MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Myrtle Beach is like Rick’s Place in “Casablanca.” Everybody always ends up there.

I finally ended up there last week, making the trip with two of my friends and meeting other friends down there. Of course, we ended up meeting many more than we had originally counted on meeting, as in the very first place we went to there were 15 people from Cumberland there, and we knew them all.

I had never been to Myrtle Beach, although I did once have an Aunt Myrtle, who always seemed to be in her 80s for the entire time I knew her, which always made me wonder if there are girls and young women out there named Myrtle. What would that be like?

Or, do you just automatically become 80 when your parents name you Myrtle? I wonder.

Anyway, we left for Myrtle Beach at 1 a.m. on Saturday so we could watch the Maryland game at noon and then returned home the following Saturday, hitting the Cumberland line at about 4:30 p.m. One of my friend’s nieces called our trip Senior Week, which was really kind of cute, but also explains why we never invite her to go anywhere with us (which works for her, because she wouldn’t want to go anywhere we would go anyway).

So, for a full week, we were in the heart of ACC Country, or, as Mike Mathews would say, the belly of the beast. Thankfully, it’s not our beast anymore, but they remembered us as at least one of us wore a Maryland shirt or hat every day.

A couple wearing Clemson attire that I was talking to said they missed Maryland being in the ACC, but that they just missed the way the ACC used to be the most, which I agreed with in telling them that’s what took the sting out of leaving for me. I understand football is the tail that wags the dog of every Division I university, but that the ACC sold its soul for the sake of adding football programs that have been, really, no better than what was already in place made it feel as though Maryland had suddenly found itself in a different conference anyway.

A sense of newness is one thing, but with the way they killed one of the two best basketball conferences in the nation (the original Big East having been the other one) for the sake of football that has been mediocre to not bad at best, why not go to another conference that will pay your school a lot more money, particularly since Chairman Yow had lost all of Maryland’s money at the craps table?

And when I say craps, I mean it in more than one way.

But what’s done is done. The Big Ten has treated Maryland pretty well, other than its football and basketball officiating (which is just flat-out bad in both sports), and Maryland has done all right by the Big Ten, winning and holding its own in all sports, and with football gaining even more traction in College Park, who’s to say what next fall will bring?

(For instance, only eight schools in the country have more players invited to the NFL Combine than Maryland, who has seven. That number will be even higher next year.)

We watched both Maryland basketball games last week at a place called Dagwood’s in North Myrtle Beach, as the Terps beat Penn State on Saturday and then No. 3 Purdue on Thursday, as Maryland has more home wins against Top 5 teams than any school in America.

As it turned out, the night of the Purdue game, counting our group, there were about a dozen Maryland fans in that bar that night, which was kind of neat being in South Carolina and having a home-bar advantage. We even met a bartender at another place who has been to Cumberland as she used to live in Romney.

Which just goes to show you, it doesn’t matter what airport, what resort town or what city or state you find yourself in, you’re always going to be home because, without fail, you are going to find somebody there who is from home … kind of like an unweird Wizard of Oz.

In fact, the last night we were there saying our goodbyes to the Dagwood’s bartenders, a woman who graduated from Frankfort sat down next to us at the bar; and if that wasn’t enough, she and my friend discovered she was related to one of my friend’s sisters-in-law, not to mention the same niece who sent us off to Senior Week.

So, I don’t believe it’s a reach to say that the next time I go to Myrtle Beach, I’ll see you there.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT