Friday, July 11, 2008


HBO has announced the production of an hour-long documentary about the rivalry between Duke and North Carolina, similar to the documentary about Michigan and Ohio State it produced in Nov. 2007. The documentary will likely air in March to coincide with the NCAA Tournament.

According to Sports Illustrated, the tentative title is “Duke vs. North Carolina.” This, of course, immediately sets off wails of protest from Chapel Hill where they want to know why the hell it isn’t being called “North Carolina vs. Duke.”

Hmmm…good question.

Either way, the rivalry is certainly worth a closer look by a cable company with a rep for good sports news and documentaries.

"Jim Lampley (a UNC graduate) has been telling me about the rivalry for 20 years or so," says HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg. "I was also aware of the subculture of both universities, and even though UNC was the state school, they think of themselves as the dignified force in the rivalry. They think Duke is a bunch of animals even though Duke is supposed to be the Ivy League of the South. That never meshed right with me and it was interesting. Plus, you had all these legends coming out of these two schools, the [Michael] Jordan's, the [Christian] Laettner's and the [Mike] Krzyzewski's and [Dean] Smith's. Unbelievable iconic names have floated through both places and it makes for a great documentary."

Here’s the scoop from Ben Cohen of the Duke Chronicle:

“Hopefully by the end of the year, we will have completed a film that not only chronicles the great rivalry on the court and the battles for the ACC and national championships, but give folks the idea of the psyche and culture and passion that exists around the importance of what this game means to people in your neck of the woods, which is pretty unique,” said George Roy, the film’s director and producer.

Roy, who also directed the Michigan-Ohio St. documentary called “The Rivalry” and has extensive experience in sports film, began shooting for this film last year and was in Cameron Indoor Stadium for North Carolina’s 78-68 win over Duke last year. He plans to shoot a rivalry game in the Dean E. Smith Center this year, and already has plenty of footage from the early 90s.

Roy and his crew have interviewed some of the most-recognized characters in the rivalry–”everyone from Vic Bubas through J.J. Redick,” he says–but he does not the want the film to be a simple history of the Tobacco Road rivals.

“This is a real story,” Roy said. “A lot of games, the more memorable ones, will act as templates because people remember specific games for specific reasons…. Certain games are significant because they supersede the actual game. Characters, personas, perceptions of Duke and Carolina fans, Duke vs. Carolina academically… the whole thing gets thrown into the mix and gets stirred around and hopefully creates a story that’s a dramatic story more than a beginning-to-end.”

Roy was particularly affected by the impact of the proximity of the two schools. Ann Arbor, Mich. and Columbus, Ohio are about 200 miles apart, nothing like the eight miles that separate Duke and UNC. Michigan and Ohio State athletes don’t run into each other at the barbershop, or play in the same pickup games, or eat at the same Hibachi restaurants.

“Like anyone who goes into Cameron for the first time for a Duke-Carolina game, you’re immediately transported to a different place when the game starts,” said Roy, who was also fascinated by the Cameron Crazies. “I had been to a Duke home game, but it was my first Duke-Carolina game. I’ve been to a lot of sporting events–including Michigan-Ohio St. at the Horseshoe and the Big House–and there’s nothing that can even begin to compare to that experience.

“When people look at the list that sports fans have to do before they die, I clearly would agree that that would be one that people should try to experience, because it’s almost indescribable.”
Almost. Because that’s exactly what the documentary will try to do: describe the indescribable.

Not everyone is enthralled with the idea. John Clay a columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader which closely follows University of Kentucky basketball, had this to say: “ HBO will air a one-hour documentary on the North Carolina-Duke basketball rivalry in February. Suggested title: “Hoop Snobs on Tobacco Road.”
And that was all he had to say…

(Grant Halverson/Getty Images and Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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