Pack, Heels add sizzle to June
Posted June 13, 2013
Caulton Tudor asked North Carolina State and North Carolina fans going to Omaha for the College World Series to bury the hatchet. It was an understandable plea for Atlantic Coast Conference unity given the unique nature of local squads each having an opportunity to bring home championship hardware for the first time in school history.
Forget all that. Let the rivalry add a little sizzle to an otherwise slow month of sports in the Triangle.
The back and forth between fans of the Wolfpack and Tar Heels has reached levels typically seen during the basketball season or the week leading up to a football game. The rain-shortened regular season split and the extra innings epic at the ACC Tournament at the end of May adds to the palpable tension rarely seen for non-revenue sports.
N.C. State fans are thirsty for a championship of any kind. North Carolina fans have seen their baseball team knock at the College World Series door six out of the last eight years. Each team stands in the way, neither side wants to lose to the other and watch from the sideline as they possibly advance to the finals.
How ridiculously salty can it get? Consider that an American Idol winner and a shortstop from the Tar Heels engaged into a Twitter flame war after North Carolina advanced out of the Super Regionals.
There is a positive to these jabs beyond sheer entertainment value. College baseball is finally enjoying an immense amount of attention.
The sport has a hardcore following, but it fails to grab hold of a mainstream audience because the meat of the season occurs during the crucial months of college basketball. By the time the ACC wraps up its basketball tournament and the Final Four ends with "One Shining Moment," fans will eventually come out of their haze to notice.
Once they do, there's a tendency to get hooked. It's not as polished as the professional game, but neither is college basketball. It doesn't matter thanks to the pull of alumni alliance.
That pull will no doubt be there on Sunday when the Wolfpack and Tar Heels take the field.