Victory or Defeat? – The Rivalry Question of the Week

In my younger days I was much more emotional about Duke basketball victories and defeats. As I’ve grown and matured I realized that whether Duke wins or loses doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.  Regardless of how many times Duke University basketball players put the orange ball through the orange hoop the world continues on just as usual.  I watch sports for the entertainment they offer.

I enjoy watching athletes running fast, jumping high and using skills I could never dream of to put the orange ball through the orange hoop.  I am impressed by these sorts of people.  Furthermore I cannot say that I can distance myself 100% emotionally from games.  There are times when I’m caught up in a fervor and I find myself sweating through a nail biting victory or defeat.  As Duke crumbled against Arizona this year melancholic feelings flooded my entire being.  When Brian Zoubek intentionally missed the free throw against Butler and Gordon Hayward barely missed the buzzer beater I went through an emotional roller coaster.  These memories remind me of my youth when I was extremely affected by Duke’s victories and defeats.

It wasn’t just the win or loss that dictated my emotional mood, it was the others around me who reveled with me in celebration or brutally heckled me in defeat.  I grew to dread going to school whenever Duke lost and beamed with joy whenever Carolina lost.  Kids are brutal assholes, and they will taunt the shit out of you whenever your team loses.  It seems that I found myself happier after Carolina lost compared to a Duke victory.  Duke victories were a relief.  I wouldn’t have to deal with the heckling from copious amounts of Carolina fans. Whenever Carolina lost I would have my vengeance.  I would turn into a snotty little jerk and throw it in UNC fans’ faces.  This brutal behavior continued through high school but I finally grew out of it during college.  If Duke/UNC loses my behavior continues mostly unaffected.  I will still throw little jabs at my UNC friends and they’ll lightly poke at me if Duke loses, but nothing extreme.  It’s much better this way.

If I ever feel the need for some nostalgic emotional damage I’m sure to visit the Duke/UNC message boards after a particularly brutal victory or defeat.  During UNC’s disaster season I had a wonderful time fulfilling my childish notions of schadenfreude.  I was giggling like a schoolgirl as I read post after post of “loyal” UNC fans bemoaning Roy Williams and the players on the team.  It seems that it’s only natural to root as hard for both your team’s victory and your rival’s defeat.  I know this may sound hypocritical considering I just wrote about distancing myself emotionally from sports, but damn it feels good whenever UNC loses.  I wish I didn’t feel this way.  I wish I didn’t care whether Duke/UNC won or lost, but I’m inextricably linked to the fates of these two rivals.  Sometimes I worry that I find more joy in a UNC loss than a Duke victory.  Does this make me less of a Duke fan?

I’m very interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this subject.  How do y’all react when your team loses or wins?  What emotions run through you whenever Duke/UNC defeat one another in raucous rivalry games?  How have you evolved as sports fans?

P.S. To UNC fans: It’s going to be incredible when Duke crushes your “dream team” three times this season.*

*When Duke only loses by ten points to your stacked to the max team.  Although we’ll probably take one victory.

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4 Responses to Victory or Defeat? – The Rivalry Question of the Week

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  1. Nate says:

    There’s a body of psychological work (hello, undergrad major) out there that shows a couple of things:
    1) In a heated rivalry, people often score the ‘expected-utility’ – a psych proxy for happiness in decision theory – higher for their rivals losing than they do for their team winning.

    2) A bad loss is infinitely more painful than a good win is joyful.

  2. devilinside says:

    I guarantee that Duke will win the first game in chapel hell. Take a look back over the last ten years when the february game is at unc. The streak will continue.

  3. Raul Clement says:

    I actually find I care more as I get older. I might be less likely to throw a remote at the TV (marginally), but I am more likely to have a near heart attack. I also obsess more over stats, spend more time on message boards, and rewatch tons of games.

    On the other hand, it might just work on a case by case basis. I wasn’t upset after our loss in Chapel Hill or our loss to Arizona. I had assumed we were going to lose both. Before Carolina, we’d had a terrible, sluggish senior night (one of the strangest and most wrong-feeling wins I’d ever witnessed), while UNC was playing great. Add in the fact that they’d kicked our ass for one half of the Cameron game and I assumed we’d lose. I was upset, but more resigned than anything, when we lost. Same thing with the Arizona game. We were playing great in the ACC tourney, but from the moment Kyrie came back, everything felt wrong. We only beat Mich by one freaking point.

    I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from this except to say that Duke basketball consumes more of my life, but I’ve learned to manage my expectations better. Hope that makes sense.

  4. Alicia says:

    I don’t know if they are better or worse as I get older. I cried huge tears when JKidd out Hurley’ed Hurley and I was almost 12; I haven’t cried over a loss in a long time. I cried when Heyward’s shot missed though. However, I’m much more obsessive about knowing every stat now and if I have to miss a game live it ruins my week (even though I can always see the recording). I think I take the wins and losses in a more mature fashion now.
    I tend to expect Duke wins so I don’t take as much joy out of them as I do out of UNC losses (wait does that mean I expect UNC to win?… now to re-evaulate everything!).

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