Your Team Hasn’t A Prayer

Forgive me, Scott, for being a simpleminded Northerner, but … which ones are you again? The guys from Chapel Hill? The guys from Durham? Raleigh? No, wait.

Winston-Salem?

Honestly, how do you keep it all straight? I know we’re supposed to be afraid of any basketball team that comes out of North Carolina, but it would help if we could remember which shade of blue we’re facing. Are you the powder blue one or the dark blue one? Are you Duke or N.C. State or Wake Forest?

Oh, that’s right. North Carolina. Plain old North Carolina. Now we got it. The Tar Heels.

And a Tar Heel is … what again?

Oh, I’ve heard the legend. During the Civil War there’s this big battle and some cowardly Virginia troops run away, but the North Carolina troops stay and fight and later the North Carolinians tell the Virginians they’re gonna “put tar on you’ns’ heels to make you stick better in the next fight.”

Wow.

Great story!

I don’t get it.

And what’s a “you’n”?

Ah, who cares? Here in Michigan, we keep things simple. There’s Green (Michigan State) and there’s Blue (Michigan). This year, Blue is off the map. That leaves Green. Green as in MSU. MSU as in Spartans. Spartans as in those famous men of ancient Greece who were disciplined, selfless and stuck to the basics.

Like the MSU basketball team. The Spartans stick to basics. In fact, they might look strange to you Saturday night, Scott. That’s because they play defense. Yes. Defense. It’s what you do on the other end of the floor while waiting for your next ESPN dunk.

The Tar Heels aren’t too keen on defense. We’re not surprised. Jerry Stackhouse didn’t play any up here, either. Besides, your current team is coached by Roy Williams, whose philosophy seems to be “first team to 100 wins.”

But it’s a little-known fact that defense actually wins games. And this is what the Spartans do. They play defense. They harass. They shut down stars.

And let’s talk about stars. OK. North Carolina has stars. The star I keep hearing about is Marvin Williams. He’s so great! He’s so awesome! He’s a lottery pick! And he comes off the bench!

Here’s a dumb question. If he’s that great, why is he COMING OFF THE BENCH? Here in Michigan, call us nuts, we have a guy that great, we play him.

But that’s just us. And what do we know about college hoops?

I mean, it’s not as if the Spartans have won a national championship recently. Oops. Wait. They did. It’s not as if the Spartans have a tradition of Final Fours. Oops. Wait. They’ve been there four of the last seven seasons. It’s not as if Roy Williams doesn’t have many championship rings himself. Oops. Wait. He doesn’t have any.

Hmm. I can see why you don’t give MSU a chance.

Listen. Your Tar Heels are talented, fast and powerful, and they have a fine game plan – outscore the other guy. But as they say in boxing, everybody has a plan until he gets hit. The Spartans can hit you high – look, up in the sky, it’s Maurice Ager – and they can hit you low – look, off the boards, it’s Paul Davis. They can hit you outside – here’s Shannon Brown – and they can hit you inside – behold, Kelvin Torbert.

Now, even though you resort, inevitably, to tired Detroit insults about crime, cars and octopi, I will resist resorting to lines about toothless, barefoot men and their farm animals. It’s just so (yee-hah!) yesterday.

Besides, I know why you’re so geeked up. You’re recalling the fond days of yesteryear, when you last won a national championship and dinosaurs roamed the earth – and whom did you play? A team from Michigan.

And you’re thinking, late in the game Saturday, a Spartans big man will dribble up the court and, in a panic, call a time-out he doesn’t have.

Sorry. Wrong color. That’s Blue, not Green.

Read it and weep, Scott. Michigan State in an upset. I know you don’t believe me, but come Saturday night, you might want to check your shoes. It won’t be tar you’ll have stepped in.

By the way, after all this, I see you work in Charlotte.

Which one is that?

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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