This week, UNC guard Joel Berry gave NC State some material to hang up in the locker room for motivation.
“I don’t necessarily treat that as a rivalry,” said Berry of the Wolfpack. “When you talk about a rivalry, you always talk about Duke-North Carolina. That’s the biggest one. I love being a part of the Duke-Carolina rivalry, but NC State, I just don’t consider that being a rivalry — we just don’t like them. But it’s not a rivalry like Duke and North Carolina.” (NBC)
Do I expect Berry, or any recent UNC basketball player to look at NC State in the same way they look at Duke?
Of course not.
Duke is less than 10 miles down the road, and the series has been one of the nations most epic rivalries in all of college basketball.
The series between the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils has been much more competitive than the series between UNC and NC State. There is no denying that.
Duke and UNC also have had much more at stake when they have faced one another for decades now, because nearly every time they have faced each other, ACC Championship implications are on the line. They have been two of the best programs in the country. So when you hate each other, you’re right down the road from one another, and a lot is on the line, it makes perfect sense for the rivalry to be bubbling.
But for Berry to act like NC State vs. UNC isn’t a rivalry simply reveals a case of historical ignorance.
It’s clear that Berry’s head coach Roy Williams views the matchup against NC State much differently than him. Williams famously said that he’d rather “beat State than eat.”
Williams didn’t like N.C. State before he got to Chapel Hill. His mentor, and high school coach, Buddy Baldwin was a big Carolina fan. Williams learned the game and a distaste for Wolfpack red from Baldwin and then played for the UNC freshmen team in 1968-69 season.
“It was my freshman year here that I thought this rivalry is unbelievable,” Williams said. “To me, they were the biggest rival, it wasn’t Duke. But it was because my buddies would agitate me all the time.”
“What I try to do is, every game is important, but there are some games that you get more fired up for,” Williams said. “I get pretty fired up for this one.” (N&O)
I also guess Berry and I have different working definitions of what a rivalry is. He clearly stated that they don’t like NC State, but don’t consider them a rival.
There are many reasons why as an NC State fan I consider UNC our rival, but at it’s core is the fact I don’t like them.
The teams that I despise are my rivals.
UNC isn’t our rival because I think that the series record is anywhere close to even, because it’s not. They are our rival because we don’t like them…at all…not one bit. We don’t like their players. We don’t like their fans. We don’t like their university.
NC State is a blue collar school, and UNC is the antithesis of that.
Do I dream of a day when UNC is forced to take the rivalry with NC State more seriously because we pose a continual threat to them?
But until then, if Joel Berry continues to suffer from historical amnesia and struggle with defining a ‘rival’ accurately, so be it. I’m content that he and his teammates don’t like us.
We don’t want them to like us, because we despise them, because that’s what a rivalry is all about.