How to Define a Rivalry

On the very week I head back to my birthplace, I find out that things just really ain't the same for gangsters. From John Feinstein:

So now Maryland thinks it wants to join the Big Ten. Not surprisingly, the bottom line on such a deal would be—of course—the bottom line. There's not a thing wrong with that.

When I first heard the news, I thought about missing out on that great Maryland vs. Duke rivalry. But in fact, as Feinstein, points out Maryland fans think they have a rivalry with Duke, in much the same way that Eagles fans often think they have a rivalry with the Cowboys:

As for Duke and North Carolina being rivals in basketball, there are a couple of issues. To begin with, the two schools look at each other, not at Maryland, as their primary rival. Second, when Gary Williams made Maryland-Duke and Maryland-North Carolina basketball games important, the Terrapins were playing four games annually against the two schools, and frequently five and occasionally six games. Now, in the expanded ACC, one or the other will come to Comcast Center each season. Period.

Frequency of competition makes rivalries great in basketball. It can't happen for Maryland anymore in the John Swofford-redesigned ACC, where Maryland basketball is guaranteed two annual games only with Pittsburgh, which the Terrapins have faced all of seven times.

When I was watching football, I defined a rivalry as follows: If I could 2-15 and say "Yes, but we beat xxxxx" and smile, and if the other team felt the same way, then we had a deep mutual hatred, and thus a rivalry. The Skins and the Boys had that. Maryland fans certainly felt that way about Duke. But I suspect that Duke fans didn't spend much time thinking about Maryland.

The harsh truth is that we will miss Duke, and to a lesser extent North Carolina, a lot more than they'll miss us.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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