I grew up a die-hard Duke fan and, as a UNC student, that may not be the smartest thing to put in writing.
But it’s true. I spent my summers at basketball camp in Cameron Indoor Stadium and my Halloweens dressed as a Duke Cheerleader. And as anyone familiar with the Duke-UNC rivalry knows, you can’t like one school without hating the other.
But then it came time to choose which college to attend, and I desperately tried to find some sort of common ground. Maybe I could just skip the basketball games, or somehow root for both teams? Even after committing to Carolina, I wasn’t confident I would ever be able to wholeheartedly root against the Blue Devils.
Then I watched my first UNC-Duke game as a Tar Heel. I was in my friend’s room in Granville watching as our team marched into Cameron, a stadium which I knew so well suddenly felt completely foreign. The way everyone cheered for Carolina seemed so genuine; I could tell that even if we lost, we would still be proud of our school.
Duke fans, on the other hand, poured out of the stadium before the game was even over just because they knew the win was out of their reach. That night, as I rushed Franklin for the very first time, it clicked: UNC gave me more of a community than Duke ever could.
The first rivalry game of my sophomore year we lost by two points in overtime and as soon as the final buzzer went off someone yelled, “Well, at least we still go to Carolina!”
I couldn’t sum it up better than that. When we win, I’m thrilled, and when we lose, I’d still rather be a Tar Heel.
So as I’m counting down the days until my final, and most important, UNC-Duke game as a student, I couldn’t help but write this little love letter to UNC basketball.
Thank you for the unlikely friends I’ve made on the freezing walks home from the Dean Dome and the scrapes on my knees from tripping over my unlaced shoes while sprinting to Franklin. For all the money lost on Blue Cups and all the times my cheeks have been stained blue with face paint.
And as I graduate and move away, thank you for giving me a family that can be found in any sports bar across the country. I promise that I will proudly wear the correct shade of blue for the rest of my days.
Carolina’s school spirit is undisputed, but for me, it was an unlikely gift. If there is one thing that can be said for certain about Saturday’s game it’s that, no matter the final score, the team will leave the stadium serenaded by fans in the bleachers singing “Hark the Sound."
And regardless of how the game goes, remember: at least we go to Carolina.
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