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April 7, 2009CHAPEL HILL -- Police estimated between 45,000 and 50,000 people swarmed onto Franklin Street after North Carolina defeated Michigan 89-72 for the national championship on Monday night.
Brandon Duffin, a former employee at Duke, proudly wore his Carolina No. 1 jersey and enjoyed every minute of the celebration.
"I used to work at Duke, and every time Duke and Carolina played, I wore my Carolina blue," Duffin said. "On national signing day, I had all my Carolina blue. All the Iron Dukes were there. They were harassing me and giving me a hard time. But in the end, they were good sports."
"Go Heels; that's all I can tell them," Duffin said. "They do the same thing every year. They go to the second round and lose. They are always crying like they are the best, but they know who the best is."
Duffin proudly poses with his friend for a photo along Franklin Street.
Chapel Hill Police Officer Lt. Kevin Gunter is a Carolina fan, and he got to watch a portion of the game, but in the end his job is to keep the peace. There were a few problems with so many people on Franklin Street, but all in all, he said it went well.
"We had some incidents of vandalism," Gunter said. "We had a street sign that was taken off from a pole. EMS [Emergency Medical Services] has had to respond to about 21 patients for a variety of reasons. Alcohol was a factor in some of those. There were a couple of burn victims, probably from the bonfires."
Gunter worked the 2005 celebration and the 1993 celebration.
"It was very similar," he said. "We had an estimate of 45,000 to 50,000. Our goal is to get everyone off the street."
Gunter said he can understand all the happy people.
"A lot of these kids uptown a good part of the night," Gunter said. "Alcohol is a factor in this type of celebration. Our responsibility is to respond to the crowd in those situations where police need to intervene."
Considering the number of people and the excitement, Gunter said the evening went somewhat smoothly.
"We have made some arrests, but all in all, it has gone really well. But this is bittersweet. This is a difficult thing for officers, but we did get to watch the game. A lot of the officers are Carolina fans at heart.
"That was a great game. Who would have thought? They had a lot of momentum in the latter part of the tournament."
Gunter echoed what so many Carolina fans would say this evening: They were thrilled Tyler Hansbrough won the national championship in his final game as a Tar Heel.
"I'm glad to see him finally get it," Gunter said. "He had an absolutely wonderful career."
About that time, a person came walking down the middle of Franklin Street, singing "We are the Champions" by Queen.
There was broken glass in places and the residue of bone fires spotted around various areas of Franklin Street. The police were moving people to the sideline, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm for many people, who continued to play music and chant Tar ... Heels.
Fan Britt Wilson from Apex would barely be seen because of the Carolina banner he walked around the street carrying.
"I've been here in '82; I've been here in '93 and I've been there in '05," Wilson said. "And I'm going to come again after this.
"We have had too many close finals. It was nice to win this one big. I'm glad our defense showed. I'm as proud as I can be."
Once again, he was thrilled for Hansbrough.
"He represents college athletics," Wilson said. "I don't know the kid, but everything I've read about him; everything I've seen for our years, he's a great kid. His parents did a great job. It doesn't get any better."
Wilson predcits another title in three years.
Brady Keeter is a student at Carolina, what seemed like one of the few with so many out-of-town people filling the streets. Carolina fans came from across the state to watch the game and celebrate the latest title.
"I came out here once, and I came out here a second time to show them around," speaking of her two friends, one who whom is an N.C. State student who had mixed emotions about the whole scene. "It's just the best feeling ever. There were not this many people out there in 2005. I watched the press conference of Roy Williams, and he said he wished he could snap his fingers and be here. I wish I could give him a picture of it."
She was elated that Hansbrough earned his championship. That seemed to be a common theme among many of the people in the street.
"Just the fact that he came back and gave it a chance," Keeter said. "It's the most amazing feeling ever. The win for him makes it even better."
Lauran Crumpler came from Asheboro to be with Keeter. She said that she had no choice really. Both her parents went to UNC, and she had been raised a die-hard Carolina fan. She said her parents were at home celebrating, but she wanted to get into the street with her friends and all the others.
"I'm Lauran Crumpler, like the tight end (showing her knowledge of UNC athletics). "I'm from Asheboro, where the zoo is. I was born in a baby-blue dress and I had to come back for it. I came at 1 a.m."
Crumpler said that she was impressed with just how much better the Tar Heels were than anyone else in this tournament.
"There was no competition; they were better than anyone else in the whole country," Crumpler said. "This is what my parents have always told me about. I just caught the nerve at my house and said, 'I'm going.' They were so happy for me. They were here when [Michael] Jordan was here."
Crystal Collier grew up a Carolina fan, but went to N.C. State. She said that she roots for the Tar Heels still when the Wolfpack is not playing, but in those head-to-head battles, she has to say Woof ... Pack.
"I grew up a die-hard Carolina fan: [Dante] Calabria, [Jerry] Stackhouse. But career-wise, State was a better choice, so I had an internal battle. I came to Carolina when they won in 2005. I was here on the same street. So it's hard. I'm torn. It's crazy. I was trying to get people to go. I'm in grad school, and I was trying to get people to go, but 12 or 1 in the morning, no one wanted to go. I am glad I came."
Steven Gaddis and his girlfriend, Natalie Woods, and friend James "Tuesday" Dicks came from Alamace County.
"We're on the ship," Gaddis said. "We're driving that [explicative]. We came down around 9 o'clock."
"Oh my god, this was amazing," Woods said. "It's great. It was like when [Barack] Obama became president."
Woods did not realize that Obama played basketball with the Tar Heels last summer before picking them to win the title.
When the game rolled around, she figured Michigan State had to have more in it than what the Spartans ultimately showed.
"I thought they it was going to be close," Woods said.
"They did their thing," Gaddis said. "They played good team ball."
"They work together," Woods said.
"I wish I could be in their shoes," Gaddis said.
Added Woods: Every kid has a dream growing up of playing for Carolina on the basketball team, dream of that moment, dream of being in that situation."
The two said it is wonderful to be a Carolina fan.
"It's the greatest," they said. "We're in the jackpot."
All Dicks knew was that there were a lot of people on Franklin Street.
"I have 5,0000 people on my back," he said, laughing.
Matthew Fearrington was celebrating his birthday.
"That was the most exciting present I could ever had. It's the only thing I ever wanted for my birthday. I was born and raised in Chapel Hill. I saw Michigan State's faces when they came on the court; they were stone faced. They looked like they didn't even know where they were. Our guys came out, slapping, joking, jumping around. I was like, 'We got it in the bank.'
Fearrington said that he was thrilled to see Hansbrough get his title.
"It was the most rewarding thing that could ever happen to a person. He deserves it, and I'm just as excited for him as anybody."
Fearrington said Lawson is the best point guard he's seen at Carolina since Phil Ford in the 1970s.
"He's so exciting," Fearrington said.
Ellington played with an amazing amount of determination, Fearrington said.
"I never thought it would be so dominant," Fearrington said. "I thought Michigan State would have given us a much better game.
"They realized if they didn't come together, they might not earn their goal, which was to win the national championship. I think they came together as a team and said this is what we have to do to win the national championship."
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