Wednesday, February 8, 2012

UNC-Duke: A 'nice' rivalry

In my previous journalistic life, I was a sports columnist at a small newspaper in Alabama, and there I had an intimate look at the gnarliest, nastiest and, as it turns out, most horticulturally threatening rivalry in sports - Auburn vs. Alabama.

(Any Alabama fan reading this will instantly notice that I typed Auburn first.)

In my first month on the job, I received a call from a troubled Bama fan who had spent the previous month measuring every Auburn and Alabama photo in our newspaper. His research showed a difference of about 3 square inches, tilting toward Auburn. "I knew you favored them!" he said. He would turn out to be only mildly rabid, comparatively.

So moving to North Carolina, I've found that while the Duke-UNC basketball rivalry is one of the best in college sports, it can be a little Grey Poupon-ish. Sure, there's some healthy disdain going on between fans, but that tends to be smoothed out with a little too much mutual respect for a white-hot rivalry.

That's also what our favorite pollster, Tom Jensen of Raleigh's Public Policy Polling, concluded this week in his annual look at UNC and Duke fans in North Carolina. Jensen found, not surprisingly, that most of the state's voters will be pulling for the Tar Heels (41 percent) over the Blue Devils (31 percent). That is, however, the closest spread PPP has found between the two schools in five years of asking the question.

This year, Jensen dug a little deeper into what the fans think of the opposing school. Which fans dislike the other guys the most? That would be UNC's faithful - 36 percent of whom generally root against Duke all the time, with 23 percent rooting for them and 41 percent saying they don't care. Carolina fans who describe themselves as "hardcore" pull for Duke to lose by a 66/12 spread. Duke fans are split, with 35 percent pulling against the Tar Heels and 35 percent rooting for them. "Hardcore" Duke fans pull for UNC to lose by a 53/32 spread.

And that respect thing? 53 percent of UNC fans say they respect Duke to 33 percent who dislike or hate the school. For Duke fans, the spread is 49/33. Just for fun, he asked respondents who they would vote for if the governor's race was between Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and UNC's Roy Williams. Coach K came out on top 34-31, but voters from both schools said they had great respect for the other team's coach.

All of which doesn't sit well with Jensen, who reveals:

All of this talk of mutual respect makes me want to vomit in my mouth. My name is Tom Jensen and I'm a Tar Heel. I hate Duke, I hate Mike Krzyzewski, and I want Duke to lose all games in all sports unless they're playing NC State in football or baseball.
Now that's more like it.

Peter St. Onge


Anonymous said...

Peter - how about poking fun at Scott Fowler for putting in print that Duke-UNC-CH is the greatest rivalry in sports (he didn't even restrict it to college sports). Other than one game when Gerald Henderson tried to remove Hansbrough's face from his head, this "rivalry" strongly resembles 2 elementary school girls fighting over a purse.

You nailed it; Auburn-'Bama is so far ahead of every rivalry that the only way any other rivalry could catch up is if Auburn-'Bama were to go an another 40-year hiatus like they did in the early 20th century.

Bob20P said...

We all know that rivalries are geographical. The farther you get away from North Carolina the less people care about UNC-Dook. I have been to Ohio St- Michigan football, Yankees - Red Sox, Oklahoma - Texas football. These rivalries are just as strong as UNC-Dook and people from North Carolina probably don't care much about these rivalries. I don't think anyone can claim the best rivalry in sports!

Matt said...

Hey J, you already used that purse line, or else stole somebody else's, either way get some new material!

But I digress. I'm shocked that in all the rivalry talk nobody talks about how Duke grads don't stay in NC. I know they'll come out of the woodwork to tell me I'm wrong, but I grew up in NC and was very much involved in the ACC, and I can count on one hand the Duke grads I know who live here. Oh, they have their fans of course, but most are what they call "Wal-Mart fans" for us. Duke's too blueblooded for such a low class term as that, but that's most of what you meet around here. So you can talk smack to with them, but it's not the same degree of fire you'd find with actual alumni.

Now I've never been one to say that you're not a fan if you didn't go to a particular school, or that your support means any less than someone who did. In fact, I think that's kinda stupid reasoning that usually is only employed by ABC fans who want to negate the fact that there's about 5 Heels in this state for every fan of the rest of the schools combined. I'm simply saying that whereas a majority of State and UNC alumni settle in the state and feud their whole lives, Duke grads go back up to Jersey to pretend like they went to an Ivy League school with friends who don't know any better. Keeps the hate at a low boil locally. Duke fans may disagree, but I bet the fans of every other ACC school will back me up!
OK, carry on with the rabble rousing! Go Heels!

Anonymous said...

Ha, misinformed me one Duke grad who "goes to Jersey" when they graduate Duke University. Name one.

I think you mean they "take a $150,000 finance or consulting job in Manhattan with their Ivy/Stanford brethren"...because that's what they do. I know, I'm one of them...

Keep feuding amongst yourselves, Carolina Rednecks!

Texas-born Duke alum, '07