Not Just Sparty's Party: UNC Also a Bastion of Hope in a Battered State

Nathan BitnerSenior Analyst IApril 5, 2009

By now, we've all heard the storyline that the media will be trumpeting for the next 36 hours.

Michigan has fallen on hard times, without a doubt. The state has the highest unemployment rate in the country, at least two of the Big Three automakers are on the verge of collapse, and other sectors are shedding jobs like an ungroomed Calico.

The Michigan State Spartans have provided a spark to both Detroit and the state as a whole, and their surprising success (surprising to almost all but the Spartan fans themselves) is a feel-good story that is easy for the media and others to latch onto.

It's easy to root for a team from a state in distress, a state that is a near-perfect microcosm of the often depressing economic challenges that many of us are facing in America today.

I don't wish to take anything away from the state of Michigan, fans of the Spartans or the truly great story the Spartans have become.

I do, however, want the rest of the country to know that the North Carolina Tar Heels are not simply some Goliath, silver spoons in their mouth, hoping to destroy the dreams of the Spartans and America with them.

North Carolina is suffering deeply, too, and these are our "Carolina boys," representing our flagship state institution, created to serve the people of North Carolina in good times and bad.

And, believe me, these are very bad times in North Carolina. Currently suffering the fourth-highest rate of unemployment in the nation, factory jobs (especially in the furniture industry and the western and coastal parts of the state) have disappeared so fast that some small cities have been left with unemployment rates upwards of 25 percent.

The banking industry is the largest sector of the North Carolina economy, and its woes have been well-documented in the media. Agriculture has taken a huge hit as well, and for a short time, many citizens of a proud state have found something to unify them: the young men in that special shade of blue and their quest to deliver on a promise they made to themselves and their fans almost one year ago to the day.

So, if you are watching the game and feel like it is un-American to be pulling for the Tar Heels, remember that the people are suffering here in the southeast, just as they are in America's breadbasket and other regions.

And, of course, it would be rather arrogant (and ignorant) not to mention that there is far worse suffering in a plethora of locations all over the world, both economic and otherwise.

The Tar Heels have no desire to destroy someone's dream, but every desire to fulfill their own and that of their fans. They're not wearing the "black hat" in this affair.

Fans routinely live vicariously through those they cheer on, and Tar Heels are no exception.

I wish both teams the best and whether it's Spartan green or Carolina blue that prevails, at least one more day of joy will be brought to people that are thankful for each ray of hope they can grasp.

And, for the team that doesn't come out on top, I hope that its fans can still revel in the incredible season and effort that these unelected "state representatives" have turned in.

Sports, for many, is an escape in tough times, and this NCAA Championship game will be no exception.