Tonight North Carolina travels 8 miles down the streets of Tobacco Road to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face their arch rivals on the hardwood. The Tarheels are the favored team and overall the more talented, but that is only a slight advantage when it comes to these two teams. I am not a proponent of trying to determine what is the "best rivalry" in sports. It is an argument that cannot be settled by any statistical figure and what one rivalry means to one fan could mean the opposite to any other. Having grown up in North Carolina however, I can say that this game is always a special event in the state and like most intense athletic contests that are special, the key component is hatred. Both teams and their fans hate each other, some people watching the game hate both teams, some people hate Dick Vitale who is calling the game, some hate the coaches, some hate the officiating but the bottom line is there is so much hate and so much to hate that the game is a release for that emotion.
As once joked on the Chapelle Show, "You got hate in your heart let it out." Sometimes there is a time to throw away the constrictive social morays of self-control and tactful objectivity. It is natural to have hate built up inside you from time to time. Mostly it is not directed personally at others, but rather a discontent with our own selves that breeds the wrath thrown on others. The UNC-Duke game is a perfect chance to project our own feelings of insecurity, anger at things out of our control, and the injustices of the world and manifest them into a 40 minute basketball game. This is easier for the fans of the teams, but it is not hard for people who have no dog in this fight to generate their own because like I stated, the hate comes from within.
For Carolina fans the hate is one that is shared with most of the nation. Duke is seen as a snobby private school for smart unattractive pricks who mostly hale from New Jersey. The school has a sense of entitlement about itself and it has become an easy target for dislike around the nation. Just ask the lacrosse team. On the court, the team is led by Coach K whom supporters believe is a bastion of leading young men to live better lives. The dissenters argue the Rat King has become a bully to officials and do not see the humble nature his admires talk about when he is pocketing huge checks from endorsement deals and speaking appearances. The Duke players receive similar venom from detractors. "Hustlers" like Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Trajan Langdon, Shane Battier, Wojo, and now Greg Paulus are easy targets for hate. Players like this are easily polarizing and it is no surprise why a Duke fan why you love these guys and why as a anti-Duke fan you cannot stand them.
North Carolina may be nationally the more popular team of these two, but there is plenty of room for haters. Similarly to Duke, UNC fans are sometimes seen as haughty self-righteous douches. Sam Cassell once labled them as "a wine and cheese" crowd which is a moniker that has followed them ever since. The perception is that Carolina fans think they are the best, without question and that is a trait that is an easy target for hatred. Roy Williams would seem to be a guy who is hard to hate, but the beauty of hating is that you can always find something you do not like about someone. In Roy's case the weak argument about the 2005 national championship being won with Matt Doherty's players is a popular one. There are also shots taken against Roy for his "aww shucks" persona which has led to comparisons to Huckleberry Hound. Tar Heel players usually are the top prospects coming in so they are usually hated for how good they are, but that cannot stop the hate parade for players like Eric Montross, Rasheed, Stackhouse, and most notably Tyler Hansbrough. Like some of the most infamous Duke hate targets, Tyler draws the ire of ABCers (Anybody But Carolina for the lay people) for the admiration of his hustle and grit. The notion that Hansbrough gets special treatment from the officials adds fuel to the fire as well.
I cannot wait for tonight's contest even though I root for neither team and never have and certainly never will. I could reel off a bunch of numbers, statistics and facts about the history of the games between these two but HBO has a special coming out later this month on it and if it was anything like their show on Michigan-Ohio State they can say it better than I. The hate is what makes it compelling, think about any rivalry in sports; Yankees-Sox, Cubs-Cardinals, Lakers-Celtics, Steelers-Ravens, etc. When something happens between the teams to spark more hatred, the more compelling it is to watch. The characters on both sides that are either adored or hated increases the desire to see that which you hate destroyed. So if you have some anger welling inside you, find something about tonight's game, anything and let that hate out.
Gratuitous videos from the rivlary:
Catfish would like to point out Duke still lost this game:
Joe Forte sighting!
Tyler goes boom (Still think Pyscho T is a lame nickname):
Chris Collins and Matt Doherty not playing nice-nice:
Marvin Williams puts the biscuit in the basket: