Now playing: “Down By the River,” Neil Young:
“Be on my side,
I’ll be on your side,
There is no reason
for you to hide
It’s so hard for me
staying here all alone
When you could be
taking me for a ride.”
Neil was singing about his woman, but methinks he could have been discussing this year’s Carolina basketball team. It has surely been taking fans (read as me) for a ride. There have been highs – beating Michigan State and Ohio State (by the way, shouldn’t that make us at least Big 11 co-champs?)and sweeping the Wolfpack, beating Wake at Wake and coming within 2 of Kentucky at Kentucky. But there also have been some low points, none lower than what happened Saturday night at dook. It wasn’t so much the loss, it was the beatdown, the surrender.
So what’s wrong?
I think Neil nailed it with those opening lines. “Be on my side, I’ll be on your side.” There has been much speculation that there are rifts on this year’s team, particularly between the younger and older players, and possibly between Larry Drew II and the rest of the team. No one outside the locker room knows if this true, of course, but it would explain some of the poor play.
But I have an alternative theory. I’m not sure there are bad feelings. I think there might be no feelings.
Let me explain. A few years ago, I took a leadership training course with a dozen or so folks, most of whom I didn’t know. I did know a couple of participants but not well.
Song change: “Twist and Shout,” The Beatles. (And maybe that’s what Roy needs to do, “Shake it up, Baby.”)
Here’s the thing: We bonded quickly in those leadership classes. Well, all but one of us, that is. That was Linda D. We thought she was a nut, not to mention obnoxious, confrontational, annoying. None of us could stand her, and as a result we grew together. My wife, who was teaching the class, and I have often referred to it as the Linda D Theory of Group Dynamics: The sure way to make a group grow closer is to give it something to unite against.
I think sports coaches do this all the time. I saw NBC’s piece on the Miracle on Ice team, and it was pretty apparent that Coach Herb Brooks united those guys against his rule. (It doesn’t always work, of course. Sometimes there’s just hate: See Doherty, Matt.)
My point is, I’m not sure the members of this year’s Tar Heel team feel strongly enough – love or hate – about one another. Maybe that’s why they seem to be going through the motions against their bitter rival eight miles down the road.
Graduation will change things up. So will another group of incoming freshmen. And maybe there’ll be some other attrition, either from entering the draft or transferring.
Ol’ Neil solved his problem by shooting his baby down by the river.
All I know is this team is killing me.
“Ever since the days of old,
Men would search for wealth untold.
They’d dig for silver and for gold,
And leave the empty holes.”
_ John Anderson, “Seminole Wind”