Am I superstitious or just a little stitious? I can’t watch the Wolfpack, just in case.

This past Sunday as the Wolfpack men tipped off in the NCAA Elite Eight game against Duke, I, a loyal NC State grad, immediately flipped the TV channel to . . . “Designing Women.”

As I’ve done for all of the post-season NC State basketball games, starting halfway through that incredible ACC Tournament run, I have consciously uncoupled from the TV broadcast of State games. Because my not watching is absolutely probably why the team is still winning.

You’re welcome, Wolfpack Nation.

It started with the ACC Tournament. Life was busy (long story) and I missed the first three games, including the first Duke beating. I decided not to tempt fate, so I skipped the semifinal game against Virginia. We won again. Should I watch the final ACC Tournament game against Carolina? Oh sure, said a UNC friend. DO NOT WATCH, said my NC State friend.

Superstitious NC State grad Brooke Cain in her lucky Wolfpack hoodie in front of Char Grill on Edwards Mill Road in Raleigh, where she orders her lucky game day meal when State’s basketball team plays in the NCAA tournament this year. Brooke Cain/
Superstitious NC State grad Brooke Cain in her lucky Wolfpack hoodie in front of Char Grill on Edwards Mill Road in Raleigh, where she orders her lucky game day meal when State’s basketball team plays in the NCAA tournament this year. Brooke Cain/

I didn’t watch. You know what happened.

I have faithfully carried this over into NCAA play. Now, the team is about to play in the Final Four against Purdue, and I’m not stopping.

Choosing ‘The Office’ over the NCAA

My method: I watch something totally random on TV — “The Rockford Files,” “Family Feud,” “The Office” (as Michael Scott once said, “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious”) — and Google the score on my phone, refreshing maniacally while the two friends mentioned above send me important updates via text. To start with, their messages could be infuriatingly vague — “Turnover.” “(PROFANITY).” “That’s not good.” “Yes!” — so we’ve worked on refining the art of meaningful play-by-play.

A key element of this has been getting the green light on when to turn on the game. Usually, I’m allowed to turn it on in the last 30 seconds, except for one game in which I was ordered to immediately turn it back off because of a State turnover right as I started watching. When I was told it was “safe” to watch again, the TV screen flashed “final score.”

It’s fine.

Do I miss the magic of watching? Of course. I watched the 1983 championship game when I was 13 and remember the thrill and rush of adrenaline as the game ended. I was in an Airstream camper parked in the backyard of friends of my grandparents in Henderson, N.C. My grandparents had been visiting them when my grandfather had a heart attack and was hospitalized there, so my mom and her sisters headed north with me and my cousin in tow.

The adults were at the hospital that night, and my cousin and I watched the game and screamed and jumped around when Lorenzo Charles made that last-second dunk. (Honest to goodness, I got full body chills just now as I typed that sentence.)

The day after the game we headed back toward Clinton, and my mom took a detour down a cleaned-up Hillsborough Street, but we still spotted streamers and toilet paper and graffiti leftover from the night before.

I have no memory of the lead-up to that game in 1983 and can’t remember if I had any superstitions then.

A crazy fan on a superstition spiral

But I sure do now. And as any crazy sports fan on a superstition spiral, I have become more eccentric as the games go on. I have to wear the same NC State T-shirt for each game. And because we beat Marquette while I was also wearing my vintage Wolfpack hoodie, I have to wear that now, too.

And because we beat Oakland the night we ate Char-Grill, we have to eat from Char-Grill every game night — the same Char-Grill, the same order, no deviating.

One night while waiting for my Char-Grill order at Edwards Mill, I mentioned to a fellow fan that I hadn’t been watching and we were winning, and he gave me a dead serious look and said “Do not watch this game.” I promised I wouldn’t.

Earlier in the day, two strangers on a walk noticed my NC State shirt and said “Go Pack!” and for some reason I volunteered that I can’t watch the games and explained why. They both said “Oh no, you definitely can’t watch.”

So in my mind, the whole city of Raleigh is backing me as I back the Pack — by avoiding them.

My mother has been staying with me for the past several weeks while she recovers from a hospitalization, so I’ve dragged her into the madness.

Last Saturday, when someone casually mentioned Char-Grill would likely be closed on Easter Sunday — game day vs. Duke — I went to Char-Grill and bought our order to stash in the fridge and eat the next day.

We’ve come too far now for me to screw this up, I said.

Sunday afternoon as State fell behind to Duke in the first half, I realized I had on my long-sleeve NC State shirt, not my short-sleeved one, so at halftime I changed. It was unseasonably warm, but I put on the hoodie. Then I forced my mother, still miserably full of Easter ham from lunch, to eat leftover Char-Grill reheated in the microwave and air fryer. (I also, more than once, yelled at her, “What were you wearing on Friday!?!” She couldn’t remember.)

But still. You know what happened.

See y’all at Char-Grill on Saturday. Maybe I’ll find a good episode of “Columbo” to watch.

Brooke Cain is a two-time graduate of NC State. (‘92/’97)

Uniquely NC is a News & Observer subscriber collection of moments, landmarks and personalities that define the uniqueness (and pride) of why we live in the Triangle and North Carolina.

Where to find the best Wolfpack gear to show love for NCSU teams in NCAA Final Four games

Our picks for the top area spots to watch the Final Four with fellow Wolfpack fans