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Not Forgotten My Dixie Classic BY FRED HOBSON To most, the "Greatest Show on Earth" means the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. To me it meant the Dixie Classic, indisputably the greatest holiday basketball tournament ever played. For three days in late December in those long-ago 1950s—always the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday after Christmas— 1 2,400 fans piled into N.C. State's William Neal Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh. They took their seats about noon, and except for a supper break stayed there through four games until nearly midnight. They returned die next day for ten or twelve hours more, the third day for still more. There were twelve Dixie Classics in all, from 1949 to i960, each pitting North Carolina's Big Four college basketball teams—Carolina, Duke, State, and Wake Forest—against four of the rest of the nation's best. Beginning in 1954, 1 saw five Classics, witnessing the very best— Lennie Rosenbluth and Hot Rod Hundley,JumpingJohnny Green and the Big O himself, Oscar Robertson. The Dixie Classic was, without doubt, the great event ofmy youth; it taught me the power ofmythology, but it also taught me math, geography , history, sociology, and religion. It was, quite simply, incomparable. The Dixie Classic was always my Christmas present. Thus it was also— whether he wanted it to be or not—my father's Christmas present, since someone had to go with me. I didn't usually spend a whole lot oftime having fun with my father; he was Yadkin County's school superintendent and Democratic party chairman, and he always seemed to be pretty busy. In truth, he really wasn't much ofa sports fan either. He listened to every Carolina basketball game (even, in later years, getting up at 1:00 a.m. to hear the Rainbow Classic from Hawaii), but he listened without passion, without pain, tuning in with the same calm sense ofduty with which he paid his alumni dues. He never complained about the officiating, never second-guessed. When the game was over, he cut off the radio and went to bed. With me it was different. Basketball was everything. What else was there to do in Yadkinville, North Carolina, after all? I had a fifty-foot dirt court in the backyard , and in those years—when I was between nine and thirteen years old—I played every Carolina game in advance, full court, taking every shot Rosenbluth, Brennan, Quigg, Kearns, and Cunningham would take, announcing the game as I went. In that time-honored tradition of schoolboy hoopsters, it always came out right: all games went down to the wire, Carolina down by one, and I always fired at die buzzer. IfI hit, great. IfI missed, I was fouled on die play and could win it at the line; if I missed at the line, Ron Shavlik of the Wolfpack was in the lane 135 championship early, and I could shoot again. The miraculous thing is Ifanythingthat at the height ofmy basketball passion, in 1957, it did r 1 come out that way: the Heels went 3 2-0, winning several save me confidence. . u , ,, . , f&u. Tr o J games in precisely that last-second backyard fashion. Ir tO face whateveranything gave me confidence to face whatever I'd face T>ir 7 , - it later in life, it was that championship season. ? a face later in life, c , ~ . u , , , J -J ' So starting about December 20 every year, when school /'/ Was thatlet out for Christmas, I'd take to die backyard and play all twelve games of the Dixie Classic in advance. Then, early in the morning of the Thursday after Christmas, it was fiSeaSOn .nally time to head to Raleigh. We usually made die threeand -a-half hour trip with one of my father's political friends and his son, exacdy my age, who went to another school in the county. It was not for that reason, just then, that we were bitter rivals; it was rather because he was just as strongly for Wake Forest as I was for Carolina. This particular friend went on to notable things, among them a brief, if undistinguished, career as a Wake Forest player...


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