Extra Points: World Traveler – University of North Carolina Athletics

When the Carolina football team kicks off on Saturday night in Winston-Salem against Wake Forest, it will be 12:30 a.m. Sunday near Manchester, England. Kurt Green will log into his ESPN Player account in his home office north of town, plug in his headphones, and live and die with every click. On a shelf behind him are the home and away caps he wore for the Tar Heel baseball team during the 1990 season, when he started at center field.

“The game against Duke was a killer,” he said of Carolina’s 38-35 win at Durham on Oct. 15. can you possibly do that? I’m not really a night person, I’m more of a morning person. You say, “Okay, I’m going to stay awake and maybe see the first set or the first quarter.” Then you go to bed and you can’t really sleep and you look at the score. Your mind is racing. Then you get up, go to the computer and watch it.

“It was a nice win. But the next morning it was groggy for me.”

Green has become an expert for over three decades at tracking the Tar Heels of multiple suppressed time zones – forward and backward time zones. The former Tar Heel catcher (he was a starter late in the 1988 season) and holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science from Carolina and an MBA from Arizona State, has had at least 15 addresses since 1990, including some in China. , Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and several cities in England as well as posts in New York, Arizona, Utah and Nebraska in the United States.

Before the Internet in the early 1990s, he scoured the pages of an English-language newspaper in China for college football scores. He applauded every iteration of the World Wide Web, from more bandwidth to faster computers. He cringed while living in Italy, one of the few countries without ESPN access of any kind. He found static audio broadcasts of Woody Durham from the early 2000s and highlights clips from YouTube. The TuneIn app allows him to listen to Tar Heel radio broadcasts.

“The 3:30 kick-offs are my favourite,” he said. “You have all Saturday for family or gardening or whatever and then you sit down at 8:30 at night to watch football. I could watch an archived replay, but it’s not as fun if you know the result, and with social media today, it’s impossible not to know a score the moment it happens.”

Green, 58, had two dreams growing up: He wanted to play football for Carolina and he wanted to see the world.

“As a child, my heroes were guys like Amos Lawrence, Lawrence Taylor, Kelvin Bryant, Ethan Horton, Rod Elkins and Scott Stankavage,” he says. “Going to Kenan Stadium was larger than life, and that grass and the steeple in the background became hallowed ground.”

His father, John, was a high school coach in several North Carolina towns, including Cameron, Jacksonville, and Salisbury, and he moved to Lexington when Kurt entered his high school years. While John was coaching Lexington, Kurt attended Pinecrest High in Southern Pines and did letters in football, basketball and baseball, doing all the conferences as a senior in football and being named team MVP. .

Green was a good high school player but not a great one, and a baseball-season knee injury further reduced his chances of playing for the Tar Heels — or even a small school like the Southern Conference. So after graduating from high school, Green pursued his second dream: he spent 18 months in Italy on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It was my first experience abroad and I learned Italian fluently,” he says. “Furthermore, it honed my character and my faith, and I learned to handle adversity through hard work, perseverance, and patience.”

While still on assignment in Italy, Green was admitted to Carolina and decided to try walking on the football or baseball teams. Since football fell first on the schedule, he approached coach Dick Crum and was invited to join pre-season camp in 1985, where he was a 21-year-old freshman playing defensive back .

“I had been away from sports and conditioning for two years, and the first days of training with the other freshmen were really tough,” he says. “We trained three times a day. I barely survived. At the end of the first week, I decided to leave the team.”

He shared his apprehensions with his mother but no one else. Then on Saturday afternoon at training which was to be his last, he looked at the handful of spectators and saw his father.

“What was I going to tell him?” Could I give up now? The green is reflected. “We met after training and he just gave me positive encouragement and never pressured me. In fact the interest in leaving the team never arose as I had only shared my feelings. ‘with my mother. From that moment, I found the will and the courage to stay, and I never looked back.”

