Perhaps the Gameday crew will mention it in passing Saturday morning. Otherwise, I expect the most coverage The Biggest Game of the Year will garner nationally will be when its score scrolls across the bottom of other games. After all, it’s just a little backyard rivalry that will certainly never matter like the Red Sox-Yankees or Ohio State-Michigan, and it could never possibly register on the scale of Colts-Patriots.
C’mon, let’s be honest: it doesn’t even matter to the ACC race. The undeniable fact is that an overwhelming majority of Americans won’t know this game is even being played and wouldn’t care if they did.
But that’s fine; I understand completely.
Because the truth is, I couldn’t give a rat’s hindquarters what the overwhelming majority of Americans think about this game, and I won’t waste my time arguing its merits as an intense, important rivalry because I couldn’t care less to whom else it’s important.
See, for those of us who were born in little places called Moravian Falls or grew up in Iron Station or Elm City, and for those of us that have lived in Asheville or Wilmington or anywhere in between, and for those of us that draw battle lines depending upon whether real barbeque is Lexington-style or Eastern-style – just so we’re clear: I’m a born and bred Westerner but I can assure you when The Great Pork War breaks out I’m siding with Wilber’s because Eastern-style is the only true pig fit for pickin’ – and especially for those of that have had our classes in Mann or Riddick Hall interrupted by the rumbling by of a passing train, we know precisely what this game means.
It’s so much bigger than any other game ESPN could possibly shove down our throats any given Saturday. Sure, in a few weeks I’ll watch Ohio State play Michigan and Auburn play Alabama, because I’m a fan of college football (particularly SEC football) and I enjoy watching good games. But I have no vestment in which of those teams wins, because I’m a State fan, which invariably means I hate Carolina.
Let me elaborate: I despise Carolina with every last ounce of passion I can muster; actually, I hate the whole principle of Carolina. In fact, it’s probably sinful how much I wholly detest them.
But without Carolina to hate, what’s the point? At the most basic level, that’s really what it’s all about to a State fan, right?
Every hero requires a villain and every rivalry must be fueled off some common ground, so no matter how much we might loathe them, we can’t deny they’re a part of our lives. We’ve sat at the Thanksgiving dinner table with them, in the pew beside them, in the office next to them. We’ve developed lifelong friendships with them and even been in their weddings. And for every one of us that has introduced a friend and quickly annotated it with “He’s a Carolina fan – but he’s still an ok guy,” we’ll be battling Saturday for the coveted opportunity to make that post-game gloating phone call; most likely we’ll get their voicemail, which is actually all that much sweeter, because it’s like an extra turn of the dagger.
And that really is what it’s all about, right? We all know it’s much more fun to make that call than it is to receive it; it’s an unadulterated, blissful moment. And until you’ve either made that call or suffered through it, how can you ever truly understand what this game means?
So ESPN can have Ohio State-Michigan – I could care less who wins that game.
Because I’m a State fan and it really is this simple: Go to hell Carolina!