We have really come to enjoy Ben Swain on Twitter. He’s funny, snarky and has a great feel for the medium. He’s pretty brilliant at it.
So we feel a little bad disagreeing with him on his current column about Virginia replacing Maryland as Duke’s rival.
It was always a one-sided thing. Honestly we didn't realize for the longest time how Maryland felt about Duke. We had no idea. And as far as Duke’s rivals, they are still primarily UNC, State and Wake Forest.
Well, Kentucky too.
For Duke, playing Maryland became something to be endured. We liked beating them, don’t misunderstand, but it was never as intense here as it was there and we can prove it.
Even when things were most heated in this “rivalry” we could barely give a Maryland ticket away outside of Cameron on Game Day. Duke fans couldn’t give a damn about playing Maryland even when Maryland was legitimately great.
We saw considerably more excitement for St. John’s games to be bluntly honest. Maryland, from the Lefty era on, always seemed like a root canal and we don’t mean the game itself but everything surrounding it. The riots, the heated pennies, the tossed water bottles, fans being told to huddle under their seats if Maryland won, the histrionics. And the moral preening from the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun - that’s nice to not hear anymore too.
In that sense, Virginia is a fine “replacement.” There are some key differences though.
First, Virginia isn’t nearly as big a patsy. You could pretty much count on Maryland to beat itself on a regular basis and that was for decades and ACC wide. They blew games all over the place.
This Virginia program doesn't do that. Duke has done well against Tony Bennett’s program, but Bennett’s teams really don’t beat themselves. You have to do that. They don’t fall apart easily.
And secondly, we think there’s some level of genuine respect between the fan bases. Maryland fans hated Duke, sure, but Duke fans were mostly bewildered by Maryland.
People always misunderstand Cameron until they get there and catch a game. Cameron is about joy as much as anything. Maryland is a far uglier place, prone to violence and low-level insanity.
We’ve never felt unsafe around Virginia fans. We’ve never left our Duke stuff behind for fear of being attacked. Virginia fans have yet to trash their town.
All things considered, we really don’t miss Maryland much at all. So maybe Ben is right. Virginia is better in every possible sense.