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Duke vs North Carolina

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When I think of the term ‘die hard’, I don’t picture Bruce Willis in a bloodied vest, I picture myself as an undergraduate at Duke University in 1990, camping out for basketball games.

I was such a huge fan of Duke’s basketball team that I would queue overnight to get into a big game; although I had serious competition whenever the University Of North Carolina visited [pictured above in March 2011]. That’s the hottest ticket there is.

Inside the stadium, there’s a lower bowl filled with undergrads, all smart and obnoxious, which makes for a raucous and rowdy atmosphere. No teams like to visit us — we don’t chant normal insults, we chant sarcastically. During one match against UNC, our opponents brought on a substitute named King Rice, who’d later became a big star but wasn’t at this point. As he was about to enter the play, I stood up and mockingly sang, “Oh. No. Not. Rice,” repeatedly, and 8,000 people joined in. I’m proud to lay claim to that chant, except it backfired the following year when he scored countless points against us, and they beat us.

Another thing we did was to wait for a UNC player to get the ball and then whisper until the whole stadium went quiet — then, as soon as the ball was released from his fingertips, we’d erupt into an extremely loud scream. Being that obnoxious and funny was beautiful, and in many ways it actually inspired my comedy career.

The two universities are located a mere eight miles apart in North Carolina, a region caked in basketball culture, so it was always going to be a grudge match. It also didn’t help that UNC had a long-held tradition of basketball success, whereas Duke had always struggled for silverware until Mike Krzyzewski took over as coach in 1980 and made us the best team in the country. He is still in charge today, and is affectionately known as ‘Coach K’.

I’ve got to get something off my chest. As a kid, I’d ask my dad to line my walls with UNC wallpaper, so never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d become a fan of Duke when I attended the college at 18. I used to feel guilty — I don’t any more.

In fact, the older I get, the more I appreciate the respect between the two teams, and less the animosity. People worldwide enjoy the theatre of sport because they want to root for the good guys and boo the bad guys, but if you become so consumed by another team that you look forward to the games, that’s not hate, that’s affection.

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