Brown (87) vs North Carolina (94) 11/12/2021

Game #98 of 358 27% complete

Operation 351 is back on the road. Absence does make the heart grow fonder as the sound of sneakers squeaking in the gym, the sound of the pep band warming up and the sight of those bright lights when I enter an arena for the first time bring forth a deeper appreciation and gratitude for the chance to reconnect with my journey.

My life like many of yours was filled with changes and curves this past year, I am now a proud grandfather of a cute kid named Jack. Our family was fortunately unscathed by the ravages of COVID. My travel plans are made more difficult with canceled airlines, COVID restrictions and an apprehension of catching COVID even though I am triple vaccinated. There is a new normal out there undefined and ever changing. What will college basketball look like in 10 years? How will the United States with its increasing polarity and angst survive as we march forward with an uncertain future facing climate change and dangers to our democratic society? I vow never to bring politics into this blog but I am very nervous for my children and grandson.

I have vented enough.

During the last summer, I developed an application on the my desktop using Microsoft EXCEL and ACCESS to facilitate finding games near each other on consecutive days or the same day. I built a database of my remaining arenas to visit along with their longitude and latitude. I built a spreadsheet matching each arena with all the other arenas to calculate the distance. I input the home schedule of each team and run an SQL query to find games to visit find teams within 120 miles of each games playing within 3 days. It is probably not the most technological way to do it but it works for me. I relied on my IT skills from the nineties to accomplish this. Here is an example of one page of the report:

The home team and away team are the two teams playing the games. HOME and AWAY are not the best names. Just consider them team 1 and team 2. Game Date is the date team 1 is playing. Game date 2 is the date team 2 is playing. Both dates will be the same if they are playing on the same day. The distance is in miles between the two arenas for the two teams. By sorting the report by date, I match my open dates to dates where I can take advantage of multiple games on one trip. I have a more detailed write up on the construction and implementation of this application if anyone is interested.

As many of you who have started traveling again, air traveling now is a hit or miss affair where you are at the mercy of the airlines. I was due to arrive in Raleigh around 9:30AM on Friday 11/12. Given that the UNC game was not until 9PM, I had the whole day planed to visit the UNC and Duke basketball museums and partake of some local breweries. However, my connecting flight from DC to Raleigh was rescheduled to 9:45 PM which would not work. I saw a bunch of us trying to get standby for the next flight a few hours later. I wanted to be certain of making the game. I canceled the rescheduled flight from United and booked an early afternoon flight from Delta. (I need to speak about this to United!) All was well as I arrived in Raleigh around 4PM. My day was short circuited but my main goal for seeing the UNC game was accomplished.

I decided to head over to the Franklin Street area on campus and visit the TOPO or the Top of the Hill restaurant. About 12 years ago, my daughter and I ate here after a campus visit. She decided to go to Wake Forest but it was a fun trip. Many fans in the place were adorned in the UNC blue colors. I will say this about the UNC fans. You take first place in most fans who wear the team colors to a game.

I purchased pre paid parking after look at all the options. I have two rules of the road concerning parking:

  1. Never park in a campus parking garage. You will take forever single streaming out of the exit.
  2. Never use the campus shuttle system to get back to your parking spot. There were hordes of folks that night after the game waiting for the buses.

I prefer an open parking lot that may be not too convenient to the arena but close enough so I do not get a coronary waking to the game. I chose the 700 Hibbard Drive lot. I had no trouble getting in or getting out.

Ahh the Dean Dome! A classic on anyone’s list who is into college basketball. The first step inside gave me the impressions of a arena much bigger than I thought and a wave of Carolina blue on all the seats. Sitting up in section 213, I had plenty of room with open seats around me to spread out and take it all in.

Brown gave the Tar Heels all it could handle this game. Their disciplined offense gave UNC fits but talent and size usually wins the day with the Tar Heels coming out with a seven point victory. Kudos to Tar Heel point guard RJ Davis whose three pointer kept the Brownies at bay. He has a deadly pure jump shot which is a joy to watch.

That’s a wrap for now. I close by presenting a cool beer bottle consumed at the Atlanta airport. I wonder if every NFL city has the equivalent.

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