the fall of 2004, as I headed into my junior year, it kind of felt like I’d been duped. When I was eight, Dean Smith won his second national title. Two years later, the Heels went to the Final Four. Then another Final Four two years later. And another the next season. And then one more two years later. I signed up for a college career filled with Final Fours.
Yet when I showed up on campus, a mere 28 months removed from an admittedly fluky Final Four appearance, Carolina Basketball was fresh off an 8-20 campaign, and my first season of watching basketball as a student in the Smith Center included witnessing a home loss to NC State. That’s right. We lost to NC State and got stuck in the NIT because of it. Well, maybe not entirely because of it. The loss to Iona probably didn’t help. And that 40-point drubbing in College Park, which I could write an entire column about if I didn’t enjoy life, likely also came into play. My sophomore year at least featured the return of Roy Williams and an NCAA Tournament appearance. But a six seed getting a victory over Air Force prior to dropping a second round contest to Texas wasn’t exactly what I expected when I chose a college based entirely on how it performed on the hardwood during my most formative years.
And that’s the story of how it took all the way until my junior year to experience hype heading into a basketball season. Carolina was preseason top five, led by my fellow juniors Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Sean May. Unfortunately, with the first game of the regular season against a podunk little school from California, the game was not aired on a channel that we received in Hinton James North ("Horton", I believe the kids say now - man, a lot has changed since I was in school). That meant that I had to find a sports bar showing the game in order to watch. So my roommate from my sophomore year, my roommate from my junior year, and my future wife - who was also technically my roommate from my senior year - headed across the border (into Durham County) to the Varsity Ale House.
It was there, sitting at a table in the corner, eating mediocre bar food, that we watched the Raymond Felton-less Tar Heels (you’ll recall Ray Ray was suspended a game for playing in an unsanctioned summer league game during the off-season) lose to Santa freaking Clara. The longer we watched, the angrier we got, and the more quiet the table became. And the second the horn sounded, we were out of there. We marched to the car, returned to campus in silence, and never returned to the Varsity Ale House again. I just Googled the place, and to my great delight Yelp reports that the restaurant has closed permanently. It did so with a single, one-star review under its belt. I can’t ask for much more than that. Good riddance.
Of course as we all know, no one will ever care that Carolina lost to Santa Clara that year, because the Heels went on to win the National Championship, validating my method of selecting an institution of higher learning. At the time of the loss, though, no one knew the Heels would cut down the nets in April, so that November evening was not one of the better nights of my college career. Fun fact, the day after the basketball game, Santa Clara beat the Heels in the NCAA Tournament in women’s soccer, too. Jerks.
Carolina Collectibles Description
If you’re trying to figure out the connection between a basketball loss to Santa Clara 13 years ago and this knick knack featuring a boy whispering his Christmas wishes to a Carolina blue clad Santa Claus, there isn’t one beyond the fact that both Santa Clara and Santa Claus begin with the word Santa. (Editor's note: We'll allow it.)
This novelty (a term my grandmother used to describe everything on her numerous end tables, from music boxes to ash trays) is entitled “Santa’s Secret.” Like the miniature version of Kenan Stadium, a Carolina Collectible feature several months ago, this item was produced by Collegiate Collectibles. According to its underside, it is “Fourth in a Limited Series,” though I’m unclear if that means there were numerous universities featured and Carolina was the fourth or if I have the fourth Carolina one produced.
It has a copyright date of 2001, so I probably got it somewhere around then, but to be perfectly honest I have no recollection of when or how/from whom I received it. My apologies if you were the giver. It’s not unappreciated - clearly, I’m writing about it - my memory is just fading in my old age.
The base is ovular, with the long side being approximately seven inches and the short side being approximately five inches. At the tallest part of the Santa, it stands around seven inches tall. Santa is wearing an all blue Santa suit with an interlocking NC where a dress shirt pocket would be. He’s listening to a small child wearing blue jeans and a #1 Tar Heel football jersey whisper a secret to him. Presumably he’s asking for Carolina to win more football games the next season, and if that’s the case, I’d assume the boy was on the naughty list, relieving Santa of the burden of granting his wish (that year, or ever).
Carolina Collectibles Comparison: Jesse Holley
Jesse Holley works as a comparison on multiple levels here. My goal was to say that this item only really comes front and center one season of the year, kind of like walk-ons only come front and center for a few minutes of a few games every year. Then as I rattled off former walk-ons in my head (because I have some sort of problem and am able to do that), I came to ol’ Jesse and thought, man, he literally only comes front and center one season of the year. That season being football season as opposed to basketball season. And, AND, to top it all off, his last name is Holley, and holly is associated with Christmas, just like Santa is. In the immortal words of Tom O’Brien, that’s a triple play.
Carolina Collectibles Rating: 3 Stars
I’d probably give it four stars at Christmas time and two stars during the rest of the year, so we’ll just average the two together and call it a three. Though the accountant in me really wanted to do a weighted average where the four stars only received 1/12th emphasis, while the two stars would get the other 11/12ths.