clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Devils, Heels On Deck

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Well, it's on us now. You know what we mean. We have to deal with...those people.

For people outside the Triangle, it's hard to understand how this works. The buildup is intense; the game starts, always, with an emotional rush before settling down to strengths and weaknesses. Then one side wins and one loses. The winners are understandably gleeful; the losers don't want to talk about it.

Fan's Guides: Your ACC Lifeline All Season Long!
Gift Certificates Now Available!
Duke| State | UNC
“The Fan’s Guide is the essential source for Duke basketball fans in 2012. It is packed with brilliant analysis and writing by the ACC’s most astute basketball writers. I have not enjoyed any reading as much this season.” Professor Walter Manley, II
“If you love NCSU Athletics this is a must read, I will buy it every year, very thorough and precise.” Richard Mark Hunt
I was just glad to find a magazine about Duke basketball. I thoroughly enjoyed the magazine. It was well written and very informative. A must read for any diehard Duke fan.Camille H
"I get excited enough about basketball season as it is, but this Guide has been on my screen for weeks now and I'm more excited than ever. Not just about Duke, but the whole league. There are some truly unique and remarkable stats in this book, enough to make you just itch for the games to begin and see how the players do this year. I think my favorite article is the one on athletes and social media, though. I've read it three times already! Great photos, great writing, and lots of both. This is essential. " PlanBee
"If you haven't purchased the Fan's Guide yet, what are you waiting for? It contains marvelous old-school content in a new-school format." Jerry K.
"Thanks a lot! The guide looks fantastic! I am really excited to dig in." Rick W
"Wow, huge piece of work! Congratulations. You guys never fail to provide the best a fan could ask for." Bill C.
DBR Auctions! New T-Shirts! DBR Is On Twitter!(DBRTweetz)

The problem is you have to go to work the next day, or maybe church. And those people are in those places, and they're waiting for you, been waiting since the end of the game as a matter of fact.

It's not just the grownups either.

Julio grew up next to a family of Carolina fans, the Gitelmans, and taunting was just part of it. The youngest one used to call seconds after a UNC win and just scream into the phone. It doesn't sound funny, it probably wasn't at the time, but it is now. Funny as hell, actually.

He's been living overseas for years and we've often laughed about calling him up in South Korea, waking him up, and screaming the same high-pitched nonsense in the phone.

Yes, after all these years. It would be sublime.

A few years after that, in college, we met the husband of one of the professors who was (we didn't know this at the time) a recovering addict. We would go over to his house to watch every ACC game we could - except for two.

After a Duke win, he would go outside to a fence he called the Wailing Wall, compose himself, and wait for his dad to call. Sort of.

It would just be one ring. That's all they needed to communicate to each other: we lost to those people.

Then they would talk the next day.

Years later we heard that he relapsed badly and lost his home, marriage and ultimately his life to his addiction, but we'll remember him fondly as an ACC lifeline who always had an open door at game time, even for a Duke fan.

In fact, the only time we've ever felt a spark of fear in the rivalry was in Indianapolis during the 1991 Final Four, where Duke and UNC fans were entering in neighboring doors. Taunts flew back and forth and for a few minutes it seemed more like Sunnis and Shiites getting ready to rumble than it did like ACC fans.

It is, in our opinion, a rivalry unlike any other. It yields nothing in intensity, but it is not Auburn-Alabama.  No tree poisoning here.

Kentucky-Louisville has a lot to offer, including nastiness with a history of racial overtones.

You can look around the country: Arizona-Arizona State, brimming with ugliness. Florida-FSU, lots of ill will. Kansas, K-State, Texas-Oklahoma. There's an element in all of them of something, well, not very nice.

Up until 2011, the closest thing to Duke-UNC was Cincinnati-Xavier, but the brawl that took place there really disfigured that rivalry.

Then again, the same thing happened with Duke-UNC in 1961, when Art Heyman and Larry Brown began a huge brawl that has fueled this rivalry ever since.

Over the years there's been a lot of back-and-forth and Duke folks didn't much like Dean Smith when he was coaching though feelings seem to have changed considerably since he retired and perhaps since his health made him a more sympathetic figure.

Bill Russell said once that it was very hard for men to get past competitiveness. You can forgive a lot of things before you forgive someone for beating you a lot.

Fits Duke's relationship to Smith pretty well. No one with a heart wishes him ill today.

Smith's relationship to Duke is more nuanced than a lot of people realize. He got married for the second time at Duke Chapel (his car got dinged during the ceremony. Many Duke people, including Bob Harris, have expressed great admiration for Smith. And he has helped a lot of Duke players, including Kenny Dennard and Fred Lind, who said that when he heard Smith was going to retire, pulled over and cried, fearing that Smith had a serious health problem.

Smith was famous for his press-conference bomblets, some of which didn't even register for a while. When Robbie West helped Duke upset #3 UNC in 1972, on the day Duke Indoor Stadium became Cameron, Smith said something to the effect of it was easy to win when you have 30+foul shots, with the implication being that Duke got a lot of undeserved calls.

He never particularly liked (who can blame him?) the signs which showed up for years saying "Dean Smith eats yellow snow," and some things infuriated him, like the sign that showed up saying "JR can't Read."

He may have gotten an idea of how an overwhelming competitive drive can distort your view from former State coach Norm Sloan, who ran into Smith on a golf course after retiring and was almost ashamed that his competitive drive pushed him to near hatred, something he clearly regretted.

Like everyone around here, we are deeply distressed by Smith's health woes and hope that he is doing as well as he possibly can. We hope that, like the rest of us, he can sit down Wednesday night, watch the game, identify with his guys and enjoy everything about the game except the conclusion.

Jay Bilas told us a great story about his introduction to the rivalry. As a freshman he lined up for a foul shot next to Brad Daugherty, who looked over at him and said "I'm going to beat you like a rented mule."

How cool is that? How do you, as a freshman in an as-yet unestablished program, react to an All-American saying that to you?

To the best of our knowledge, there have been two sets of brothers to split loyalties, with one playing for Duke and the other for those people: Jay and Bruce Buckley and Jeff and Jason Capel.

At one point we made a crack about Jason and got a nice but still indignant e-mail from Jeff, which reminded us that a) you never know who is reading and b) you should pay attention to who you are offending (we make exceptions here for Dave Leitao, Tom Penders and the bastard Dave Bliss).

What is also reminded us of is the sense of family in this rivalry. The Capels were on different sides but pulled for each other; Smith was a bitter enemy who nonetheless chose to get married on Duke's campus in Duke's crown jewel; many of us are married to someone who pulls for those people.

No big deal: you go to TVs on the opposite end of the house, you don't talk right away after the game ends, and you reconnect later in the kitchen or elsewhere.

Life goes on sweetly for one, bitterly for a time for the other, even as the embers burn for the rematch.