Monday, February 05, 2007

College Park sparks big-time disgust

As printed in the Chapel Hill Herald on Saturday, February 3rd:

Sometimes it takes a road trip to make you appreciate how well you have it at home. That's certainly how I felt after going to College Park last weekend for the Carolina-Maryland women's basketball game.

I don't know whether I was more disgusted with the people or the landscape associated with the town and the University of Maryland. There's plenty to discuss about both.

I'll start with the people. Maryland students are not knowledgeable about sports. In the second half of the game, the Terps made a roaring comeback after UNC built a 20-point lead.

The Maryland fans were cheering a little bit about the comeback but what made them really excited was when there was a promotion during a timeout where a loud fan got a pizza. Forget the basketball game, the possibility of getting a free pizza was the thing really worth making noise over!

That left me wondering whether I was at a basketball game on ESPN2 between two of the three best teams in the country or a minor league baseball game. Because the only other time I could think of where some stupid in-game promotion was more important than the action on the field was at a Hickory Crawdads baseball game.

Needless to say the strong minority of Tar Heel fans there far outclassed the Terps fans, even on that hostile ground.

In their defense, it was not just the free pizza that produced crowd noise from the Maryland partisans. They also piped up when the scoreboard told them to! When they put a little noise meter up on the Jumbotron, that really got them going. I guess since Maryland students are intellectually inferior to Carolina's, they just need a little extra help knowing when to get excited.

Cole Field House was the home of Maryland basketball from 1955-2002. In addition to seeing many great Terrapin triumphs over the years, it also played host to the historic 1966 NCAA championship game lost by the all-white starting lineup of Kentucky to the all-black one of Texas Western.

It is in many ways similar to Carmichael Auditorium on UNC's campus. Both were great facilities for many years but eventually became too small for their purposes.

Carmichael has been well preserved as a facility for many UNC sports teams -- women's basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling.

Cole Field House has been turned into an indoor soccer facility. Blasphemy! One of the most historic venues in college basketball and it has just been ruined. Thank goodness UNC has more respect for its historic sports spots instead of turning it into an after-thought for intramural silliness.

I know a lot of people think UNC has a parking problem, but after seeing the copious numbers of parking lots on the Maryland campus I was grateful for our problem. There didn't seem to be a square inch on campus where you could stand without seeing a surface lot or a parking deck. And they're not nearly as well integrated into campus as the ones at Carolina. I certainly don't approve of the new Cobb deck, but at least it's decent aesthetically and sort of blends into the scenery. I think if the University of Maryland was a shopping mall its name would be "The Parking Lots at College Park."

After the game we were hungry so we decided to go check out College Park's version of Franklin Street. The nicest restaurant we could find was Applebee's. There was also an enormous wall separating the sidewalk from the road. I don't know if there's a problem with motorists trying to run down pedestrians or what but it was certainly unattractive.

My disdain for the university and town notwithstanding, it was an outstanding trip. Ivory Latta's 32-point performance shows that she's the kind of player who steps up to the plate for the big games. She should definitely be the national player of the year. Erlana Larkins and Camille Little had big games as well, and everyone on the team stepped up for a key play at one point or another.

For the second consecutive game I've seen classless Maryland's coach Brenda Frese, who seems to be molding herself on the Bobby Knight school of leadership, hurt her team with out-of-control behavior and a technical foul. It makes you very proud to have Sylvia Hatchell and her universally classy coaching staff.

It was great to beat Maryland, although I'm sure we'll see them again sometime down the road and it will be tough again.

And seriously, if you're ever feeling down on Chapel Hill or UNC, go to College Park and the University of Maryland. It will definitely make you proud of what we have in this community.



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