Fourth and Long

Published 2:35 pm Friday, April 22, 2011

I’m not entirely sure of the exact moment I became a Tar Heel. The first even partial memory I have of UNC is them winning the 1982 National Championship, so I can only assume it started when I was approximately six years old.

At 35 years old now, I can’t help but marvel over all that has changed in my life since then.

I have lived in multiple countries since 1982. I have changed schools, jobs, friends, addresses, girlfriends… heck even wives.

The only constants throughout this time has been the love of my parents and the glorious voice of Woody Durham.

Woody and I have been through thick and thin together. For those of you surprised that I call him by his first name please don’t think I am disrespecting the broadcasting legend. I call him Woody because after 29 years he has become my friend.

I fear my younger readers have not gotten to know Woody as well as I have. For those under the age of 25, it must be impossible to imagine a time when Carolina basketball games were not always on television.

For those of us that lived during such dark times, Woody was as much a part of UNC athletics as Dean Smith or Mack Brown. He was not simply the voice of the Tar Heels…he was the Tar Heels.

Even when the Heels were on television I, like many other fans, would sometimes turn down the television volume and turn on the radio so we could still hear Woody describe the game.

I still do this on occasion despite the delay in my television broadcast. It only seems fitting listening to the radio while watching the game that Woody would know what happens three seconds before I did.

The thought of UNC football or basketball without Woody on the microphone quite simply makes me sad.

I did some research On Woody’s career over the last few days since his retirement and I was amazed at some of the stats I read.

According to the official press release from the official UNC athletics website, “Durham has called UNC games for six head coaches in football (Bill Dooley, Dick Crum, Mack Brown, Carl Torbush, John Bunting and Butch Davis) and four head coaches men’s basketball (Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge, Matt Doherty and Roy Williams).

Durham has called 23 Tar Heel football bowl games, 13 men’s basketball Final Fours and six national championship games, including the NCAA title-winning seasons in 1982, 1993, 2005 and 2009.” Wow.

To say that Woody was good at what he did would be a massive understatement. To say that Woody had the coolest job on the planet might also be an understatement.

Woody saw it all live. From Jordan’s shot against Georgetown to Barth’s kick against Tennessee, Woody has been there for us, never letting us miss a moment of the action.

Woody saw not all the Tar Heel greats, but it certainly seems like it.

Over the years he has called play-by-play for football players such as Lawrence Taylor, Kelvin Bryant, Natrone Means, Harris Barton, Leon Johnson, Dre’ Bly, Greg Ellis, Julius Peppers, Darian Durant, Jason Brown, Hakeem Nicks and T.J. Yates.

On the hardwood, Woody described to us the action of 31 Tar Heels whose jerseys hang in the Dean Smith Center. We are talking the likes of Phil Ford, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Michael Jordan, Kenny Smith, J.R. Reid, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, Ed Cota, Antawn Jamison, Raymond Felton, Sean May and Tyler Hansbrough.

Woody was a master at what he did, but Woody may have also been the luckiest person on the face of the planet. I, and every other Tar Heel fan, has envied him for as long as we could remember.

I wish Woody the best in his retirement and want to take this moment to thank him for being there with me throughout the years.

You will be missed.

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publications. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at