Duke basketball owns Tobacco Road as Tar Heels borrow Wolfpack motto

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Those joy-killer Duke basketball fans with the audacity to take the high road — hoping UNC improves — should leave the commentary to maturity-challenged Tobacco Road residents who live for times like this.

Ironically, an apt description of the good stuff running through this Duke basketball junkie’s veins comes from the first paragraph of UNC diehard Will Blythe’s 2006 best-seller — To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry — which has on the cover a photoshopped-into-ratface image of Mike Krzyzewski.

“I am a sick, sick man,” Blythe wrote. “Not only am I consumed by hatred, I am delighted by it. I have done some checking into the matter and have discovered that the world’s great religions and wisdom traditions tend to frown upon this.”

Right now, hypocritical folks from the dark side of Tobacco Road, as well as some so-called Duke basketball fanatics from other parts of the country, are frowning upon those of us who currently seek pleasure in the ongoing flood of UNC losses — now three in a row, each at home, and eight in all this season, matching the win total and thereby marking a worse 16-game start than that of any Duke basketball team across the past 37 years.

No worries, though, for I’m here to ensure the growing disaster receives the attention that us “sick” folks who get drunk on Tar Heel tears know it deserves.

As Blythe often alluded to in his book, even if you graduated from Duke, without growing up on or near Tobacco Road, you will never fully appreciate this distastefully sweet feeling (the tongue-in-cheek genuine hate is what makes the rivalry reign supreme over all others).

Therefore, this sicko writer — who attended public elementary school in the heart of “Southwest Chapel Hill” Charlotte before spending adolescence on the outskirts of “UNC and N.C. State are all that matter” Raleigh — has an insatiable appetite at the moment for UNC Twitter.

Yes, I find thoroughly delightful the abundance of Tar Heel tweets that now borrow what has been the sad motto of N.C. State basketball faithful since my childhood: “Wait until next year.” (To the handful of you outside of North Carolina who know or care that N.C. State even exists, the Wolfpack are sitting 11-5 overall and 2-3 in ACC play.)

The Twitter account of Ball Durham’s FanSided counterpart, Keeping It Heel, has been my primary party destination as of late for keeping it really entertaining. With the Heels’ denial stage in the books ever since mid-December, the acceptance/redirection phase evidently began last week:

Then came sorrow-filled nights:

Finally, a futile answer to the heartache:

Rest assured, no one is canceling anything, but feel free to stop tuning in as UNC’s Roy Williams continues to show respect for the program’s now-late Dean Smith by refusing to top his 879 career wins.

As for me, sure, I notice the 2020 recruiting class of Krzyzewski — you know, the legend who bests his rival peers’ mark by 268 wins and boasts the combined number of national titles of Smith and Williams — ranks ahead of Williams’ corresponding haul on the 247Sports 2020 Class Rankings; plus, I notice that a host of the Blue Devils’ regular contributors this season are likely to return.

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At the same time, why would I want to wait for anything other than what could lie ahead for a 15-1 Duke team riding a nine-game win streak that includes a 5-0 start with a 25.2 average margin of victory against conference foes?

Note: Should the season indeed conclude with a sixth One Shining Moment for the Blue Devils, the ultimate amusement would come from the defeated Tar Heel Nation undoubtedly downplaying the accomplishment by claiming Duke only seems to win it all in the nation’s down years while also pointing to a laughable Dean Dome banner from 1924 — 15 years before the first NCAA Tournament — that suggests the Heels own seven national titles.

During the first half of Duke’s 90-59 start-to-finish annihilation of forgotten Tobacco Road inhabitant Wake Forest (8-7, 1-4 ACC) in Durham on Saturday night, I had a most-comforting realization for a fan: there is not a single lineup Krzyzewski ever puts on the floor this season that I don’t now trust one million percent.

Beautiful Duke basketball. Unselfish. Deep. Relentless on defense. Widespread scoring options (10 players averaging at least 4.0 points, which would represent the most in any season under Coach K).

Vernon Carey Jr. is a candidate for national player of the year. Tre Jones is a candidate for the nation’s best point guard. Cassius Stanley is a candidate for the world’s best athlete. Matthew Hurt is a candidate for Duke basketball’s next great shooter.

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Defensive stalwart Jordan Goldwire should be a candidate for the ACC’s most improved player. And a candidate for the NCAA’s most effective bench consists of Javin DeLaurier, Jack White, Alex O’Connell, Joey Baker, and Wendell Moore (whenever he returns from a broken hand).

Nope, no need to wait for anything better here when what I’m seeing take shape — equally entertaining Duke basketball blowouts and UNC embarrassments with typical ho-hum results from N.C. State and Wake Forest — is a season that could go down as one of the most captivating yet.

Would lopsided victories by flying-high Blue Devils over eight-win Tar Heels on Feb. 8 (Dean Dome) and March 7 (Cameron Indoor Stadium) hurt the rivalry?

Hush such nonsense.

Knowing this dream-come-true probably won’t last forever, on my death bed, I’ll need such memories — and remembrances of UNC’s 2020 absence in late March — to draw upon and savor in order to fully prepare for the eternal joy that Tar Heel-free Duke Basketball Heaven has in store for me.

Yet I suppose all these hallelujah happenings this season wouldn’t feel so utterly glorious as an admittedly childish Dukie if I didn’t get to enjoy despondent Tar Heel faces every single day, wherever I wander, here along Duke-owned Tobacco Road (despite a relatively sparse population here of us truly tested Duke basketball fans).

As Blythe so eloquently explained, “To hate like this is to be happy forever.”

Amen to that.

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No need to “wait until next year” to stay tuned here at Ball Durham for more updates, analyses, opinions, and predictions regarding the 2019-20 Duke basketball season and the dumpster fire eight miles down the road.