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Friday Food for Thought: Rivalry edition.

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What football opponent do you love to hate?

North Carolina Tar Heels v Duke Blue Devils Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Welcome to Friday Food For Thought, the weekend conversation starter. Each week, this article presents a topic for debate. Whether in the comments section, on the golf course, or around the weekend game table, the goal is to provide enough background that either side could be a winner. In order to facilitate the discourse, a suggested beverage pairing is also included. So speak up, mix it up, and drink up.

Let me begin by sending a big shout out to guest poster Al Hood. Al’s article last week provided a nice diversion from the exhaustion that accompanies a Disney trip. For the record, I weigh in on the side of a phased renovation of the Smith Center to occur over the course of two seasons with pre-conference games played off-site.

This week, I have been catching up on an excellent series of articles by Chad Floyd previewing the 2018 football opponents. This got me thinking about which game was the most exciting on the schedule. Ask me what basketball game I am most looking forward to and the answer is simple; Duke at home. In football, however, there is more to it.

The focal point of any schedule is always the rivalry game. Most football rivalries play for a trophy and North Carolina – Duke is no different. The problem is that Duke does not always feel like a true gridiron rival. They have certainly been a formidable opponent, but are they the single best football rivalry?

1. Point

Duke is always the rivalry. Basketball tends to be a point of national focus because the teams are generally both very good and the series is remarkably even. Any sporting opponent that has the gothic print on their jersey or uniform is by definition a rival. Rivalries are not sport-dependent; they are the reflection of a sincere competitive dislike of the opponent. They are the point where one is thrilled to see their team win and equally excited that the opponent lost. Rivalry games are a fan’s two-for-one.

As stated in the introduction, rivalry football games are played for trophies that have names. These are games that occur late in the season and offer the participants an opportunity to either salvage a disappointing campaign or put an exclamation mark on a successful season.

Since the Victory Bell’s first appearance in 1948, the winning school has prominently displayed it as a prize of the highest order. Simply put, the prize is incredibly important and so is the game.

2. Counterpoint

The media does not get to determine which opponents a fan base likes or dislikes. Neither do the schedulers. Relying on a decision from 70 years ago that a game was the most important on the schedule would be like teeing it up this weekend with persimmon clubs. I plan to use get out of prison technology instead.

When I was growing up, the Heels’ chief football rival was the Virginia Cavaliers. Known as “The South’s Oldest Rivalry”, this year will be the 123rd game in the series. The schools have only avoided each other a handful times since 1900.

Charlottesville was also the closest ACC town to where I was born and raised so my chances to see the Heels frequently occurred in Cavalier territory. Unfortunately, that time in history coincided with the 14 consecutive losses at Scott Stadium.

The frustration from that era, however, has continued to boil. It is not that I root against Virginia in all of their games, but there is a special place in my heart for Carolina wins against the Hoos. Plus, I get to use my favorite post-game quote that “all the Hoos down in Hooville all cried boo hoo hoo.”

I am also reserving judgment here for all those fans that find NC State to be the true football rival. I agree that defeating State brings with it an added bonus that does not exist for Duke or Virginia. For the Blue Devils, a football loss to North Carolina is not devastating for the entire calendar year because a promising basketball season is just around the corner. The same is true for Virginia. The Wolfpack’s basketball equivalent program, however, is no beacon of hope.

Drink Pairing

In need of encouragement to debate – It is no secret that I am a bourbon drinker but sometimes the taste buds need a change. Following in my uncle’s footsteps, who was a huge Carolina fan, I occasionally turn to the Greyhound for refreshment. Combine one part vodka with two parts grapefruit juice. A little sugar or simple syrup can be used but the tart flavor is what makes it so good. Drink over plentiful ice on a summer evening.

Can debate without assistance In Orlando last week, the family rediscovered the recuperative powers of Capri Sun. The pouches store easily in a backpack for a day of trekking all around in the heat. They stay fairly cold, are tasty to drink, and provide a quick sugar rush that earns an additional two hours of character greetings.