Once upon a time, a physician and sports coach in Massachusetts named Naismith devised a game that young athletes could play indoors and maintain their physical condition during the cold winter. The object of the game was to throw a large inflated ball into fruit baskets nailed to a gym balcony. Soon the players realized that they could speed up the game by removing the bottoms of the baskets. As interest in the game widened, rules and refinements were made, and the game called basketball spread throughout the land.
It came to pass that two universities located nine miles apart in the state called North Carolina formed teams, and in 1920 met each other for the first time in a game of basketball. The team representing the public university dressed in uniforms the color of a clear summer sky and eventually adopted a live ram as its mascot. The private university’s team dressed in royal blue. Its mascot was a man dressed as Satan, with horns and a cape. The team from the public university won that first game, 36 to 25, and a rivalry was born.
Through the passage of time, the two teams continued to compete, and their rivalry developed to an intense level, earning as much respect throughout the nation as the quality of the teams’ playing skills. Their skills proved to be mighty Indeed. Teams from the public university with the sky blue colors won more national championships than the rival team with the Satan mascot. In direct competition with each other, the public university’s team has won 139 times. The private university’s team has won 112 times.
Such was the success of these rival teams that their fans came to expect championships as routine, and if not championships, at least superior performance earning the respect of a nation. This continued until this year, when the public university’s team, having lost several of its fine players of the previous year to graduation and its best current player to injury, began losing games that the players, coaches and fans expected it to win. At the same time, the private university’s team prospered and was widely regarded as among the best in the nation, if not the best.
This came at a moment when the coach of the public university’s team had matched the games-won record of his revered predecessor, which meant that with the next victory, his record of victories would surpass his predecessor’s. As this is written, this has not yet come to pass.
Teams from the two rival universities will face each other two times in this current season. The first such contest is scheduled at the home court of the public university on February 8. The second game is scheduled on March 7 at the home court of the private university. One might expect that the private university’s team, enjoying a winning season so far, would win both of these contests. History has on occasion shown, however, that anything can happen when these intense rivals meet on the basketball court.
All sports teams experience seasons that are less successful than usual, and some of their fans, accustomed to winning, become frustrated and impatient for more victories. Others remain supportive and loyal, hoping for eventual victories, both at home and down the road.
About nine miles down the road.