Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday 02/11 A.M. Quickie:
UNC-Duke, A-Rod, NBA All-Stars, Dog Show

Let me clarify the lead of today's SN column: I am not saying that UNC-Duke isn't a great rivalry. It is, for sure, the best rivalry in college basketball.

It is also, however, entirely overrated. Because there is no downside for the game's loser. Ever. Not in the regular season. Not in the ACC Tournament. (If they met in the NCAA Tournament? Absolutely. Doesn't happen.) Both teams stroll into the NCAA Tournament field. (The ACC championship, either regular-season or tournament? Honestly: Who remembers those?)

Michigan-Ohio State. Lakers-Celtics. Yankees-Red Sox. These "best" rivalries are enhanced by actual, live-or-die stakes between the two teams: A conference (or national) championship. NBA title. AL pennant.

Again: UNC-Duke is great pageantry and great fun. As far as regular-season rivalries go in sports, it's entirely entertaining. If they ever met in the Final Four, it would be epic. But they don't do that. And so it's hard to call Duke-UNC the "best" rivalry when it's all sizzle, no steak.

Or no stakes.

UPDATE: I'm nothing if not flexible in the face of an interesting counter-argument. The idea that the Duke-UNC winner *could* get the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, triggering a couple of rounds of games that don't take the team too far from home? That counts. But it's not like UNC or Duke -- if they lost this game (as opposed to the other reg-season game as opposed to their inevitable meeting in the ACC Tourney) -- would have that much of a more difficult time in the NCAA Tournament. I think both coaches might even be offended at the idea that home-region advantage is so big that if they didn't get home-region advantage, their team would have a tough time with it. (Based on the last few years, both will choke anyway.)

More you'll find in the column:

*Derek Jeter isn't acting like a captain.
*The BBWAA needs...Jose Canseco.
*Damn you, Jodie Meeks.
*Marquette exposed, as expected.
*JR Smith? What happened to Joe Alexander?
*Mo Williams, All-Star: Stop griping now, Cavs fans.
*UFL: Letting fans vote on Vick is genius.

And, finally...

*Best. Westminster Dog Show Winner. Ever.

Complete column here. More later.

Oh, and I guess Brett Favre is retiring. Whatever.

-- D.S.


Unknown said...

Once again, Shanoff shows his hate of everything UNC, and it seems to be spreading to the rest of the ACC. The stakes aren't high? The ACC regular season winner could get a #1 seed and a local 1st/2nd round in the Tournament. That has meant early Tournament success many times over the years.

Sean said...

I agree completely with Mark.


How 'bout bragging right within driving distance of each other?!?! There's nothing worse than hearing from your biggest rival that they beat you!! There's alot to be said for that!

Brett said...

The ACC Tournament means nothing!?!?

Tell that to actual fans of basketball teams in the ACC conference not just people like you who tune in sporadically until February and March and are an SEC fan.

Unknown said...

Rivalries don't need stakes. Maybe the 2 should give a golden bucket or a painted axe to the winner? It's for the kids & alumni.

Think about if Northwestern beat some other team in Illinois or Indiana (or wherever the rest of the Big 10 is)...

The inherent rights (bragging / hatred / reason to celebrate responsibly) involved with a win are enough.

In too many college/pro sports, it is proven time and time again that regular season games do not matter.

But yes, it is all about the tournament. And these two schools have something like 5 in the past 20 years. Which is not bad for a 10-mile span of land.


Unknown said...


Living in Chicago, New York, Boston, and/or Florida can not teach you about UNC-Duke.

Sure, you have a point about meaningless regular season games (just like the NBA, MLB - and judging by the last few playoffs - NFL).

But if you're a college kid or an alumnus, rivalries are the fuel that feeds the fandom (ie, bragging rights, hatred, reason to celebrate responsibly).

Given that these two schools (8 miles apart in sleepy North Carolina) have 5 National Titles in the past 20 years seems to indicate that this might be worth watching at a national level.

If Northwestern had a real rival; or, if you had adopted Florida at some point before adulthood - you might have a bit more sympathy to the significance of it all.

But you make a fair point.

Thx. Timmy no Sao Paolo.