A Tar Heel Snowman


The Story Behind the Object


My sophomore year of high school (now over half my life ago, which doesn’t seem right at all), the local weather folks promised us the winter storm of the century. It was late January, 2000, when the storm started brewing. Forecasts started off as they always do in the state of North Carolina, with quotes like “we could see anywhere from an inch to a foot of snow,” “accumulation levels are extremely difficult to predict,” and “it’s possible that ten miles will mean the difference between a half inch and four inches of white powder on the ground.”

As the system moved closer, the models started narrowing down the path of the winter weather, giving more confidence to the weather prognosticators, who began to give the stern warnings we’re all used to hearing. “Once the snow begins to fall, conditions will deteriorate rapidly, please make sure you’re prepared.” “Stop for that bread and milk on your way home from work tomorrow so you aren’t caught without any once the snow begins.” “Keep your pets inside and stay off the roads.”

As a veteran watch-the-10-o’clock-news-for-the-weather-coverage-to-see-if-school-will-be-cancelled observer, I knew that these quotes meant, at best, a 75% chance of an actual winter weather event that would prevent schools from operating on a regular schedule. And probably more like 50/50.

But then something extraordinary happened. In all my years of watching the news and repeatedly looking out the window to see if any flakes had started falling yet, I’d never seen this before. Apparently all of the models in all of the computers in all of the world spat out the exact same forecast, because suddenly the sheer bravado of the weather folks was overwhelming. They stopped saying “if” school is cancelled and stopped being “cautiously optimistic” that snow would fall, and started making bold proclamations. Things like “this will be the biggest blizzard the state has ever seen,” “this will be a once in a lifetime winter weather event where snow will be measured in feet, not inches,” “no need to set your alarms to leave the house tomorrow, you won’t be going anywhere for awhile,” and “this is the big one! I’m comin’, Elizabeth!”

I went to bed pumped for the prospect of staying home for the rest of the week (I think it was a Monday) to sled, build snowmen, and play Mario Kart, 007, and Madden on 64. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I woke up to green grass the following morning. Not a flake of snow. Not a tenth of an inch of accumulation. Nothing. Statesville, North Carolina, had missed every single bit of the winter weather.

One hundred miles to the east, on the other hand, Chapel Hill and the Triangle area got exactly what I was promised. RDU received over 20 inches of snow. Nearly two feet of fluffy, white, school-cancelling powder. School was out for the rest of the week there. At least - maybe more! I wouldn’t know, since I got nothing! NOTHING!!!

The sole benefit I received from this snow storm came in the form of a boost to the Carolina basketball season. You see, this entire event led to what is still, 18 years later, referred to simply as “the snow game.” The Heels were on a four game losing streak, a lowly 2-3 in the conference, and Gary Williams and his Maryland Terrapins were headed to town. At the first TV timeout, the administration determined that a good chunk of the lower level season ticket holders had opted not to attempt driving in over a foot of snow, so an announcement alerted everyone in the arena that unoccupied lower level seats were fair game. Oh, to have been able to hurdle seats with my college buddies and wind up courtside to witness that game.

Apparently the atmosphere was incredible, as you would expect when the only people in the building are students and those who would risk death to watch the game, and Carolina overcame a seven point halftime deficit to defeat the 21st ranked Terrapins. The 2000 squad went on to the Final Four, for the second time in three Bill Guthridge seasons, and soon after the risers were installed behind one of the baskets in an effort to increase the noise level and intensity on the floor. All this from one freak snow storm. In hindsight, maybe long-term my life benefited more from the storm hitting Chapel Hill than it would have from a few measly days out of school during my sophomore year. Though Carolina fans living in Orange County got both. Lucky ducks.

Carolina Collectibles Description

This week’s item is a Carolina snowman. Perhaps I could have built a snowman that looked like this had that storm come my way back in 2000. Instead, I have this miniature, plush knick knack instead. This bad boy is about seven inches tall and three inches in diameter on the bottom. It feels like it has beans at the base to give it a solid foundation to stand on, then more of a stuffing filling once you get an eighth of the way up.

The snowman is wearing Carolina blue gloves, a Carolina blue scarf with navy tassels (alternate uniform snowman!), and a Carolina blue and navy toboggan with an interlocking NC on it. That’s right, a toboggan. Not a beanie. A toboggan. This here’s the south. It’s holding a basketball with another interlocking NC on it. Some would have you believe that’s because this is a typical Carolina fan snowman and only enjoys basketball, but in truth it’s because basketball is a winter sport, so that’s all snowmen ever get to see being played.

Carolina Collectibles Comparison: Vasco Evtimov

Unless I’m mistaken, this particular collectible belonged to my wife prior to our marriage. It’s one of those things that she showed up with at our apartment and I immediately tossed on a shelf, never to think about again. Each move, the same thing happened. Tossed in a box. Unboxed. Tossed on a shelf. Never thought of again. In fact, if you’d asked me if I owned a plush Carolina snowman prior to me writing this, I’d have said “no, but it’s possible my wife had one when we were dating.”

Such is the life of a Carolina snowman. And also of Vasco Evtimov.

“Didn’t Vasco Evtimov play for the Tar Heels?”
“No, he played for N.C. State.”
“Are you sure? Could have sworn he played at Carolina.”
::Google search on nearest iPhone::
“Ahh, that’s right. Vasco did play for the Heels. I was thinking of Ilian Evtimov, Vasco’s more productive older brother, who did play for State. Totally forgot Vasco even existed.”

Sorry snowman, you’re just not that noteworthy or memorable. Also, sorry Vasco. We still love you.


Carolina Collectibles Rating: 2 Stars

Not a downright terrible collectible. But also not a particularly cool one. We’ll save the single star rating for something truly horrid and/or poorly crafted.