ACC basketball nearly gave me frostbite.
Let me back up a bit.
You’d find a lot of odd things roaming the woods while hunting. One might come across a collapsing barbed-wire fence in a dense forest, with no sign that a pasture had ever been anywhere near or that cattle had evolved for that matter.
On occasion I’d come across wires strung from tree to tree, placed about as high up as a man could reach or climb, spaghetti-ing along for hundreds of yards and in some case miles. One day I got tired of climbing a mountain to see where the thing terminated and turned downhill to see where it might have been coming from.
After a bit, I hit a stretch where someone had obviously pulled down some of the wire, but just as obviously (cue scary music) it was coming from my own house.
At some point, Daddy had evidently lugged a TV antenna to the top of the mountain. For the young ’uns, here’s a bit of history: There was a time not all that long ago when there was no cable or satellite television available in these parts. That meant you had to pluck a television signal out of the air using an antenna. In flat parts of the world you could simply put the thing on your roof. Here in the mountains with signals from far-flung cities bouncing around willy-nilly off ridges, that usually didn’t work.
That meant lugging an antenna up the mountain, wires dangling, and hoping things would stay connected and you’d wander into a broadcast hot spot. There, if you were lucky you’d plant the antenna like the Marines planted the flag on Iwo Jima. If not, you got to climb a tree and somehow connect the thing in a manner where it hopefully wouldn’t be taken down by the next high wind.
Given the weather here the shelf life of a TV antenna was around six months. They were lousy at pulling in a signal but were great as lighting rods. By the mid-70s we had quite an array around the house that had given their lives to treat us to Bonanza and Star Trek. Our steep pasture sort of looked like something the military had put up to detect approaching German bombers. It also looked like the bombers had won, with bits and pieces of technology dangling from poplar trees following lightning strikes. Oh, and if you did get a signal and wanted to change the channel, you had to get and do it manually. Barbaric times.
(Caveat: We didn’t have to get up to change the channel at our house, because we only got one).
TV meant sports, and sports was about as good as it got back in the 1970s. The basketball squads of Duke, N.C. State, UNC and Wake Forest would gather early in the season by playing each other in a round-robin tournament called the Big Four, with the two winners of the first round playing for the title and the two losers playing for third.
“Big Four” sounds kind of conceited, especially to the other ACC members, but the fact is those four schools won 16 of the first 17 league titles and 27 of the first 30.
Big Four games didn’t count in league standings, but set anticipation for later games that did.
One year when we were again between functioning antennas the tournament was coming on, and I was tasked to wander around trying to find a signal so we could watch Wake Forest and UNC duke it out in league play. As luck would have it, the signal was coming in right behind the kitchen window. As luck wouldn’t have it, there was no place to secure the antenna, so I wound up standing in the backyard propping the thing up during the game.
As a courtesy, the TV was moved to the kitchen table so I could watch.
Did I mention it was snowing? Because yeah, it was snowing. Between the snow on the screen and the snow building up on my eyebrows, I had a hard time telling who was winning, but it must have been a good game, ‘cause nobody ever did see if I wanted to come inside.
Buchanan is editor of The Sylva Herald.