Favorites of 2022

This job is ridiculous. My work year consisted of watching two of the most memorable Carolina basketball games in program history, watching a different Tar Heel team to which I was lucky to grow very close win a national championship, having in-depth conversations with a wide range of Carolina players and coaches, and generally going to “work” with people I like and respect every single day.

So making a list of “favorites” from this past calendar year feels a little like stealing. Even the bad days (as you’ll see below) were only bad because we all get so invested in the Tar Heels–and more importantly, in the people who wear the Tar Heel uniforms.

But some days stand out more than others. This is a list of some of my favorites from this past year. Hopefully some of your favorites are on here, too.

Jan. 29: A Good Day–The rush of the last month of the season had kind of made me forget how awesome this day–Roy Williams Day–was in Chapel Hill. It had a little bit of everything, including, of course, a rout of NC State.

Feb. 4: Mother of the Family–We lost too many Tar Heels in 2022, including Lennie Rosenbluth and Ademola Okulaja. I think they’d be OK, though, with spotlighting Linda Woods here, because she was an integral part of solidifying the Carolina family. Mrs. Woods was someone who never wanted to talk about herself, and it was nice to finally get to brag on her a little.

Feb. 18: Manek Finds Second Home–We haven’t had many Tar Heels like Brady Manek. Getting to know Manek and his family over the course of the 2021-22 season was one of the highlights of that campaign. And he never changed a bit, even as he became a Tar Heel fan favorite.

March 6: The Unseen–Recently going back and watching this game for a special episode of the Carolina Insider was a nice reminder of how incredibly fun the Carolina-Duke game in Durham was. Absolutely no one thought Carolina had any chance. At the time, we thought it was the ultimate one-up in the game’s best rivalry. Little did we know things could get even better.

April 2: Apologies–A big part of what the Carolina-Duke game in New Orleans felt like was the sheer stress of it. It was a whole week of nothing but thinking about this game, and it all led to the longest day in world history, during which I mostly just sat alone in my hotel room and paced and worried. It was all completely worth it.

April 3: The Tears–Impossible to look back at 2022 without including this one. Carolina’s win over Duke in New Orleans in Mike Krzyzewski’s last game is a victory that has somehow only grown in the mythology of Tar Heel basketball every day since April 3. I’ve never, ever seen emotions like this at a basketball game.

Oct. 28: Connecting The Dots–Only at Carolina could a simple basketball exhibition game be this special. It helps that the 1997 and 1998 basketball teams were some of the most important squads of my formative Tar Heel fandom. Having them all back together at the Smith Center was a way to think back to some of my favorite UNC memories–and some of theirs, too.

Nov. 20: An All-Time Team–There are only three choices for my favorite Tar Heel day of 2022, and this is one of them. Let’s be honest: I lost any shred of objectivity about the field hockey team around the time that our family grew very close with some team members and their families. We saw nearly every game they played this season in person, and this was the frigid conclusion to something we’d been hoping for for months. I still watch the video of the final seconds sometimes just to remember what this Sunday in Storrs felt like.

Nov. 21: Finding Her Place–For some of the same reasons as above, this one was special. It was also one of the most difficult stories I’ve ever written, because it’s one of the very few times I’ve ever wanted to try to tell as much as I could about the subject, without telling everything. You’re going to hear much more from Erin Matson in the years to come. She has the ability to make an impact in a variety of different areas–it’s just a matter of which one she chooses.

Dec. 5: The Bad Times–I was sitting in our car with my wife in a jam-packed stadium parking lot after the women’s soccer national championship game when I said to her, “I think I’m going to have to write something.” Not because of job obligations. But because we’d just watched the Tar Heels lose a heartbreaker, and I needed some therapy. About a half-hour earlier, I had actively been scoping out routes down to the field to do some celebratory postgame interviews. Then everything fell apart, helped largely by a very questionable no-call on the game-tying goal. This story, which it was gratifying to see so many people connect with, was the result of trying to make sense of all of it.

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