The Love of the Game

Every March, I can’t help but think of my dad.   He loved all collegiate sports, but he was a die-hard March Madness basketball fan.  Being from Durham, NC, it was no secret that the Duke Blue Devils were his favorite team, however, he happily cheered on the Tar Heels (my alma mater), and gladly accepted a NC State Wolfpacker in the family when I married my husband.   Even though he had favorites, he always pulled for teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which was established in 1953. 

This “old-school” ACC print hung in my dad’s office for at least thirty years.   I always loved it as a child, and following his death almost six years ago, it is the one thing I specifically asked to have of his, and the print now hangs in my home office.  It features the Maryland Terrapin, the Clemson Tiger, the UVA Cavalier, the Wake Forest Demon Deacon, the UNC  Ram (Tar Heels), the NC State Wolfpack, and the Duke Blue Devil.  I’m not sure when the print was created, but based on some clues, it was made sometime between 1972 and 1978.   The University of South Carolina Gamecocks withdrew from the ACC in 1971 so that gave me my first clue when I tried to research the history of the print.   The Gamecock is missing from this photo.

I also know that this guy, Buzz the Yellow Jacket, from Georgia Tech, didn’t become part of the ACC until 1978.    He’s missing from the print, too.  That was my second clue for the print's time period.

Courtesy of Georgia Tech Website

My friends love to tease me about my love or my unique fascination with mascots.   I think it stems from all that early exposure to college sports.  My dad’s best friends were coaches of about every sport.  As a result, I traveled with sports teams, had dinner with players, cheerleaders, and even mascots (out of uniform) since about five years of age. It was just part of our life.   I also have to admit that I was kind of a prissy little girl, and cared nothing for a ball, but loved all the sideline entertainment.   Sure, the boys are the stars on the center court, but without the cheerleaders, pep band, mascots, and the college crazies, it wouldn’t really be a GAME.  All of those elements work together to form team spirit and school tradition.

Photo Courtesy of the Chatham Journal

In 1991, 2004, and 2005, the Atlantic Coast Conference expanded once again, and new mascots, I mean, teams came on the scene.  A Seminole, a Hokie Bird, a Duck, and an Eagle joined the “old school” ACC mascots.   It’s quite a crew now!

I’m not going to lie to you.  I do have my favorites.  I’m always a sucker for any type of cat.  So, the Clemson Tiger was always a favorite of mine growing up.   Now, I’ve moved on to howling as opposed to growling.


NC State has not one, but two mascots to love.

Note: I was to be in the photo, too, but my husband said the sun was in his eyes
and he cut off my head.  I was NOT happy, and I never let him forget it either.

I would feel like a traitor if I didn’t love my alma mater’s mascot.  I think my college friends would give me too hard of a time.

The North Carolina Ram
I guess a foot with Tar on its Heel would be kind of odd as a mascot

Grover Powell

The funniest story of all about mascots though came from my own father.  As I told you earlier, he traveled a lot with the teams, and on this particular trip, the mascot was not feeling well and someone needed to step into his suit.   The team asked my father and another man if they would mind putting on the mascot suit for the game.   My dad, who was quick-witted, immediately looked at his friend and said, “I don’t think I’m tall enough. You’re going to have to do it!”   If only I had been there.  I so would have made him put on that suit for the team!

In 2005, my dad was glued to the TV during March Madness while undergoing chemo and radiation treatments.   That year, one of his ACC teams, North Carolina Tar Heels, became the NCAA champions.  He lost his battle with brain cancer a few short weeks later.  I have always been so glad that an ACC team became the champions that year.   I’m sure he was mad that Duke didn’t win the title.

As another March Madness basketball season approaches, my family will be thinking of my dad as we cheer on our teams this week.  In order to keep my dad's collegiate sports tradition alive in my family, I have also found University mascot books for my children.  They love to read about Mr. Wuf’s adventures across the NC State campus.  These adorable books feature some of the most well known University mascots across the country.

It would really be great if dad could be here to read these mascot stories to my kids or take them to games like he did me.   He didn't get to meet his grandchildren, but they are getting to know him one story at a time.

Until next time, I'm off to watch some NCAA basketball.  Go, Team, Go!

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