Column: Time to take sides

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 3, 2006

John Focke, Behind the mic

Once again this weekend, friends and family members will be making like the Montagues and Capulets, as North Carolina and Duke University meet for the second time this season.

It is one of the best rivalries of any sport, right up there with Yankees-Red Sox and Ohio State-Michigan. But it does force you to take sides and you can’t like both teams.

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I will say this, I love North Carolina, have since the days of Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy. I was even with the team when they were lead by lumbering Eric Montross, and I had visions of Joe Forte becoming a great pro … (Guy lasted in the league as long as a giant cookie in front of Stanley Roberts.)

North Carolina players get to play with emotion; they look like they love the game. Whether it was under Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge and especially under Roy Williams, they smile, they frown, yell, cheer and play with flair.

That is not the case with Duke; and that is what makes this rivalry so unique. Duke players all look like they came from the same Jell-O mold. They play like robots that have been programmed by Coach K, and any emotion shown must be done behind closed doors.

Which is why I love this rivalry. The contrasting styles, for one thing, but to relate this to literature, Duke would be the Socs and UNC the Greasers, and the level of play is unmatched. The fans are rabid, the coaches emotional, and the players elevate their games to new heights when they face each other.

Unlike the book “The Outsiders” the ‘Greasers’ can win. Like last year when they won the national title, led by Sean May, Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton.

But this year, with those guys in the NBA, Duke is the No. 1 team in the land and undefeated in the conference, having already beaten the Tar Heels at Chapel Hill.

I personally love to watch both teams play, for their contrasting styles, but also because they are the best of the best. Year in and year out there are different national champions, that is a given. And like every year some random team will be the belle of the ball during March Madness (Bucknell), while another will get Pittsnoggled (Arizona) but some things always stay the same; and that is Duke and UNC playing the best basketball in the country.