When Sarah and I got married, the minister, a good friend of ours, said as she joined us together that we would be in a mixed marriage.
She said that one of us supported Duke, the other Carolina. The guests chuckled, immediately getting the joke.
Now, you may think The Game this weekend is no laughing matter. You might be right.
A person asked me if there has been a bigger game in history between UNC and Duke, and I answered with a quick emphatic, “No.” A day or so later, I was wearing my North Carolina shirt, and the store owner asked me if I was excited about the game and that was also a hasty, “No.”
You might assume that since Coach Hubert Davis and the Heels already spoiled Coach K’s last game at Cameron, a loss in the Final Four against Duke might not be so bad. Sorry, I will have to block that shot into the stands and say once again, “No.”
It would be bad.
More than any other game, I don’t see how I can bear a loss to Duke and Coach K on this occasion. That adds an overlay of anxiety to everything leading up to The Game. It’s not just that the Tar Heels must win but Duke must lose.
I don’t want my beloved Heels to be a stepping stone on the way to Coach K’s boring documentary about his “magical last season.”
I saw a picture of a ridiculous sign at Raleigh-Durham Airport wishing both teams the “Best of Luck.” Well, RDU, that’s not possible. One fan base is going to be as dejected as it has ever been, and I hope it’s not mine.
Fortunately, Sarah and I have never been the type to have one of those “House Divided” license plates on our cars. In part, because we are not really funny license plate people, though I think we are funny people, at least to each other and our children.
The other reason is that we are not a house divided. We have a really amicable rivalry, and I can say without reservation, Sarah is the reason.
If all Duke fans were as gracious as she, I might not dislike that program with such intensity. There have been times Duke prevailed and she actually apologized because of how I was feeling.
Our children have taken sides. But they are too young to have my wife’s nuance and respect for feelings.
Samuel pulls for Duke, and even when the Heels are playing someone else, he ribs me when they fall behind. I am not sure when I will let him know that such is not actually a joke — but I’m feeling maybe in the near-term not long-term.
Helen Ann, bless her, is for UNC. It has taken me a bit to get her to understand that “UNC,” “Carolina,” “North Carolina” and “the Heels” are all the same team. She just turned 7 on Thursday; she’ll get it.
Neither Sarah nor I were raised up on loving UNC and Duke and maybe that accounts for the genteel nature of our rivalry. Our career choices led us to the schools and the teams.
I was a Wake Forest basketball fan as a kid. I’ll never forget when the Demon Deacons fell way behind in a tournament and I went to bed — in tears — thinking it was all over. As I was drifting off to sleep, my door opened and I saw the shadowy figure of my dad, backlit by the hall light. He called me by my nickname, excitedly, and told me “Wake beat them boys!”
I guess you could say that was the night I fell in love with ACC basketball.
But I also knew at a young age that I wanted to be a journalist, and I learned that UNC had a great program for that. I remember as a freshman on campus I met several other freshmen who told me they chose UNC because of the basketball team. I thought then and think now that’s a pretty wild reason to pick a college unless you played for the team, but hey ...
Sarah grew up in Virginia and went to Guilford College in Greensboro. Funny story: I went to one of her Guilford class reunions and it seemed everyone I met was in some kind of public service or service to humankind (including Sarah, who’s a minister). I’m like, isn’t anyone here in it just for the bucks?
We also had a blast several years ago going to see the Quakers compete in the Division III Final Four in Salem, Virginia.
Anyway, Sarah went to Duke Divinity School to learn about God (and get her master’s) and wouldn’t you know it, she got into those Blue Devils.
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Typically, when it comes to religion, converts can be more zealous than people in the faith from the start. But I don’t think that’s happened with us yet when it comes to UNC-Duke.
So whatever happens in The Game, the post-Game shouldn’t be that bad in our household … should it?
Opinion Editor Myron B. Pitts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3559.
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Myron B. Pitts: UNC-Duke is huge but our Fayetteville house is not divided