"Frenemy" has two very different definitions. That Merriam-Webster thing says it's a person who pretends to be a friend, but is actually an enemy. But the Oxford English Dictionary (the O.E.D. if you're nasty) claims it's a person with whom one is friendly, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry. With two plane tickets to Houston, Texas, two tickets to the NCAA Final Four, and two very different colors of blood, Rosanne Salvatore (Syracuse '09) and I (UNC fan since '82) attempted to uncover the true meaning behind this very special word. The Orange vs. Tar Heels game at NRG Stadium would be our battle ground.
But before any good battle, one must eat. And buy ridiculously overpriced battle gear. And talk shit. And spew out stats like you're some character in A Beautiful Mind. And eat some more. And drink.
Because The Road To The Final Four isn't for sissies. It's for obnoxious loud-talkers who think their team is the only logical team to support, seeing as that team always has better coaches, a better perimeter game, a better inside game, a better bench, better sportsmanship, better team shoes, better smelling socks, better tattoos, better spit streaks that connect their teeth when they go "arrrrgh!" on the court, better fake eating-your-lunch dances.
Sure, Syracuse has cool things going for it. I won't deny that. This is pretty cool (if you're a nerd):
Same with this:
Knowing that Rosanne, and all of 'Cuse Nation, believes deep down in their hearts that their team is the best, would I have to fake our friendship on our trip, like Merriam suggests, our would the O.E.D's cooler head prevail? There was only one way to start this journey. To the beer garden!
The pre-game festivities could be summed up in one word: Orange. It's hard to tell if you just notice it more because it's, well, orange, but orange shirts, shoes, pants, hats, wigs, face-paint, etc. were everywhere. Rosanne was spotting fellow alumni left and right. It's as if Syracuse put everyone on a bus and prayed they'd make it to Houston.
The sea of cantaloupe made me nervous. Where were my fellow Tar Heel fans? Was our beautiful light blue apparel, in all of its subtle and classy glory, being overshadowed by people dressed like apricots? Was our fandom suffocating under the sheer weight of a breakfast fruit? Would The Orange feel more supported by their loud, color-coordinated sixth man than my Heels, and therefore, I don't know, win? I was starting to feel like Merriam was onto something.
It was game time:
After watching Villanova dominate Oklahoma, I could tell Rosanne was feeling good. She was feeling optimistic. And when she and all the orange around me stood up and clapped until Syracuse made their first basket, I couldn't help but imagine fist-bumping the hecklers behind us who kept yelling at Rosanne to sit down. They bought tickets, too, you know.
I don't know if it was the 64 ounces of fizzy sugar water, the brisket sandwich on jalapeño cheese bread, or the terror of seeing 'Cuse pull off this upset, but, well, this sums it up:
With about eight minutes left in the first half, UNC started to pull ahead. It was all coming together. The Carolina student section was gelling. They said "tar," I said "heels." It was a thing. Up 39 to 28 at half, I was feeling OK, not great. And it didn't help that Rosanne, and probably ever other person in attendance and at home, couldn't stop talking about that damn UVA game. WE GET IT. You came from behind and ended up winning. BFD, Oranges.
We were pulsing Merriam-level through halftime.
That sea of blue, though.
Listen. I don't need to tell you how the game wrapped up. I don't need to go into how Kennedy Meeks was seven for nine. I don't need to go into how Joel Berry II took it strong inside, and that Marcus Paige couldn't be defended. I don't need to mention that 'Cuse choked from the foul line, again and again and again, as they had all season, to really ensure that UNC victory. I don't need to tell you that Carolina won, handedly, 83 to 66. I don't need to tell you that this post-game locker room celebration is worth your two minutes, either:
After the game, I looked at Rosanne and I realized something. We're all just creatures of the Universe, you know? In reality, our blood really is the same color (Sooner red, to be exact, because we're all friends now), and at the end of the day, we both put our bras on the same way: one strap at a time. It's silly to think that we couldn't get along just because we cheer for different teams! What are teams, anyway? Why are we dividing ourselves like this? We're all on the same team. Team Human. Those English dudes who defined frenemy had it right, for sure. We can all get along despite our differences!
Rosanne is decidedly still Team Syracuse. And team Merriam.