About a thousand miles from Texas and just off interstate 40, in the heart of North Carolina, is the small college town of Chapel Hill. Nestled among the tall cedar trees sits the sprawling University of North Carolina campus, home of the Tarheels. Nobody really knows for sure exactly how they came up with the name Tarheels, but it may have something to do with the Civil War and some soldiers from North Carolina who stayed put and fought while the rest of the Confederate regiments around them retreated. They were said to have had tar on their heels...you get the idea. Personally, I think UNC got its nickname from all the cigarette butts they've extinguished with their feet, but after running that theory by some light blue-clad North Carolinians, you'd have thought I was running for Surgeon General. Nevertheless, they don't call it the Tobacco Triangle for nothing. Reps from cigarette companies were everywhere, passing out so many of the damn things, I thought I was trick-or-treating in hell. If the United States had a smoking section, North Carolina would be it. If you ask me, they ought to call themselves the Tar-lungs. But I digress.
Regardless of the high nicotine content, Chapel Hill is a beautiful place (even without a filter) and since road trips are all the rage, I figured I'd better get my "butt" to Tobaccoville to support the Horns. Evidently, I wasn't alone in my thinking, because over 5,000 of my closest friends descended upon this little town last weekend as well. There were so many Texas fans that the weatherman had to upgrade tropical storm Hanna to Hurricane Bevo. And as wet as it was outside, it was even wetter inside. So ripe were the thirsty travelers from Texas, the "Flying Longhorns" were simply referred to as "Alcoholics Synonymous". Case in point: when my family arrived at a popular watering hole called the Rathskeller, the guy at the door just looked at us, shook his head and said "if we get any more Texas fans, we're going to run out of beer."
The "Ram's Head Rathskeller", or "the Rat" as the locals call it, is practically an institution at UNC. It doesn't appear on the map because it's not technically on a street, it's located under a street. We had to enter the place through a speakeasy like doorway in a back alley and, once inside, we were lead through a series of passageways, including a brief tour of the kitchen, and ended up in a booth with a glass ceiling looking up at all the people walking down Franklin Street. You had to be there. Anyway, while we were eating lunch, my mother, without any pretext, blurts out "I want the whole world and my mother to know I had sex with Matt Dorky." Dead silence. You could have heard a fork drop and I'm pretty sure my dad's actually did. Then roars of laughter as everyone in the room realized that my mother was halfway though a margarita and unknowingly reading aloud one of the many snippets of "wisdom" written on the graffiti encrusted walls. Just another not-so subtle aspect of the atmosphere you'll find at "the Rat." As for the food, I'd recommend the beer. But what else do you expect from a place who's most popular entree is called "the Gambler."
After scarfing down a "Double Gambler" (two 5 oz. flank steaks, a mess of cooked onions and steak fries, served together crackling in their own grease) and a shot of lasagna (comes in a bowl...4 kinds of melted cheese), we decided it was time for some fresh air (did I mention the cheese). So back above ground, we went to see the sights of Franklin Street. If you're in Chapel Hill and you're looking to party, Franklin Street is it. Running along the northern edge of the campus, the street is filled with bars, pizza joints and any other proprietor you'd expect to see attempting to rip college kids off. One such place, appropriately named "Top of the Hill," is a micro brewery/pub located at the top of a 3-story building overlooking Franklin Street. And rather than give you my own review of this place, I'd rather just quote the one I got off the Chapel Hill restaurant guide: "Whip out mommy and daddy's credit card! These kids are going to spend all their parents’ money getting wasted and thereby pulling out the beer goggles. For this place, the saying should be the more I drink, the better I think I am." Hello Ms. Bitter, table for one? After reading that, I couldn't wait to go either. Not sure what that lady was thinking, or drinking for that matter. It's a bar and it's located on a college campus. Young people drinking and cavorting around in a raucous manner? Is that possible? Regardless, my parents survived and thrived and out on the deck, it was one hell of a party.
Last stop was the Carolina Inn for the Texas Exes party. This historic hotel is located on campus and I imagine it's actually a pretty nice place. But after the Exes took over and by the time we arrived, it looked more like a Steinbeck novel. There were people everywhere, eating BBQ and drinking beer where ever they could find space and, let's just say this, they weren't in the mood to use coasters. That cabinet in the corner might be a first addition Louis the 14th, but last weekend, it was a makeshift wet bar. And just when you thought things couldn't get any more out of control, the University of Texas Band came marching through the place (like Sherman to the sea) playing the "Go Horns, Go" drum cadence and shaking the old ante-bellum mansion to its foundation. Through the lobby, down the hallway and out the door the band went and just as if someone had tripped a fire alarm, everyone dropped their plates and drinks and followed right after them on their way to....
