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Jenkins: A Blue Devil fan sees red over postponed game

jjenkins@newsobserver.comFebruary 19, 2014 

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UNC head basketball coach Roy Williams, in blue basketball shorts at left, came outside in the snowstorm Wednesday to greet UNC students in line outside of the Smith Center for good seats for that night's UNC-Duke game. Coach Williams arranged for the first 300 or so UNC students in line to move over inside the Koury Natorium for warmth as they waited for the seats to open a few hours later. The strong snow and ice storm, however, caused the game to be postponed to another day.

HARRY LYNCH — hlynch@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

News item: An irate Duke fan, feeling cheated of the rivalry of rivalries when last week’s Carolina-Duke game was called, late, because of snow and ice, has taken a potentially revolutionary step. As he cannot attend tonight’s makeup game, he’s billing Duke for his trouble.

Included in his invoice is a $400 charge for mental anguish. But the money is not the point. We who are alums of Carolina hear reliably that $400 is a mere average tip in the Duke dining hall.

Rather, this may set a precedent with historic implications not just for this rivalry but for college sports in general and for all sorts of university issues.

I, for example, grew up the son and grandson of Wake Forest graduates and was raised on the Deacons in the 1960s and 1970s. Game after game, season after season, I thought surely, my granddaddy being a Baptist minister, that Divine intervention would lead us to glory. Alas, even after we took the good-faith step of getting season tickets, defeat was our shadow. A mere child I was, his heart broken.

My father explained we needed to be philosophical, that we had a great school of which to be proud. Then we went for ice cream.

Following my good Duke friend’s lead, I am billing the university for $125,000, roughly $25 per loss, plus the cost of the ice cream, which was like Valium for a kid.

It’s also possible that this Duke fellow is opening the way for alums to sue for other promises not kept, those far off the playing field. I took a course in marriage and family, but am not married. Chapel Hill will pay $250,000. And I once considered film study, but have never starred opposite Jennifer Aniston in anything. I understand she may file separately.

I took every sociology course they had in Chapel Hill, expecting the full-boat indoctrination into liberal Democratic philosophies, but have voted Republican more than once. The university clearly failed me; the mid six-figures seems reasonable. (I was not responsible for George W. Bush, however.)

A friend from N.C. State majored in aerospace engineering, but may sue the university because he has never been to the moon. Likewise, a theater alum from UNC Greensboro has never had a play produced on Broadway. It’s going to be big money.

We come not to make fun of this Duke fan. Indeed, he’s got a right to make his point, and The Game should have been called much earlier than it was. He and others were unnecessarily inconvenienced.

And he’s hardly alone in his, shall we say, strong feelings about the importance of this rivalry.

Consider, for example, the remarks of the late Charles Kuralt, beloved of CBS, on the occasion of the university’s 200th anniversary celebration. Right there in front of Bill Clinton, the president of the United States, Kuralt, a UNC man, reckoned that he spoke for all those who couldn’t afford to go to Duke, and wouldn’t have even if they could.

I asked him some time afterwards if, considering that it was the president and that Duke people were present, he perhaps regretted saying that. In that sonorous voice, he smiled and said, “No.”

He carried his feelings about Duke to the end, and the late Hugh Morton, Grandfather Mountain’s owner and an iconic Tar Heel in his own right, even referenced Kuralt’s feelings in a eulogy, when he noted, and this is a paraphrase, “Charles didn’t care much for the school up the road.”

I have to think that Kuralt and Morton would be greatly amused, then, by my good Duke friend. They understood that Carolina-Duke is serious business. Special cheers are created; rams are stolen and painted. Grown people shout at one another and gloat and yell insulting things at Coach K and Ol’ Roy.

The Duke man, then, is rightly underlining the seriousness of the situation for university officials, not to mention meteorologists.

He has bravely shown us the way, and we stand with him and hope others will do the same. In fact, some UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke fans might demonstrate their support for his righteous anger by not attending tonight’s game. Right on, brothers and sisters!

And if you have a couple on the lower level...

Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at jjenkins@newsobserver.com

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