Chances are if you grew up in North Carolina, you’ve either said it to your friend who rooted for NC State, or you heard it. Yet, when Drake Maye said this:
#UNC QB Drake Maye: “I didn’t want to miss out on the home state… growing up in Carolina, you’re gonna be a Carolina fan. Some people may say State, but really people who go to State just can’t get into Carolina…” pic.twitter.com/z7zVHvFEbI— Ross Martin (@RossMartin_IC) September 20, 2022
Woo boy, you would have thought Maye just insulted their Mama personally.
First, some context here: Drake Maye is the son of UNC graduate Mark Maye, and the brother of UNC legend Luke Maye. If you root for UNC you no doubt knew this, but it’s worth repeating. Drake grew up in North Carolina, where if you decide you are going to care about sports, you have to pick a side as soon as possible — even in this age where Duke has become known more nationally as UNC’s rival, predominantly in this state you have to choose either State or Carolina.
I can guarantee you that what Drake said wasn’t anywhere near as sordid as what NC State students, fans, and alums say out loud to the face of UNC students, fans, and alums every day. It’s absolutely not any worse than what the faceless folks on the Internet post about Carolina. The hate that the campus in Raleigh has for UNC is visceral, to the point that they still hold it up as a shining example that they helped extend the academic investigation for years, and still take it personally that nothing short of the entire campus burning to the ground happened as a result of it. There’s real hate there, and considering Drake’s age, there’s a pretty decent chance that his pre-teen and teenage years were spent in the heart of that scandal when the venom was really flying.
Ultimately it’s a pretty benign thing to say about a rival school (yes, State fan, go ahead and point, highlight, clip and post this sentence where you are called a rival). You want to hear some folks degrade the other state school? Just ask a Texas or A&M alum about the other one...assuming the A&M alum has recovered from their loss to App State.
That’s what made the apology a couple hours later infuriating:
I made a remark today about NC State, and I want to apologize. I was answering a question about playing in-state and said something I shouldn’t have. I said it as a joke but it was inappropriate. I feel bad and need to do a better job representing our program and this University.— Drake Maye (@DrakeMaye2) September 21, 2022
After a few folks on Twitter and the message boards pulled the soundbite and decided to blow up how mad they were at UNC, Mack Brown spoke with Drake following his comments:
Mack Brown says QB Drake Maye was trying to be funny w/ quip about NC State. "He was absolutely cutting up," Brown said, but said he reminded his QB that you should "always be very respectful of everybody, especially your neighbors." Longer answer to come.https://t.co/apO2EnCBqR— Brian Murphy (@murphsturph) September 21, 2022
Part of what makes college sports fun is this generalized hate, and the fact that the quarterback for one of the schools fully understands how big a game is against the Wolfpack is makes him more endearing, not less. In a weird way, State fans love it too because now, they have an actual guy to hate! “Hey, he thinks he needs to insult us, we’re a big deal to him, yeah, now I can actually hate a player instead of of just the school.” It’s this sort of stuff that adds fun to these games when they happen. The genie is already out of the bottle, trying to walk back the statement just seems silly now, especially when we know it’s not how he really feels.
It’s not like Maye has been alone in hurling shots at the other school this season. NC State coach Dave Doeren hasn’t been shy about his disdain for UNC, and he’s put in a few digs this year about how Carolina failed to meet the preseason hype last year as something his team needs to look out for. As a Carolina fan, I roll my eyes but...it’s part of the gig, isn’t it? How is what Maye said any different than the dig Doeren took in ‘15 after their win by calling them a “hand in the dirt” school, etc etc?
It’s reactions like this and the quick retractions that is slowly taking all the fun out of college sports. There’s obviously a line you shouldn’t cross, but this? One school saying “my school has smart people while yours doesn’t,” and the other saying “yeah well our school actually has people who work for a living,” is just what kids do. Seriously, this is elementary-school level fan insults, and one that’s perfectly fun to enjoy as it gives red meat for both sides to embrace.
Apology or not, Maye will likely get asked about this a few times before the NC State game, and then the week of the game will get asked about it...a lot. My hope is that he leans into it, and starts to just embrace the full Roy Williams, who made it well known how much he hated “that team in red.” Maybe the retired coach can council the young Maye on how to articulate that rivalry in a way that both keeps the juice but doesn’t worry someone that he may have said something just a little too mean.
God knows everyone that roots for State respects the academic prowess of anyone who goes to Carolina.