Does the 'Victory Barrel' have to really exist for fans to want it?
Posted November 22, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Does something have to be tangible to exist? Sports fans in the Triangle have been asking this question for years (really, think about it).
In 2012, Tobacco Road wanted to know if a rivalry existed between North Carolina and NC State. In 2011, it was UNC’s Swahili classes. And folks around the nation are still asking if the “Carolina Way” exists - or ever did.
There was even a short time in 1999, after East Carolina beat Miami in Carter-Finley Stadium, when NC State fans wondered if their field goal posts existed — since ECU fans had carried them away.
The goal posts certainly did exist, since it wasn’t even the first time ECU fans had torn them down (that was in 1987), and a heated rivalry has existed ever since between the two schools.
But, as Triangle sports followers are well aware, fan bases often deny the existence of rivalries. The reason is obvious: to get under the skin of those rivals.
But just to make sure the ECU-NC State rivalry wasn’t up for debate, in 2007 the student governments of both schools moved to create a trophy for the winner of the football game between the two teams: the Victory Barrel.
Of course, this is a tactic used by many schools to solidify a rivalry. Appalachian State and Western Carolina play for the Old Mountain Jug; North Carolina and Duke play for the Victory Bell. And since NC State seems fairly OK with borrowing ideas from other schools, the Victory Barrel was born.
Allegedly…Although not everyone believes.
When ECU beat writer Josh Graham asked Pirates head coach Ruffin McNeill about the Victory Barrel, “The coach had no idea what it was,” he said. “He was befuddled.”
East Carolina’s student-body secretary Kara Jean Dough certainly believes it exists. “The Victory Barrel is in the student government building right now,” she proclaimed. “We’ll bring it to Raleigh for the game on Saturday and hopefully we’ll be bringing it back.”
NC State seems more suspicious, or at least unsure.
“Our student body president wasn’t even aware of it,” said NCSU Student Government Advisor, Eileen Coombes. (Side note: Mrs. Coombes did produce a document that says the Victory Barrel does, in fact, exist, albeit in Greenville currently.)
If the Barrel does exist, the Wolfpack’s Student Athletic Director Carrie Althoff has not been briefed.
“I personally have never heard about the Victory Barrel and have not been notified about this by any ECU representatives,” she replied when asked about the rivalry.
Local fans, even ardent supporters of the Wolfpack, also seemed surprised to hear about the trophy. There is little information online, and only a few sketchy photographs. Supposed Zapruder-like videos of the barrel apparently exist on YouTube from ECU’s last win in the series, though that could not be confirmed.
Matt Lail, a Raleigh native and NC State graduate, had never heard of it:
@RogersWork How am I just now finding out about this?! A Victory Barrel? I need more info!— Hash Brown Casserole (@Matt_Lail) September 23, 2013
Troy Dreyfus of Pirate Radio 1250 first learned of the Victory Barrel when he saw players celebrating with it after ECU’s overtime victory against the Wolfpack in 2010.
“My first thought was, ‘what the hell is that?’” Dreyfus recalled. “I’m pretty connected around here, but I had never heard of it.”
However, Dreyfus isn’t worried about the Victory Barrel’s lack of notoriety, noting, “They could have made it a pig for all I care, but the point is that it shows how big the game is around the state. Of course people will pretend like it isn’t for the sake of jokes, but the rivalry cuts deep. There’s pride involved. It divides homes and workplaces. Alumni of the schools work together, get married. It matters. And mainly, it’s just a lot of fun.”
Dreyfus’ last point is important. There’s a reason why Mountain Jugs and Victory Bells (or barrels) seem to exist in and around the game of football as opposed to other sports, and why tailgatings and homecomings are always connected to the gridiron.
Whether or not the Victory Barrel exists, it represents something much more important: the cultural connection between two schools and fan bases that get together whenever they compete.
It can be said that ‘cultural connection” entails cheap beer, curse words and deep-fried poultry. But the game itself matters because there are NC State fans who would rather not play East Carolina - mainly because they see the mid-major program as inferior (although, it’s the 8-2 Pirates that should be making that claim these days).
The bottom line is that local games mean more fans, more friends and family, and of course, more local money. And whether or not fans want to admit it, football games and tailgating is nothing more than an excuse to party, and it’s always more fun partying with people we know.
Football is a product of American culture. And while the Victory Barrel might not be real, what it stands for certainly is.