There are times in the battle of rivals that it is more important to live to fight another day. What happened some 15 years ago was just that, a fight to live. NC State chose a path of basketball self-depravation after Peter Golenbock 's fabrication "Personal Fouls".
The mid 80's were a time when mere rumors of scandal would be enough to mark individuals and institutions with big red scarlet letters, as was the case for Jim Valvano and NC State. Does anyone who has made it to the millennium believe that, in today's atmosphere, a player selling his tennis shoes would result in the type of media frenzy that was so prevalent in the post-Watergate era of the 80s? After seeing the recent redefining of what "is" is, I think not.
The great NC State retreat into what I call the "Dark Ages" has caused the equality of the rivalry to be suspended, but the desire on NC State's part has never wavered. I have watched the media build up the Duke * UNC-CH match-up to the proportions of Army * Navy and Frazier * Ali. I suppose it is only natural for the media to fill the void created by NC State. However, I being one to remember bygones, know that this same media helped to create the void in the first place. So I do not buy into their proclamations.
At times, Chapel Hill hints at their true rival, although they will not openly admit to as much. The undercurrent of NC State dislike by UNC-CH was spoken by Brendon Haywood in a pregame interview last year. He pointed to Duke and spoke of admiration and friendship while speaking of dislike and wagging a finger at NC State.
No rival admires his opponent much less befriend them. So, do not fall for what the media tells you. Duke * UNC-CH is not "the rivalry" in all of basketball. Were these people proclaiming this in the 60's, 70's and early 80's? No way. It was a good tobacco road clash but it certainly was not the game to end all games. Indeed they write for the moment instead of writing about the legacy that is State * Carolina.
Brendon and all those who disbelieve, there is no admiration for Carolina in Raleigh. There certainly is no desire to befriend our enemies that dwell in the Zoo that is known as Chapel Hill. "Hate" may be too strong a word for 363 days a year, but for 2 days in the dead of Winter, hate fits just fine as does the word despise.
It may be true that UNC-CH had become bored with what was NC State basketball during the "Dark Ages". But just like Ali against Frazier, NC State has played a mean game of rope a dope. For the last 10 years the Pack has taken a pounding while they rebuilt what was unceremoniously dismantled by those who refused to fight for what was right. UNC-CH was unchallenged by NC State. Somehow, it all seemed too easy for the boys in blue. They let their guard down, aiming for something that never was meant to be, a Duke * UNC-CH blood feud. Instead of focusing on their true enemy, they befriended the crowd from Durham, while NC State made their move ever so patiently. Now, Carolina has to face the reality that they have so willingly ignored. They must admit and face their true rival.
Let the word be said, the Pack is Back! No longer will the Pack take one while leaning against the ropes. Let it be known to Carolina that if they desire to become number 1 again they must first beat NC State, a task far more difficult now than in the recent past. They will find no love in Raleigh, as they found no love from some 5000 that took over the Dean Dome on January 23, 2002. What they will find once again are 3000 students camping out to see the repeat beating that UNC-CH soon will take. They will witness the ESA, as envisioned by the late great Jim Valvano, filled with Tarheel haters screaming to defeat the arch enemy of the Pack. The Tarheels need to focus before they come, realizing that what they and others have presumed to be dead, is alive with a fierce resolve.
No longer can NC State be taken for granted. No longer will NC State be a warm-up game for Duke. No longer will people misinterpret a suspension of equality as a death of a rivalry. Sunday, NC State will lace up and hit the hardwood floor. The Wolfpack is sure to cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war. They will continue their reckoning of the last 10 years. They will show themselves to be the rivals the Tarheels have forgotten and one that should never again be ignored.