Are you rooting for Carolina or Carolina?

- One day this week I went to my local bank to deposit one of my huge television anchor paychecks. The teller asked me before my departure if I was going to watch the Carolina/Oregon game on Saturday.   I told her the Gamecocks were playing Gonzaga but I would be watching North Carolina play the Ducks after Carolina played on Saturday. 

The look on her face was worth every bit of the paycheck I deposited. There was some confusion in her eyes and she followed up by saying, "Yeah – I know who the Gamecocks are playing but I said Carolina”!    I responded by saying, "I told you that Carolina was playing Gonzaga and yes I will watch North Carolina following what will hopefully be a Carolina win.  

By this time I think she realized I was having fun with her, but this "Carolina" stuff can get confusing in this city and admit it – you North Carolina fans do get a little “persnickety” when it comes to the use of “Carolina” for sporting event purposes.

One way to get the ire of a North Carolina fan is to refer to South Carolina as "Carolina." I am not saying I find joy in irritating North Carolina Tar Heels fans, but I must admit it is fun from time to time.

Charlotte finds itself in a very unique situation when it comes to this "Carolina" thing. I am told North Carolina graduates outnumber graduates of any other school in our area and the Tar Heels' success in athletics lends itself to a huge fan base that is also referred to as the band wagon!!!!  C’mon – admit it.  That was a good line!

That doesn't mean there aren't South Carolina graduates in Charlotte, however. Charlotte’s proximity to the state line and South Carolina's campus means there are also a great number of "Carolina" fans among us as well. And the Gamecocks have athletic success from time to time and the past decade has been a golden era for USC athletics; Steve Spurrier brought the football team back to relevance, Ray Tanner won two national championships in baseball, the USC women’s basketball team is in their 2nd final four in three years and of course what Frank Martin has his men’s basketball team doing this March.

Tar Heel fans have told me the Gamecocks haven't earned the right to be called Carolina. The discussion usually comes down to national championships won. And according to my calculations my Tar Heel blue brethren win that point with no argument!

But what will it take for North Carolina fans to recognize their brothers and sisters from the south as "Carolina"? I've got a sneaky feeling no amount of winning in Columbia will change the minds of the folks loyal to Chapel Hill.

North Carolina fans have much to be tickled about this week as their team is in their second straight Final Four – a record 20th Final Four.  South Carolina of course is in their very first.

But times have they have a changed in Columbia since I last visited this topic 15 years ago. No longer are “Carolina” fans just longing for baseball to get here or the spring football game.  It’s a new time for Gamecock fans and their much greater heartache over the years than “Carolina” fans has earned “Carolina” fans as much right to be referred to as “Carolina” as “Carolina” fans do.  That just made me dizzy!!!

In my television job, it is my attempt daily to please as many people as possible. This Carolina thing is becoming a sticky subject around here, so I am going to take the easy way out. Carolina will be simply called the Tar Heels. Carolina will be simply called the Gamecocks from here on out on my sportscasts! 

With what would potentially be one of the biggest games in the history of the Carolinas – if the Tar Heels and Gamecocks meet for all the marbles Monday night we must have calmer heads prevail.

I hereby propose a "Carolina" free zone. It will run from the rest area on I-77 just across the border to Wilkinson Boulevard to the north.

Any reference to "Carolina" above Wilkinson and you know the Tar Heels are the subject. Below the I-77 Rest Area "Carolina" means the Gamecocks.

In between, take your chances.

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