Redeeming a once proud rivalry. Sort of.
Everyone familiar with Tobacco Road Basketball has read Ian Williams’ iconic “Why I hate Duke” column.
While I’m not a fan of the overworked “Dukies are elitists” card the article plays, I can’t help but think the time has come for a similarly torrid rant dedicated to that other Triangle school.
Don’t think for a second that I don’t despise Duke. All Tar Heels do. Take your pick from any number of grievances, be it the “J.R. can’t Reid” incident or that little smirk on Kyle Singler’s face after he flopped away Dex’s sideways, rim-kissing thunder jam in the 2011 ACC (Tournament) Championship game. 1
I’ve just come to realize that all hate stems, in varying degrees, from fear. In a rivalry, it’s the fear of humiliation; of leaving a legacy tarnished only by the LAST people in the world you’d want to be remembered for losing to.
So presented with fear, we all have two choices. Where hate festers, respect can redeem.
For example, I hate that Duke gave Richard Nixon a place to study constitutional law, yet as a Poli Sci major I can tell you their law school is, like ours, absolutely phenomenal.
Likewise, I fumed watching Rivers’ dagger drop, but I can respect the fact that it injected a desperately needed hit of adrenaline into the rivalry.
When I finally hit the third stage of the Tar Heel tag,2 I’ll assume those in the other shade of blue are proceeding along an ironically appropriate – and opposite – spiritual vector. Still, I’ll respect how much these Devils have done to deliver us from the evils of apathy, and vice versa. Carolina and Duke would hardly be such household names if not for, well, Carolina AND Duke.
On the outside looking in at this bizarre relationship, like that Twilight werewolf3 whose name I haven’t bothered to remember, prowls a canis of a different sort. How aptly-named proves our “Research-(love)-Triangle.”
As a disclaimer, don’t mistake my venom for these mangy dogs as directed at the more noble NCSU breed who still roam these parts, dwindling as they may be. That some of the most industrious, talented and esteemed of my friends, fellow writers and student-athletes run with the Pack does not amaze me in the slightest, because to imply thus would be to ignore the fact I know exactly how precious these souls make life in this state we have shared for so long. Indeed, these State fans fearlessly continue embodying the “virtu” that led their program to success unrivaled by either Carolina’s or Duke’s in the earlier 20th century.
Instead, sadly, there’s a new brood dictating the exchanges between our two universities.
It’s a popular rumor that Jeffrey Fuchs, the Carolina Band director, has long warned his musicians playing on the road at Carter-Finley – upon dealing with these more ravenous NCSU supporters – not to validate such a bacterial strain with reciprocal trash talk.
The band is told to show up, play its sets, and permitted only to tell those folks: “God bless, we’ll pray for you.”
Even thus, I feel there remains no salvation for what the most rabid Pack-Backers have become; We’ll call them “Our-State” fans.
Don’t know how to tell them apart from the moderate NCSU supporters? Just look for those creating fantastic excuses for their own adversity, explaining away their every struggle with vast conspiracy theories in spastic outbursts like Nicolas Cage poring over maps in a presidential library.
UNC fans who sat through 2002 can’t act like they don’t know what this rock bottom tastes like, nor can they pretend to have spared the refs any expletive. But what we now see unfolding in these factions in Raleigh is what happens when someone hits rock bottom and tries to use excuses to build themselves back up. They don’t just blame the refs, but the evil conference commissioner who hired them, and the entire biased NCAA as well. It’s getting to the point where their pre-game scouting reports place more emphasis on the refs than they do on the actual opposition.
Don’t agree with this prognosis, Our-Staters?
What happens when fixture ACC official Karl Hess tosses two of your most famous basketball alumni – who, let’s be honest, won’t be mentioned by name here because they aren’t really that famous – for being disruptive directly behind the scorer’s table? You throw a fit like someone just told a real icon like MJ, Sheed or Vince to leave.4
Good grief, even your athletic director tries to cover up her own difficulty in making a simple coaching hire, blaming a lame-duck legend at a different school for sabotaging the process.
When that’s not enough, you jump all over UNC’s football controversy – our first brush with the NCAA in over half a century – and insist the “cheating” that “constantly occurs” in Chapel Hill is “unprecedented.” Far be it from you to recall the four times your school has held NCAA penance for its transgressions. Finally egging on your powerful and well-meaning hometown newspaper into “hounding” us relentlessly, you uncover a modicum of academic dirt that self-admittedly could be found under any rock, were you so inclined or even empowered to look “indiscriminately.” Rather than unearth actual conspiracy, your independent sports blogs apply further futile pressure in dead end after dead end, needlessly muddying the reputation of tens of thousands of our innocents working their tails off so you can wag yours trying to dig up that fantasy bone you just SWEAR is still buried down there under the Martin “cover-up.”
After the factual story doesn’t get you the result you wanted, you exaggerate – and in extreme cases fabricate – tales of our corruption, holding cathartic, anonymous online comment board hate sessions where your thinly-veiled, Jesse-Helms-like revulsion for us “liberal-arts liberals” can masquerade as self-righteous indignation.
After almost three years of this stuff, it’s just getting old for us, getting you nowhere, and dragging down more honorable State fans in the process.
Don’t get me wrong, extremely troubling things have unfolded at Carolina during this time; many of which have not been exaggerated in the slightest. UNC has paid, is paying, and will continue to pay dearly for them. We can no longer, by any stretch of the imagination, act like saints. If anyone in the NCAA could have used a good helping of humble pie since Roy’s arrival, it’s those in powder blue. We get it.
But State can’t play the “poor but honest” routine with us either. I mean, even your Jimmy V, as great a fighter and leader as there ever was in our sport, was not himself wholly removed from vice, be it academic or athletic. You just don’t see us shoving every last bit in your face.
So in a season where at long last you have a squad potentially worthy of comparisons to those of your golden years with Case and Valvano, you should be looking forward to potentially improving on that .041 winning percentage against Roy-coached teams.5 Call me a cynic, but if any games at all this season don’t turn out so favorably, I’d be shocked if the same strains of “conspiracy” didn’t swell violently from the old Brick Campus again.
So maybe when the harsh cries of “not our rival” continue to ring out from the Hill in response, you’ll understand that it’s not in arrogance, but for your own good.
Because looking back, it’s clear you Our-Staters never really wanted to be our rival anyway. Rivals respect each other, even at their lowest or most disparate. They might not be polar opposites, but are at least complementary; yin and yang.
What you want with every fiber of your being, though you’ll never admit it, is to be us, to replace us as the “people’s” university, to wipe our very existence from the history books. You want our banners and legacy taken down in an ironic and perverse sort of “socialism”, thinking we only prospered at your expense. Like a contemporary Cato, you send your would-be Scipio Afri-Kane-us to fight your own battles - by land, air, or NAVS 302 - since you’ll only truly feel safe when the Dean Dome collapses in flames; the very ground it rests upon salted.6 Not unreasonable, because the way your bed of excuses crumbles when faced with the slightest adversity or competition leaves little hint you’re still even capable of lifting your hind leg to “mark your territory”7 while anyone is watching.
That sort of attitude is fine with us, because while we’ve already got Duke, we’ll still manage to salvage a partnership with the sane State fans among you in hopes of restoring the once-great rivalry between our institutions.
Now all that’s left out of the equation is this message to the delusional8 remainder:
We don’t fear you, and after all the constant hate and downright psychotic projections of your own shortcomings, we certainly don’t respect you anymore.
About all that’s left for us to do for you is pray.