"The Mack Bowl" as it was being dubbed by the players, looked more like a "Brown out" early, as Simms and company scored with ease on each of the first four drives. Up 24-0 midway though the second quarter, the defense again stopped the Heels, but dropped two errant passes that could have easily been intercepted and returned for six. The Texas offense then took over again on their own 35 and on three consecutive plays, BJ, Roy and Brock dropped Simms' passing attempts and the Horns were forced to punt. In my opinion, this was the first turning point in the game. Texas had a chance to go for the jugular but didn't get the job done. Carolina's QB Damian Durrant, who had been thwarted for most of the first half, started pulling the ball down and running with it as the defense over pursued allowing Durrant to escape the pocket. With the Texas DB's covering the deep ball and the front seven over running the pocket, Durrant was left alone to scramble into wide- open spaces. To counter, Reese had the linebackers stay at home, resulting in a less aggressive pass rush from the defensive linemen, thus giving Durrant much more time to throw the ball. All of which lead to North Carolina's first touchdown and a much-needed boost in confidence. This is a matter of some concern considering Texas will face at least four more quarterbacks this year with similar attributes and playing styles (Barrick Nealy, El Roberson, Jamal Lord and Seneca Wallace). After half-time, the Carolina offense picked right back up where they left off and easily moved the ball on an exhausted Texas defense. Except for an interception in the endzone, UNC would have pulled within 3 points. Instead they only got within ten. Twice, UT's offense "answered the bell" and on their first drive in the 4th quarter, Simms hit Roy Williams on 3rd down with an easy 4 yard out. Instead of just picking up the first down, Roy reversed direction on the cornerback and ran away from him for a 58-yard touchdown to put the Horns up 38-21. This proved to be the knockout punch as Carolina's coach inexplicably sent in his back-up QB for the rest of the game, thus sealing the fate of the Tarheels. Texas added a couple more meaningless touchdowns and the game ended 52-21. I would have like to have seen Texas play a more complete game, but under the circumstances, I'll take it and with that, it's on to the....
To say that there is no love lost between the Longhorns and the Houston Cougars...never mind, like it matters. But two years ago, a Houston lineman executed an illegal chop block on Longhorn defensive lineman Shaun Rogers severely injuring his ankle. Angered, the Horns went on to blank the Cougs 48-0 and due to some late scoring, were accused by Houston's coaches and fans alike of running up the score. Last year, down in Houston, several tickets reserved for Texas fans had to be voided because the bleachers built to accommodate them were deemed unreliable. Go figure. Instead of moving the game to a larger venue, Houston's athletic director opted instead to refund the money and offer the displaced fans a closed circuit screening of the game over at the gymnasium. Whoopty fuckin' do! To add insult to injury, several Houston Cougars players were quoted in the papers as saying that the Horns were overrated and Chris Simms was nothing more than a "street-ball quarterback." All of which leads us to the final game of the series this weekend in Austin. The 2003 Houston Courgars feature a redshirt freshman at quarterback who likes to scramble out of the pocket (like NC's Durrant) and they're currently 2-1, with wins over Rice and U-LaLa, which is two more wins than they had all of last year. And since Vegas has the Cougs as 36 point dogs, rather than waste any more of your time breaking the Cougars down, let's just get to the....
Put it this way, Conference USA couldn't beat Miss USA (UT 48, UofH 14)
TAILGATE UPDATE w/Nad E. Lite
It's back to Austin (Dellville) this weekend for another home game ("who's house, our house") and that means it's time to tailgate ("loddy-doddy, we like to party"). Nad and the guys (Meaty-Cheesy Boys) will be back at it again (workin' it) down on the corner of San Jac and 18th (if you tap it they will come). If you'd like to see a map (you're not a real man) and other info about the sponsors (thanks giant beer), go to www.uttg.org (what's an org?). First they bought a trailer with built-in keg taps (the Budmobile) and now they've got their own web site (this ain't your father's tailgate). Anyway, the game starts at 7pm ("the nighttime is the right time..."), so the tailgate will probably be jumping (Tex n'effect) around 3pm. And since the game is only being televised on Pay-Per-View ("Naughty Nurses part II?, I can explain"), that's just one more good reason not to stay home ("Relax, don't do it"). There will be beer and food on hand (treats and eats), but it's a good idea to bring your own cooler (BYOC) and as always, donations are appreciated ("bling-bling").
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Overheard in the bathroom at the "Top of the Hill"....
"Son, do you need some help?"
"Daddy, I can't get my pants off and my booty hurts."
"Okay, but there's no need to broadcast it."
"Settle down, daddy didn't like the chicken nachos either."