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NC-Duke: So what? I've had enough of this rivalry
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 2/19/2009 2:41 PM

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In the air

Remotely interesting: ESPN is releasing a DVD of the 2009 Rose Bowl game with a list price of $20. If at this point you can name who won - or even played in it - you might be one of the few people interested in buying it.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago completes its Black History Month series with a look back at the 1963 NCAA champion Loyola men's basketball team on "SportsNite" at 6:30 and 10 p.m. Monday.

End of the dial: David Kaplan does a one-on-one interview with Bobby Hull on a new edition of "Blackhawks Confidential" at noon Saturday on WGN 720-AM.

The cubscast.com Web site is back to a twice-weekly schedule of issuing new podcasts on Monday and Thursday for spring training as it closes in on its 500th episode. The podcasts are available free on the home page and Apple's iTunes.

The Duke-North Carolina rivalry is the men's basketball equivalent of Yankees-Red Sox - and I don't mean that as a compliment. Quite the opposite, actually.

NC-Duke is the acknowledged favorite of the Eastern sports elite, to the point where it's as if no other rivalry exists in men's college basketball.

In addition to the usual gushing on ESPN and the major broadcast networks - especially CBS as it gears up for the NCAA Tournament - HBO Sports piles on next week with a new hourlong documentary, "Battle for Tobacco Road: Duke vs. Carolina," debuting at 8 p.m. Monday on the premium-cable channel. It's very much in the tradition of its recent special on Michigan vs. Ohio State in college football.

Of course, that's not much of a rivalry anymore, and it looks as if it's going to be a Carolina sweep this year as well, as the Tar Heels already won at Duke in their home-and-home series, with the rematch at Chapel Hill in the regular-season finale March 8.

Anyway, like that earlier Michigan-Ohio State production, "Battle for Tobacco Road" gives the alumni at both schools the opportunity to talk a lot of trash. No surprise that Michael Jordan again establishes himself as one of the kings of the trash talkers.

"When we look at it, we always say Duke is a great college school, you know?" he acknowledges, before twisting the knife. "None of their guys come out and become great players in the pros, because they don't have that in their blood. So there was no love lost at all, and even to this day, that is still ingrained in all Carolina guys. There is no way you're going to like anything about Duke."

Fine, but by the time Mitch Kupchak talks about getting hazed at Carolina for wearing a Duke T-shirt at the "end of my laundry cycle," I've had enough. I mean, what's the big deal?

I don't want to hear about Duke's "Cameron Crazies" and all the wickedly clever things those egghead sports nerds come up with to shout. I've had enough of Coach K and Dean Smith and Roy Williams. I couldn't care less the schools are 10 miles apart.

Everything's squooshed together in the East. Yet no one talks about the Duke-Carolina rivalry in women's rugby, do they?

What, you think Illinois and Indiana didn't have a pretty good rivalry going when Lou Henson was calling Bob Knight "a bully," or more recently when Indiana stole Eric Gordon out from under Bruce Weber? You think Notre Dame and UCLA haven't sustained a good rivalry through good times and bad?

Yet no, it's only NC-Duke, like it's only Yankees and Red Sox when ESPN is talking great sports rivalries or Ken Burns is doing a PBS "Baseball" miniseries. It's like the Cubs and Cardinals never existed.

Well, at least we've still got Bears-Packers. Call me, HBO, when you finally get around to doing that rivalry.

While I'm on the subject of basketball, however, allow me to recommend the new Hyperion edition of "The Breaks of the Game," David Halberstam's account of the 1979-80 season with the Portland Trail Blazers. My old colleague Gary Rivlin once gave me a copy saying it was the best book on basketball ever written, and it still stands up to the ranking (even if the new edition misspells "Trailblazers" on the back cover). It's a better use of time than any thumb-sucking HBO Sports documentary on rivalries.

tcox@dailyherald.com