Car crashes and conference champions

Before we focus all of our attention on the Big Dance, let’s put a final bow on the ACC Tournament. The 1998 ACC Tournament.

The Story Behind the Object

In 1998, North Carolina beat Duke in the ACC Championship game. This was back in the good ol’ days when the ACC Championship game was played at 1 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, just hours before the Selection Show.

(Side note: the good ol’ days can also be described as the days when the Selection Show didn’t open the broadcast by listing every participating school alphabetically. Though, to be honest, that wasn’t as big of a train wreck as I thought it would be — until TBS tried to have Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith fill out a bracket together. Have two individuals ever come to a consensus on a bracket? There are literally millions of possible outcomes.)

Not that I didn’t enjoy watching the Heels take out the Blue Devils at midnight on a Friday evening during the ACC Tournament semifinals this year, but there’s just something nostalgic about those Sunday afternoon contests. It was a simpler time, when the conference only had nine teams and the Heels and Devils seemed to meet in the finals every tournament. And N.C. State always played in the Thursday night play-in game (or, in colloquial terms, the “Les Robinson Invitational”).

I don’t recall the year or the opponent, but I still remember watching at home one year as Carolina lost in the ACC title game and then heading across the street to my neighbor’s house for his birthday party, which coincided with Selection Sunday every year. I’m not sure if his grandfather actually liked Duke or just enjoyed giving me a hard time, but he made a jovial comment about the game as soon as I walked in still fuming. I told him to shut up, which did not go over well with my parents. He also made the same bet with me every year while I watched the Selection Show. He’d take the four No. 1 seeds and give me the field. We then wouldn’t see each other until the next family birthday party, months later, and by then the bet was forgotten. But we made it every year, all the same.

I kind of went off on a tangent there, as I started this entire column to discuss the 1998 ACC Championship game. Actually, my plan was to discuss the 1998 regular season. Carolina started the year 17-0 before losing in overtime to Maryland, the first loss of Bill Guthridge’s head coaching career. They proceeded to rattle off nine straight wins after that, improving to 26-1 on the year heading into the second matchup of the season with N.C. State.

State pulled off a shocking upset over the Heels on that late Saturday afternoon in February, and my dad, the State grad, was extremely pleased with the result. In fact, he was so delighted that he made a rash promise to take the entire family out for pizza that evening. He actually may have been planning pizza for dinner all day, I don’t know, but either way, it was now his celebratory victory pizza. So we all piled into our van (the same van that broke down in the car flag road trip tale I told on this site back in September) to head to the pizza place.

We’ve already established that this story takes place in 1998, so it’s important to note here that in addition to the 1988 Toyowagon, our family’s second vehicle was “the blue car.” That’s how we always referred to it. “The blue car.” The blue car was a 1977 Dodge Monaco which had seen better days (assuming there were good days for 1977 Dodge Monacos). The overhead light hung by a wire down into the middle of the car, the torn leather seats were covered by beach towels, and sometimes to get it to start on cold mornings Dad had to put it in neutral and start rolling it with his left foot hanging out of the door prior to turning the key. It also leaked oil and as a result was banished to a life of street parking.

This particular weekend, however, my dad had either just returned from or was about to head off on a work trip, so he had a work vehicle at the house. This was not a common occurrence, and excited by the prospect of a vehicle that did not leak oil, Dad parked it on our driveway Friday evening. And the rarity of having a car parked on the driveway is precisely what caused him to back right into it on Saturday as we departed for pizza. You know, one of those "back right bumper, meet front left fender" type of dust-ups. Needless to say, it kind of put a damper on the celebratory pizza outing. But considering I wasn’t celebrating to begin with, it kind of put everyone on a level playing field.

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Carolina Collectibles Description

To my knowledge, there isn’t a collectible commemorating that tragic 1998 loss to the Wolfpack, though I suppose if a collectible existed it would have been created by N.C. State and not Carolina, and I wouldn’t own it. However, collectibles do exist to celebrate the 1998 ACC Tournament Championship, and that’s what we’re here to discuss today.

I was going to describe this as a “Model T” type miniature vehicle, because Model T is the only antique vehicle type that I know. But upon inspection, I saw on the bottom that it reads “Replica Ford 1912 Open Front Panel Side.” So we’ll roll with that description instead. Also, I’m just now realizing that while my story above was intended to discuss an event that occurred during the 1998 basketball season, it also involved a vehicle. And this collectible is a vehicle. Double relevance!

This antique vehicle is actually a piggy bank. I envision this being a milk delivery vehicle, and the back of it where the milk would go is where the coins drop in. The side panels feature a strutting ram and say “1998 Conference Tournament Champions Basketball.” I’d like to point out that even though the Heels won the ACC Tournament that year, which is apparently the “officially recognized conference champion,” the makers of this collectible still chose to point out the Heels were the tournament champions, because they knew there was also a regular season champion. One doesn’t negate the other, people!

This item is made of diecast metal (I’m guessing — it feels like a Matchbox Car and that’s how they are always described) and was produced by The ERTL Co. Apparently 1,250 of this Carolina version were produced, and I received the first one off the assembly. Numero uno! If memory serves, my father’s cousin gave it to me.

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Carolina Collectibles Comparison: Vince Carter

Vince is a classic Tar Heel, much like this is a classic vehicle. In 1998, both Vince and this vehicle were fresh, new, budding stars. Today, this vehicle is an antique and Vince is still in the NBA, where many of his peers would also describe him as an antique. Basically what I’m saying is that this Replica Ford 1912 Open Front Panel Side automobile is the four-wheeled version of Vince.

Carolina Collectibles Rating: 4 Stars

This is a quality collectible that commemorates one of Carolina’s 18 ACC Tournament Championships. It deserves your respect!

@HeelsboroDave