The shared local religion

My bride and I moved to Chapel Hill early in January 1977, and despite our newness to the community, soon found ourselves  in a meeting, seated in a circle in a Sunday School classroom. Someone suggested that we schedule our next get-together, and immediately everyone appeared to reach for their pocket calendars and date books. (This was 1977, before cell phones, remember.) But no, they all were checking their basketball schedules to be sure that the next meeting wouldn’t conflict with a basketball game.

This local “religion” felt new to us, having come from several years in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area of Florida, where the public’s interest in spectator sports centered mainly on the Miami Dolphins professional football team. In Chapel Hill, we quickly learned that for a large percentage of the population of the North Carolina Triangle cared deeply about the college basketball season and the fates of three teams teams in particular, those representing the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and North Carolina State University.

Virtually everyone we knew pledged allegiance to this shared local religion, and it’s still the case today. Doctrinal differences separate the followers, of course. Cordial relationships among fans of one or the other team might exist for most of the year, but from November to March, not so much. The temperature tends to cool. One’s blood, it is said, runs State red, Duke royal blue or UNC’s lighter shade of  Carolina Blue. Snarky jokes about the coaches and fans of the opposition’s teams are common.

It didn’t take us long to catch the fever. These days, we dress in our team’s colors on game days and cheer or groan as our team makes its way through the season that ends with March Madness, the period when regional and national tournaments lead to the crowning of champions. As former UNC employees, we confess to being devoted Carolina fans, and this year, the men’s basketball team is off to a promising start, having won their first seven games and losing just one, to the Indiana Hoosiers.

With March Madness comes springtime and milder weather. For now, we will enjoy the season. Can’t wait for the next game.

Today’s word: the appositive, a punctuation issue. The appositive is a noun or noun phrase that comes after a noun to add further information about the noun. Example: John, the master of ceremonies, sat at the head table. The italicized phrase in this example is the appositive, and it needs a comma before it begins and after it ends. The second comma is often omitted. That’s an error. We need both commas for clarity.



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