It's that time of year again. March Madness looms from a short distance, but the second best rivalry in sports will take place (at least) two times before the madness ensues, starting tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where it will cost you more than a cool $2000 to get in.
**Please skip to the appendix if you'd like some background on why I care about this rivalry at all.**
On paper, Duke-UNC is probably the most competitive rivalry in all of sport. In the last 103 meetings, UNC holds a one-game lead (52-51) and also a one-point lead over Duke (7,987-7,986). One point. That is insane.
Most of the time, the records/rankings just don't matter. Best example of this is in 1995 when a Duke team who went 2-14 in ACC play took #2 UNC (led by Stackhouse and Wallace) to double-OT on a Jeff Capel buzzer-beater in OT.
While there hasn't been a double-bird exit after a Wilson-type mugging, there have been some intense moments. My personal favorite is Hansbrough getting his nose broken.
While the highlights are abundant, the poster dunks are a thing of beauty. Admittedly, Danny Green over Greg Paulus takes the cake on this one. But Tatum over Meeks was certainly right up there.
While everything that OSU-Michigan has is there, the edge goes to the football rivalry. Let's face it: football is a better and more violent sport, and only getting one chance at the opponent per year makes it all that more meaningful. With that being said, LET'S GO DUKE!!!
Here's some background on why I even root for one of these teams. Around these parts, it's been very clear there are some who believe you must be a fan of an entire university (OSU) in order to be any true fan at all. This of course stems from one cheering for OSU football while at the same time cheering for Duke/UNC basketball. Fandom to me simply means staying true to your teams through thick and thin, regardless of how you chose those teams. (I am also a Mariners fan and sport their gear loudly and proudly, so it's not like I haven't upheld my own definition.) Growing up in northwest Ohio with no true home team in any sport often meant you either inherited your father's teams or you picked randomly. I was "raised" (they divorced, he hardly raised us) by a father who has six favorite NFL teams (which is absurd, choose one dude). He encouraged us to like whoever we wanted, so as a result my teams were established mostly through social impact from my circle of friends. When it came to college football and basketball, you didn't have much of a choice: it was either OSU/Michigan for football and either Duke/UNC for basketball and you would likely not be invited to the game nights if you chose otherwise. Not to mention it was just plain fun to be so deeply invested in these rivalries. I also did not attend OSU for college. One of my friends in that same circle did attend OSU, though, and he still cheers for UNC as his #1 team in basketball. I don't blame him, either, as it's always been about loyalty to a team to us and not about loyalty to an institution. So you can feel free to disagree with my definition of fandom and label me as OSU football bandwagon or an untrue OSU football fan if you must, but it really doesn't matter because I know where my loyalties lie and that's what counts to me. I will continue to pray for those of you who get so worked up over how someone else came to enjoy cheering for the same team as you.