First GQ story went live on the website this morning. Many more thoughts to come on this one, but for now, a quick excerpt. Make sure to go read the whole thing here. This one was a lot of fun, and Greg Cauley was a lot of fun to hang out and talk with, and he ended up being a remarkably grounded, normal man. You know, for someone who has dedicated his life to Carolina sports.
MAD FOR CAROLINA
It’s a fine line, the difference between passionate fan and scary insane person. When you first meet Greg Cauley, you’re not sure which one you’re getting. Especially when the guy tells you he cares about the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Tar Heels so much he considers the school’s teams his betrothed.
Greg Cauley is 58 years old and he’s been to every Carolina home football game since 1974. He’s been to every home basketball game since 1985. During that football streak, he’s only missed one road game, and that was because the Tar Heels football team played in Maryland at the same time as the basketball team played a home game. He’s traveled to 30 states to see the Tar Heels play. He has the ticket stubs to prove it, stuffed into an overflowing Saucony shoebox. He has a banner signed by every single Tar Heel basketball player and coach since 1975. Dean Smith. Michael Jordan. Tyler Hansbrough. They’re all there. He’s recorded every game on TV since 1982. The Carolina basketball powers-that-be know him so well that in February, for his 500th basketball game in the Smith Center, against Virginia, the ushers delivered a custom-made “500” cookie cake right to his seat. In his backyard stands a 3/4th-scale replica of the Victory Well on UNC’s campus.
But Cauley’s not who you might expect. A First Citizens Bank branch manager, he doesn’t even live in Chapel Hill, but rather, five miles outside a tiny town called Kinston, down a country highway called Vine Swamp Road. A humble one-story house sits on two acres. What looks like an endless strip of farmland borders his property to the north, and to the east two dozen cattle graze. A neighbor two houses down lives in an actual log cabin. All this, more than two hours from Tobacco Road.
“I just don’t know how he does it,” says Tommy Howard, one of Cauley’s oldest friends. “It’s just so way over the top, over and beyond. I know most of us sports fans are a little crazy, but Greg is just….he’s Greg.”
I meet Cauley in Kinston last Thursday. A sky-blue flag bearing the NC logo flies on a fifty-foot pole in his front yard beside an American flag and the state flag of North Carolina. There’s another one in the backyard, and on top of the pole is a cast-iron Ramses weathervane. There’s also a Winged Victory sculpture in the corner of the yard near the road, facing the Victory Well. Behind the well is another sculpture, St. Michael Slaying The Devil.
“I try not to go so far as to say that’s about Carolina-Duke,” Cauley says, then grins. “But that is a devil.”
In the driveway sits Cauley’s new car, a white 2012 Ford Taurus SHO EcoBoost edition that he got in August. He’s already put 12,000 miles on it. It’s covered in at least twenty magnets, most which he handmade, ready for tomorrow’s drive to Greensboro for Carolina’s first games in the NCAA tournament. A two-foot Ramses ram logo goes is affixed to the hood. On the dashboard rides Wax Ramses, a little ram-shaped candle Cauley got in 1972 that’s ridden on his dash to every game.
Oh, and Cauley names his cars after space shuttles. This one: Atlantis.
“Why?” I ask.
He laughs. “Why do I do anything that I do?”
“You tell me.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” he says. “Just because it’s fun. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? You’re supposed to do what suits your passion. You’re supposed to do what you care about.”
Cauley cares so much even some Carolina fans have turned on him. But that’s just….he’s Greg.
Read the whole thing here.