“Jumping over the fires (as a fan) on Franklin Street,” Baumgartner recalled from his first year in 2006, when he wasn’t covering the UNC-Duke basketball game. “That’s something I’ll never forget.”
There’s an interesting dichotomy the DTH sports writers balance. Their job is to be impartial toward a team they’ve been inculcated to praise.
When "Jump Around" blares through the Smith Center speakers, they stay seated, holding onto their laptops and notebooks so the materials don’t fall off the table. When Theo Pinson punctuates a North Carolina win over Duke with a dunk, the only scream from press row is a comment to a DTH colleague over the ruckus, “That’s my story right there!”
“As a writer, you can’t lose your mind when ‘Jump Around’ plays,” said Brendan Marks, a former DTH senior sports writer who graduated in 2017. “And as a fan, you can, and that makes you feel connected, and it makes you feel like a fan. You get to feel all the hate and everything.
“All the games and all the time you spend being impartial and unbiased as a reporter, you make up for in that one game with all the yelling you do,” he said.
Reporting on the rivalry changes one’s relationship with it. While a sliver of Franklin Street is flooded with Tar Heel students coming together, DTH sports writers are in the media workroom in the Smith Center, working to encapsulate a spectacle that, for some reason, means so many different things to so many different people.
On the morning of Feb. 12, 2018, after North Carolina upset Duke just days before, the boxes that hold DTH newspapers across campus were empty within hours.
“I felt a similar sort of pressure with the Duke games,” Baumgartner said. “You know that The Daily Tar Heel is part of this history. You’re part of the rivalry.”
On March 5, 2016, Sports Editor Pat James and reporter Carlos Collazo were trickling out of the small, Hoosier-styled visitors locker room in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Senior guard Marcus Paige was hustling to get changed when senior forward Brice Johnson put his cellphone in Paige’s face.
“They’re standing right in front of me,” James said, “and Brice comes over and he shows Marcus this video on Twitter of all the students just rushing Franklin Street.”
Paige and Johnson were more than 20 minutes away from the road that was already set ablaze, far from the hallmark tradition of the rivalry.
An hour before, everyone was glued to a screen, wanting to be with the players on the court. Now, the two stars of the night were glued to a screen of their own, wanting to be with everyone else.
But this separation didn’t make them feel any less like students. It was just different, separate from the rest of the student body, but significant and special nonetheless.
Paige watched the video and started to speed up changing and packing. He turned to his 6-foot-10-inch roommate excitedly, and in one sentence, summed up why it’s special to be a part of this rivalry — no matter if you’re playing in the game, writing the story or jumping over flames.
“I’ve gotta go see my people.”
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