Rivalry: competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field; a competitive or antagonistic state or condition; the state of trying to defeat or be more successful than one another. -Webster’s Dictionary.
Last night I had the privilege of being a part of the greatest rivalry in sports, and I don’t think those definitions do it justice. The UNC/Duke rivalry is much more than a competitive condition. It’s a tradition, it’s a culture and it’s a ritual. Two times a year two universities just 8 miles from each other face off and both towns stand still. For those four to five hours a year over 20,000 students gather to watch each antagonizing play of the game. And when their school wins, the students celebrate.
And last night, that’s exactly what we did. UNC students watched Marcus Paige sink the final free throws, heard the buzzer go off and poured out of restaurants, bars and houses onto Franklin Street. People lit couches and trees on fire, climbed light poles and sang the fight song with passion. For a few hours last night no one thought about their upcoming test and papers, they just celebrated the pride that comes with being a Tar Heel.
When I first came to Carolina I knew that this rivalry would be a huge part of the sports environment at the school. I grew up a Tar Heel fan and was raised to hate the other shade of blue. But when the first UNC/Duke face-off came around my first year it was unlike anything I could imagine. Being a student made it a completely different experience. For a week the campus was a sea of blue and the game was all anyone could talk about. When Duke wasn’t able to make it to the Dean Dome because of the weather we wanted revenge. And 8 days later we got it. This year we lost to Duke in heartbreaking final moments under a month ago, and our team and students wanted revenge. This year we were playing for more than revenge though, we were playing to bring home the ACC conference championship.
But the thing is, we weren’t just cheering for a conference title or a rivalry game win. We were cheering for the pride we have in our university. To me the UNC/Duke rivalry brings out more than just a hatred for the other school, it gives students an excuse to show just how proud they are to be Tar Heels. I use to think my dad was crazy for yelling at the TV and my brother even crazier for throwing remotes at the wall. But now that I’m here it makes perfect sense. Those feelings are rooted in the pride for your school. It drives you to do those crazy things. And it’s pride for your school that leaves you with tears welling in your eyes as you try to enjoy every moment of rushing Franklin, because you know its something really special.
Thank you Carolina Basketball for giving me moments I will never forget.