Triangle College Sports Fanatics Gearing Up
Story and Photos By Dave Droschak
It’s the fall, so sports fanatics from local Triangle schools Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State will agree on practically nothing, fire barbs at each other on a daily basis, and take special pride in “dressing the part.”
However, there is one item that sparks universal agreement between fans of schools that share turf within a 25-mile radius.
“Nowhere else in this country, and I would say the world, are there three top-tier institutions like State, Duke and Carolina so close to each other, and then you throw in the rivalries of the sports programs and it’s amazing,” said veterinarian Michael Peace, who went to grad school at Duke and also earned two degrees from NC State.
Peace is just one of a legion of loyal followers of each school that take “rooting” to a different level each football and basketball season.
The soft-spoken and normally mild-mannered Peace can be seen at most Duke sporting events, but he’s always front-and-center during basketball season, screaming at the top of his lungs at opposing players and referees in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
He has even been called to the carpet by his mother for his on-court antics.
“I stand on the floor so you can see me clearly many, many times throughout the game. Apparently all of my friends and family are now lip readers,” Peace said. “I’ve had my mom tell me not to use as many four-letter words, and some people at Duke say it doesn’t look good, so I’ve had to tone it down.”
“Toning it down” is all relative with many of these fanatics, many of whom take as much or more pleasure in the opposition losing than in their team winning.
“The best one was when someone from UNC decided to print red hats and put their logo on them,” said Chris Hathcock, a mountain of a man who has whipped Wolfpack students into a frenzy for years as the school’s Mic Man.
UNC super-fan Matt Littlejohn actually has one of those red hats, and uses it to his advantage in the “war of the wardrobes” between the rivals.
“I have a lot of friends who went to NC State so when I came across this red wool hat I lit up and said, ‘I’ve got to have this, it’s perfect medicine for my State guys,”’ Littlejohn said. “Ever since then I pull it out for the State games and wear it when appropriate.”
The following is a look at three of the Triangle’s Super Fans.
Why Duke: I was born at Duke Hospital and growing up I always came to Duke for doctor appointments. And my older brother was a Duke fan, so I grew up very much with this superior Duke mentality.
All-Time Favorite Duke Player: All of them. I really can’t pick one.
Game-Day Ritual: Pick out pre-game warm-up wardrobe and then pick out separate game outfit. ACC season is always a jersey. I don’t like wearing items other people wear, so over the years I’ve collected quite a bit of Duke apparel. I usually can pull out a combination that no one has ever seen before, so that’s always fun.
Of Note: Black Labrador dog sports Duke bandana around his neck.
Hate NC State or UNC More: I definitely hate UNC more. When they win something, UNC fans think it is the grandest thing that has ever happened. UNC wins the national championship and then all of a sudden no one else has ever won one, and no one else is capable of winning one. They are just so smug, and it makes them easy to hate.
This One Even Makes Me Laugh: God made the sky Carolina blue. Depending on the weather, sometimes the sky looks a lot more Duke blue.
Why UNC: When I was a kid the Carolina blue color attracted me, and the state of North Carolina logo on the basketball floor.
All-Time Favorite UNC player: Julius Peppers
Game-Day Ritual: Wife Kristy waits patiently until outfit is selected, then it’s off to Tar Heel Victory Walk, Tar Heel Town, Franklin Street, tailgating and then “make sure we’re in our seats when they come running out of the tunnel.”
Of Note: Nine-year-old son was named Cameron after Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium after an underdog UNC team upset the Blue Devils. “Tyler Hansbrough was a freshman that year and he played great, it was set in stone that day that Cameron was going to be the name of our son.”
Hate Duke or NC State more: In our house we don’t like to say hate, but I would say we strongly dislike the Pack. It has gotten stronger with State over the past six to seven years because of the media coverage surrounding our academic scandal, with their fan base wanting to sell a different narrative.
This One Even Makes Me Laugh: A good friend of mine who is a hard-core State guy has a license plate tag that says UNCChe@T. I have to give it to him, that’s great creativity. That’s the one that makes me cackle.
Why NC State: My dad and uncle went to State so when I realized I wanted engineering, State was the place.
All-Time Favorite NC State Player: I guess I’m a bit unusual, but I just don’t have favorite players; it’s more about the teams for me.
Game-Day Ritual: Get up early no matter what time the game starts and get out for the tailgating so I can get a good parking spot. Participate in the Walk of Champions and as soon as the gates open up go in and watch warm-ups. I don’t leave until everybody walks out. My mom raised me to never leave a game early.
Of Note: Known by Pack fans for wearing a wolf head and red-striped bib overalls.
Hate UNC or Duke More: I hate UNC more. For Duke, there are just not enough alumni around here. They all go back to New Jersey. Growing up in Gastonia it’s predominately UNC, so I was one of a few State fans, and they always tried to rag on me. I just turned it into ‘I don’t like you.’ And the funny part is, most of them had to enroll at NC State because they wanted to major in engineering or agriculture.”
This One Even Makes Me Laugh: UNC camouflage bumper stickers. They do realize that’s what they make fun of, like us on tractors? They don’t realize they are the butt of the joke.