Thursday, March 1, 2001
Franklin Street on the Heels of Duke
By Will Weiss
ABC Sports Online
Regardless of the season, there's only one word that instantly sends people in Chapel Hill, N.C., into hysterical fits, and that word is Duke.
On Franklin Street, located just to the north of campus, the anti-Duke sentiment is promoted and encouraged.
"We've got quite a few pieces of anti-Duke merchandise," says Christy Lehmann, who manages Johnny T-shirt, a University of North Carolina merchandise store on Franklin Street. "Our biggest selling T-shirt, and we run it throughout the year, says 'Basic Math' at the bottom, and has the UNC logo, a greater than sign (>), and then the Duke Blue Devil."
It all contributes to the ambience, as Sunday afternoon, more than 20,000 people will fill the Dean Dome to see Duke and North Carolina engage in their much-anticipated rematch (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). The vibe will be just as intense on Franklin Street, as a similar number will be dispersed among the many restaurants, bars and shops to catch a glimpse of the game.
"All the other games are big, but the Duke game is just the epitome," says Billy Sentelle, general manager of Ham's, a popular restaurant and bar in Chapel Hill. "The last Duke game (Feb. 1) was the first time in three years that we haven't gotten a fire violation."
"There's such a variety of sizes among the places down here. Our place is relatively big compared to some of the other places in Chapel Hill," says Jay Daly, general manager of Michael Jordan's 23 restaurant. "We can fit 300 to 350 people in here."
|UNC students held a rowdy celebration after defeating Duke on Feb. 1.|
It's Duke, and it's expected that crowds will reach or exceed capacity. Virtually all the hangouts are packed as early as two to three hours before the opening tip, but fans don't care. As long as there's a place to stand, throngs of Tar Heel faithful will gather outside to watch the game through the window.
Such occurrences are as normal as police blocking off certain sections of Franklin Street to accommodate celebrations after a Tar Heel victory.
"When we played Duke at Cameron, people stood outside all night," says Trevor Shelton, general manager of BW3, another restaurant/bar on the strip.
"I was up by our front door for most of the night, and saw about 15 people standing outside the glass trying to watch the game, because we wouldn't let any more people in," recalls Chris Rice, co-owner of the Carolina Brewery. "It was about 38 degrees -- not a pleasant evening. One of the guys that sat outside was the head of the department of biochemistry. Here's this 50 year-old guy just sitting outside our bar, peeking through the glass like an 8-year-old trying to watch TV on a projection screen about 60 feet away."
However, the threat of overcrowding both inside and outside does exist. Places such as Ham's and BW3 will put extra television sets in outdoor seating areas or set up a satellite bar to separate traffic. In preparation for the Duke game, staff and security are increased by an average of 40 percent to ensure everyone's safety.
Sometimes, however, celebrations do get out of hand. Tuesday night in College Park, Md., one student was hit over the head with a bottle and a section of Route 1 was temporarily shut down as a result of on-campus celebrations stemming from Maryland's 91-80 upset victory over the Blue Devils.
Closer to home, North Carolina's win at Duke a month ago led to vandalism in front of one of the bars on Franklin Street.
"People flooded the streets after we beat Duke, flipped a car and started a bonfire," says Locke Pege, general manager of Woody's, located close to where the incident took place. "The bonfire's fine with me, but flipping a car, that's embarrassing."
"We have to let the doors out as soon as the game's over, because everybody's trying to run out, and that's when people try to smuggle stuff out of here, then we have to wrangle with them to get it back," says Shelton. "People just try to rip everything off the walls, try to take everything they can get their hands on."
Save the occasional isolated incident, the idea is to have fun. Members of the pep band have been known to parade the street and play the UNC fight song, and light blue paint finds its way from everything to bicycle seats to banners.
The energy on Franklin Street is a product of a team's success that has included two Final Four appearances in the last three years. With Duke's loss Tuesday night, Carolina is in position to win its first outright regular season conference title since 1993 -- also the last year the Tar Heels won the national championship.
"There's something special about this year, I don't know what it is," says Lehmann.
"You can't put your hand on it, exactly," adds Shelton Henderson, owner of Shrunken Head, another UNC merchandise store. "When the team is winning, everything is going better."
And Franklin Street will continue to rock.
Will Weiss is an assistant editor at ABC Sports Online.