Q&A with Duke hater Ian Williams
Ian Williams wrote a 1990 column for The Daily Tar Heel entitled “Why I Hate Duke." It remains one of the DTH’s most popular stories. In 2007, Williams wrote a follow-up column, "Why I Still Hate Duke.”
In light of today’s game, staff writer Jackson Knapp spoke with Williams to revisit the column that famously said things like “I want Krzyzewski calling home to his mother with tears in his eyes.” Williams is now a professional writer currently living in Los Angeles.
DAILY TAR HEEL: What type of feedback did you get when your column was first published?
Ian Williams: I thought that at The Daily Tar Heel we held ourselves to a pretty high bar, where if something were just too obvious, even a cliche, then we wouldn’t do it, and I felt like an article about why someone should hate Duke would be like shooting fish in a barrel.
It’s one of those things when you say something that everyone’s been thinking, but no one’s said yet. It has a surprising amount of power. It was the first codification of that sort of feeling.
DTH: What made you decide to write a follow-up column 17 years later?
IW: I wrote that article to say look, some things really never go away. One of them is the fact that all of y’all are a part of this brotherhood or sisterhood of like-minded souls.
The other thing that never goes away is how much you can really loathe that awful school, because they have a knack for picking players that are universally loathsome. There’s just something about these guys. I don’t know if it’s like you put on the Duke unitard and all of a sudden you’re horrifying, or if it’s all predestined.
DTH: What did the article mean for your writing career?
IW: It showed me at the age of 19 that it was possible to have a life as a writer. When something you do is trusted enough or you become vaguely infamous for something, I think it goes a long way, especially if you’re 19 or 20. You start thinking you’re running the world. If you’re doing anything that’s involved in the arts you have to have an inordinate belief that magic will happen somewhere, and when something like this happens it’s proof that there is some sort of magic somewhere, and it gives you a confidence that if you don’t have at that age, you’re going to say screw it and go to law school.
DTH: Do you think the UNC-Duke rivalry has changed at all recently?
IW: The rivalry is one of those things — it’s like the Grand Canyon — it’s as good as the cliche. You’d be really hard-pressed to find a rivalry that really keeps on giving like this one does year after year. It comes down to the personalities. Carolina and Duke are very similar in socioeconomic strata, but somehow Duke always manages to douche itself into a higher level.
DTH: How badly do you still hate Duke?
IW: Every time I think, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe they’re OK. Maybe I don’t care as much this year,” somehow — when it gets to be this time again, and it’s the week of the game — it just bubbles back to the surface as if it had never abated. I would say it’s gotten worse with age, except that I’m not as physically violent to the walls anymore when we lose.
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