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For True-Blue ACC Fans, Museums Are Just a Backdrop

At home, she said, her swimming pool is shaped like a Tar Heel. "I'm the team's number one fan," she said without argument from her two companions.

Just then, three women strolled past, chanting, "Tar-Heels! Tar-Heels! Tar-Heels!" Faye Vest, 66, Dale Clark, 65, and Virginia Hawley, 62, said they were among 10 fans from Raleigh and Fayetteville who drove to the tournament aboard a Winnebago.

North Carolina and Clemson square off in the first game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Fans who couldn't buy tickets crowded into bars and restaurants near MCI Center. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

They wore matching blue outfits and had painted their fingernails blue. "We're Tar-Heel born and Tar-Heel bred, and when we die we'll be Tar-Heel dead," said Clark, as the trio headed for their seats.

The fans who couldn't buy tickets crowded into the bars and restaurants that line Seventh Street NW. At Hooters, where the kitchen staff wore the trademark T-shirts that read, "Delightfully Tacky Yet Unrefined," the luncheon crowd paid more attention to the 11 television sets in the main dining room.

The restaurant brought in extra employees for the tournament, adding three waitresses.

Their customers hardly seemed to notice, at least while the North Carolina-Clemson game was in progress. "Thank God for the timeouts," said Jared Linthicum, 24, a Loyola University psychology student.

Around the corner, Chuck Taylor, 42, stood in a parking lot, in front of a friend's van loaded with coolers filled with beer and soft drinks, and flags for each of the schools in the tournament. A radio broadcast the game.

The men said they preferred the tournament being held in North Carolina, where they hang out for hours in the parking lot grilling steaks and hamburgers. "We don't go to the ACC to be in an urban environment," Taylor said. "We come to be in a big parking lot with our friends."

He said that the proximity to the Jefferson Memorial and other historic sites made no difference to him: "I did all that in fourth grade."

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