The 1985 to 1987 seasons brought myriad challenges, including a change in position to wide receiver and a torn rotator cuff his sophomore year that set him back and affected his ability to be productive for the 1986 and 1987 seasons. had many menial tasks that fell to young players, such as playing on the scout team and picking up laundry bags from the locker room floor and carrying them to the chute that led to the toilets. And he was given the job of managing the phone cords from his coaching position on the sidelines before the advent of wireless communication systems.

“The cords were long and players walked all over the place, and it took a bit of skill to keep the cord from getting tangled,” Green said. “It put me in the thick of the action, but I thought many times that wasn’t what I put all that hard work into.”

Green was one hundred percent healthy for the spring ball in 1988, McBrownis the first as head coach of the Tar Heels.

“I was immediately struck by Coach Brown’s positivity and optimism, and he made it clear that everyone would be reassessed with a fresh start,” Green said.

Sure enough, Brown liked what he saw in Green, and on the first day of August training camp, announced to the team that Green was getting a full scholarship. A month later, Green was a key late contributor when Oklahoma’s No. 4 Sooners came to Kenan Stadium. He caught a quick hitch early in the game from the quarterback judge may and picked up 18 yards.

“The hype and drama of pure college football was all there on national television,” Green said. “Time stood still. The atmosphere was electric. The roar of the crowd was deafening. I was so thrilled. The adrenaline rush was amazing. I was on top of the world. On, overcoming injuries and surgery, coaching changes and winning a scholarship all came together.All the other accomplishments I had on the football pitch were a bonus after that moment.

Unfortunately for Green, Brown and the Tar Heels, that 28-0 loss to Oklahoma in Game 2 of the 1988 season was a harbinger of things to come. Carolina only managed a three-point win over Georgia Tech midway through the 1988 season and a 42-point VMI haul to open the 1989 campaign. Everything else was a loss.

“Historically that period is known as 2-20, but as a team we’ve never been 2-20,” Green said. “We were never 2-20 until the last game of the second year. We were 0-1 and 0-2 and 0-3. We always had the next game. With Coach Brown, we never felt defeated or beaten. One phrase he used again and again was, ‘You must compete.’ I’ve told myself this many times over the years. ‘You have to compete’ is at the heart of so many worthwhile goals and what it takes to be successful in life.”

Green’s football eligibility was exhausted after that 1989 season, but he was not done as an athlete. He joined the baseball team and was the starting center fielder in 1990, leading the team in RBIs and hitting .260 as the Tar Heels won the ACC regular season title and tournament. the ACC. After leaving Chapel Hill in 1990, Green embarked on that global odyssey he dreamed of as a child. He has worked in the call center and customer service industry as an executive and consultant for various companies and is now vice president of Teleperformance, an international business process outsourcing customer services company. He has six children and one grandchild and has seen only three in-person Tar Heel football games in 30 years, including the Tar Heels’ 1993 victory over USC in Anaheim while living in Arizona.

“I’ve traveled the world and been through a lot,” he says. “I can live somewhere else and be absolutely happy. I’ve seen beautiful places and amazing cultures. But my geographic anchorage is Carolina football and Kenan Stadium. I’m not the NFL. After the football season , I’m stopping my ESPN subscription. It’s football season I’m connected to.

“Whenever I’ve visited North Carolina, I invariably pass by Chapel Hill and see the stadium, but all trips have been in the offseason. I’ve been amazed at how the facilities have evolved. Kenan Stadium has changed some, but the look and dimensions are the same with the bell tower just outside It’s the coolest thing It was when I was a kid, and it still is .

Green will ride through his drowsiness into the wee hours in England on Sunday morning, hoping for a Tar Heel victory over the Demon Deacons that will allow him to perform his most hallowed Tar Heel tradition – snuggling up in bed with his Caroline’s blue blanket sent from her sister to the United States years ago.

“I call it my ‘victory cover’,” he says. “My wife and kids think I’m a bit nuts, but they’ve accepted it.”

Chapel Hill writer Lee Pace is in his 33rd year writing about Carolina’s football program under the “Extra Points” banner. He is the author of “Football in a Forest” and sideline reporting on Tar Heel Sports Network broadcasts. Follow him on @LeePaceTweet and write to him at [email protected]

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