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"It is a basketball rivalry that simply has no equal. Duke vs. North Carolina is Ali vs. Frazier, the Giants vs. the Dodgers, the Red Sox vs. the Yankees. Hell, it's bigger than that. This is the Democrats vs. the Republicans, the Yankees vs. the Confederates, capitalism vs. communism. All right, okay, the Life Force vs. the Death Instinct, Eros vs. Thanatos. Is that big enough?"
The basketball rivalry between Duke and North Carolina is the fiercest blood feud in college athletics. To legions of otherwise reasonable adults, it is a conflict that surpasses sports; it is locals against outsiders, elitists against populists, even good against evil. It is thousands of grown men and women with jobs and families screaming themselves hoarse at eighteen-year-old basketball geniuses, trading conspiracy theories in online chat rooms, and weeping like babies when their teams -- when they -- lose. In North Carolina, where both schools are located, the rivalry may be a way of aligning oneself with larger philosophic ideals -- of choosing teams in life -- a tradition of partisanship that reveals the pleasures and even the necessity of hatred.
What makes people invest their identities in what is elsewhere seen as "just a game"? What made North Carolina senator John Edwards risk alienating voters by telling a reporter, "I hate Duke basketball"? What makes people care so much?
The answers have a lot to do with class and culture in the South, and author Will Blythe expands a history of an epic grudge into an examination of family, loyalty, privilege, and Southern manners. As the season unfolds, Blythe, the former longtime literary editor of Esquire and a lifelong Tar Heels fan, immerses himself in the lives of the two teams, eavesdropping on practice sessions, hanging with players, observing the arcane rituals of fans, and struggling to establish some basic human kinship with Duke's players and proponents. With Blythe's access to the coaches, the stars, and the bit players, the book is both a chronicle of personal obsession and a picaresque record of social history.
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Will Blythe is the former literary editor of Esquire. A frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review, he has written for the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Elle, and the Oxford American, and is the editor of the acclaimed book Why I Write. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Sportswriting. He grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and now lives in New York City.From Publishers Weekly:
[Signature]Reviewed by Sara NelsonFor a reviewer who's not all that clear on the difference between basketball and basket weaving, this book is a revelation. Former Esquire editor Blythe's debut is an examination of the rivalry between the University of North Carolina and Duke University college teams; in it, he interviews and profiles players and coaches, and even gives play-by-plays of key games. And yet, it is not "just" a sports book. At heart it's a memoir. Like Pat Conroy's My Losing Season and even Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes, to which the author Anthony Wofford compares it, To Hate Like This is about family and passion and people and parents and aging and, oh, yeah, some sports, too.Blythe is a native North Carolinan whose UNC passion was bred in the bone; he and his siblings were raised to be genteel and polite about all things, except while watching basketball games, particularly against arch-rival Duke. After living in New York for many years, Blythe returns home as his father is dying and reflects on the passion that has shaped him and, he suggests, his region. Forget the Mason Dixon line, the real division in this border war is between Carolinians who support the Blue Devils and those who live for the Tarheels.Sports fans can expect to enjoy the accounts of particular pivotal games recounted here, but the real revelations for the relatively uninitiated are Blythe's portraits of his characters: the tough-guy coaches like Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith, one of whom nearly breaks down confessing that he's still in love with his ex-wife; the nurse tending Blythe's dying father; and, most of all, the father himself, the kind of personality you expect to meet in great southern novels from Harper Lee to Pat Conroy. To call To Hate Like This a sports book is to be only about one-third right. An elegy to place and time and generation, it is also a story of fathers and sons and an elegant testament to the way pastimes are far more than ways to pass the time. (Mar. 1)Sara Nelson is the editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly.
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