Drawbacks of living in a hoops hotbed

ESPN released the top markets for college basketball viewing earlier this week, and I happen to disagree with its findings.

I lived in Louisville, Ky., the better part of the past 13 years before moving back to North Carolina and getting a house in Durham. I happen to know, and can say with confidence, that people care more about college basketball in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (known to locals as the Triangle) than anywhere else in the nation.

How did I come to this conclusion, despite the numbers that rank Louisville as the No. 1 viewing market, and Raleigh-Durham fourth behind Louisville, Greensboro, N.C., and Memphis? I know because even the crooks love college basketball here.

I learned that firsthand on Sunday when I turned the key in the lock of my front door to find it was already unlocked. A few steps inside I saw a pair of my North Carolina basketball shorts on my living room floor. It was obviously not where I stored them.

I had been robbed.

The perpetrator(s) smashed out a window to gain entry into my house. I fully expected to see an assortment of electronic gizmos missing. That was the normal part. But what I didn’t anticipate was how much the thief or thieves loved college basketball.

They stole my entire collection of college basketball shorts minus the one pair they must have dropped on their way out. If they were a fan of just one school, they didn’t show it either. They took them all.

I had just about every variation of North Carolina shorts evolving from the design with the Tar Heels foot on the side from the 1957 national title team to the argyle pattern down the side that they currently wear.

I also had all three variations of Duke shorts from the home whites to the road blues (before they incorporated a black stripe into the pattern) to the Blue Devils alternate black shorts. One of the first columns I wrote at my first job in Rocky Mount, N.C., was about buying those white Duke shorts and how, as a graduate of North Carolina, my brother and my former roommate likened me to a traitor.

My response was that I’m a fan of college basketball, and Chapel Hill wasn’t the only place that it was played.

So my collection grew.

Maryland. Florida. Michigan. Illinois. About 20 pairs total, all gone. (And man, I loved wearing those Florida shorts since they were reversible!)

I’m actually kind of glad some of the pairs I’d worn along the way, like Kansas and Kansas State, were so old and tattered that I had long ago discarded them on my own. That was like a peaceful parting compared to fate the rest of my collection suffered.

I wasn’t as big into wearing jerseys, but they got the few I had too: Michael Jordan North Carolina No. 23. Gone. Indiana No. 4 (you know, because it’s not made for a particular player, right?). Gone. North Carolina No. 40, which was a gift on my 40th birthday. Gone.

The irony in the theft is that the shorts of so many ACC teams that I had were probably stuffed into the Big East Conference duffle bag that they stole too. I’m sure that symbolism wasn’t lost on the thief or thieves, seeing how much they apparently love college basketball and all.

I hope whoever was responsible for this gets caught just in time to watch the NCAA tournament from a prison cell.