Cheer the team to victory

NOTE TO READERS: The following blog entry was written by an old man who foolishly thought that today is Saturday. No, it’s Friday, and this blog is intended for tomorrow, Saturday, Game Day. Please read and, I hope, enjoy. Tomorrow will come, eventually!

Coach Dean Smith never liked it much when, with time running out in the basketball game and UNC apparently headed for another win, Major Y would strike up the pep band in “Carolina Victory.” Fans filling Carmichael Auditorium would rise as one and sing along a familiar fight song penned by Robert McManeus, class of 1938:

“There’ll be a Carolina victory when cross the field the foe has fled. Cheer the team to victory, for we are Tar Heels born and bred Rah! Rah! Rah! Glory glory U.N.C., our hearts will live with thee. Fight! Fight! Fight, the Blue and White are rolling to victory!”

The Dean saw this as premature and a discourtesy to the visiting team. The game wasn’t over — yet, although Major John F. Yesulaitis, UNC’s band director, always waited until only a few seconds remained on the game clock and  victory was assured.

Betsy and I realized shortly after our arrival in Chapel Hill in 1977 that tickets to UNC’S men’s basketball games would be hard to come by, but eventually we worked our way up the waiting list and began to enjoy the fun in the hot, noisy and wonderful arena we all called Carmichael. At first, out seats were tucked in a corner, three rows directly behind the band. The din was deafening. Conversation was out of the question. But what fun.

After serving with the U.S. Air Force Band for 17 years, Major John Francis Yesulaitis retired from the military in 1964 and became director of bands at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he was fondly known as “Major Y.” He retired from UNC in 1989. Major Y, a kindly man who regarded his band members as his family,  was beloved by his students and everyone associated with the University. He died in 2005.

Tonight, the Tar Heels will end their season’s regular schedule with the most important game of all — the home game against archrival Duke, played in the Dean Smith Center. This final game has always meant more than any other to both teams, and it will be especially important this time as UNC will try to avenge an embarrassing loss to Duke at its home court a few weeks earlier and improve its won-lost record to 26-6.

We’ll be watching from the quieter comfort of our home, faithfully dressed in Carolina Blue and hoping that the post-game celebration will take place on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street and not on Duke’s campus in Durham.

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