Tuesday, February 08, 2005

UNC vs. Duke: Let's get ready to rumble

I hate Duke.

Wait, let me choose my words more carefully.

I loathe Duke. Despise Duke. Detest Duke. Abhor Duke. And whatever other words your thesaurus of choice suggests for my rampant negativity toward Duke, Coach K, the Cameron Crackheads and Christian Laettner's f-bombing shot to beat Kentucky in the 1992 East regional finals.

This Blue Devil disgust is borne of my North Carolina patriotism. Been a fan since Worthy and Jordan.

It goes like this: if you're a fan of UNC men's basketball, then you are not a fan of Duke men's basketball.

It's like being a baseball fan raised in New York. If you like the Mets, you hate the Yankees. If you like the Yankees, you hate the Mets. Those who claim to root for both teams have no souls.

We New Yorkers think we know rivalries. We have no clue. I've met people and walked out of the room upon learning of their Dukedom. And I grew up in New York. Those submersed in the epicenter of Carolina-Duke have far worse stories. Their feelings run deeper than Confederate flags, the secret to good moonshine and four-named first names.

I'm sure families were torn apart and engagements broken off based on Carolina's 102-100 double-overtime drubbing of Duke on Feb. 2, 1995, at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

That was the year of Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Donald "The Duck" Williams and Jeff McInnis. Duke countered with the ugly Jeff Capel.

There are dozens more. I simply can't go through them all without missing one and thereby insulting the likes of Kevin Salvadori, Pat Sullivan, Shammond Williams, Jeff Lebo or Brad Dougherty. But a few quick highlights of the most blood-thirsty rivalry in the game:

  • Vince Carter's missed dunk -- Easy Ed Cota threw a ball off the backboard during a fast break. Vince jumped from South Carolina, caught the ball in mid-air and threw down what Stuart Scott referred to as "the greatest missed dunk of all-time." The ball clanged off the back of the rim and went back near half-court. If memory serves, UNC won by at least 50 points.

  • That famous Zwikker-to-Calabria combo -- On Jan. 31, 1996, Serge Zwikker missed a shot near the end of game (Dookies claim Greg Newton blocked it, but even video can be manipulated). Dante Calabria, perhaps the best Italian athlete not named Joe DiMaggo, Roberto Baggio, Alberto Tomba or Paolo Maldini, tips it in for the 73-72 win. Another Duke defeat. Oh so pretty.

  • Christian Laettner's 5-6 career record vs. UNC -- Some things just sound nice.

  • Dean Smith -- He may look and sound like Buddy Hackett, but the man can coach.

  • Grant Hill's flattop -- OK, so there is one redeeming quality about Duke. That thing rivaled 1989 Big Daddy Kane.

  • In fairness, I must admit two things:

    1) UNC has had a few off-years of late, mostly because of Matt Doherty. (But he did recruit Sean May, Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants. Thanks, Matt, the pride of East Meadow!)

    2) Coach K deserves props. The man knows what he's doing and he built the program into a national power. (But he pronounces his name Sha-sheff-ski, yet it's spelled Krzyzewski. Seems kind of silly to me.)

    Now, on to Wednesday night's game.

    UNC will manhandle Duke. The Tar Heels will maul the Blue Devils. The bloodbath begins at 9 p.m. Editor friend LaRonda, a misguided soul/Duke fan and alum, has promised "fighting [is] imminent" when the game is on and we both have to watch it in the office. I've vowed peace. I'm probably lying, but I'm not sure yet.

    I'm considering buying TiVo so I can have a digital record of the massacre. Then, I'll print out screen captures from Jawad Williams hanging over Duke's Shelden Williams after his monster dunk gives the Heels an 81-60 lead with four minutes to play and decorate my little corner cubicle.

    J.J. Redick will score no more than six points. He might even be forced to transfer. Because no matter how good a shooter he is, when he takes a dump in his pants against the Heels on Wednesday night, he'll probably get beat up at the bar afterward.

    Around 11:15 p.m. or so, Doctor friend Christy will pick up her phone. She will be upset because I woke her up. She will be even more upset when I yell, "Go Heels!"

    Nothing's finer than when Duke loses to North Carolina!