DG MARTIN COLUMN: The world’s most memorable sports rivalry

Every year I buy the new edition of the “World Almanac and Book of Facts.” I like to check to see what the book is telling the rest of the world about North Carolina.

This year’s almanac had some special good news about our state. It was hidden away on page 855. I will tell you more in a minute.

But first a little background.

Each year, I look to see who is included in Almanac’s “Famous North Carolinians” section to see it there are any changes from last year’s edition.

The list is unchanged for this year: David Brinkley, Shirley Caesar, John Coltrane, Stephen Curry, Rick Dees, Elizabeth Hanford Dole, Dale Earnhardt Sr., John Edwards, Ava Gardner, Richard Jordan Gatling, Billy Graham, Andy Griffith, O. Henry, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Michael Jordan, William Rufus King, Charles Kuralt, Meadowlark Lemon, Dolley Madison, Thelonious Monk, Edward R. Murrow, Richard Petty, James K. Polk, Charlie Rose, Carl Sandburg, Enos Slaughter, Dean Smith, James Taylor, Thomas Wolfe.

Because the James Webb telescope got so much attention last year with its magnificent views of outer space, I was sure that the Granville County native who gave his name to the telescope would make the list. But I was wrong. The list stayed the same.

I always check the recent presidential election results by county to see if there are any trends. The larger counties in population are becoming more and more Democratic while most of the smaller counties are trending Republican. Overall, the recent presidential contests were very, very close.

Otherwise, most years North Carolina gets very little attention from the almanac. This year is different.
North Carolina got a very important mention in a section titled “World Almanac Editors’ Picks: Most Memorable Rivalry Matchups.”

The list contains 10 memorable sports contests including:

• Ohio State 42, Michigan 39, Nov. 18, 2006.

• Connecticut 73, Tennessee 68, Apr. 9, 2003.

• NY Yankees 6, Boston Red Sox 5, Oct. 16, 2003.

• Argentina 1, Brazil 0, June 24, 1990.

• Chris Evert Over Martina Navratilova, June 8, 1965.

• Bjorn Borg bests John McEnroe, July 5, 1980.

• Boston Celtics 108, Los Angeles Lakers 106, May 5, 1969.

• NY Giants 5, Brooklyn Dodgers 4, Oct. 3, 1951.

• Army 21, Navy 21, Nov. 27, 1926.

At the top of this list of these “most memorable rivalry match ups” is North Carolina 81, Duke 77 Apr. 2, 2022.

The almanac explained why this event was listed first. “Given the historic strength of their men’s basketball programs, it seemed improbable that Duke and Univ. of North Carolina had never met in the NCAA tournament. So when the teams finally squared off in the 2022 Final Four with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski coaching in his 47th and final season, the matchup figured to be epic even before tip-off. The game did not disappoint; fans were treated to a back-and-forth affair, with 18 lead changes and 12 ties. Duke was up 37-34 at halftime, but neither team led by more than seven points at any time. Each team made three clutch three-pointers in the final two minutes, the last coming from UNC’s streaky point guard Caleb Love to give the Tar Heels a lead they never relinquished. Though little consolation to Duke fans, North Carolina lost in the finals to Kansas, 72-69.”

In our state where basketball is so important, having the lead sports story in this publication will please many sports fans, not just those from Duke or Carolina.

D.G. Martin, a retired lawyer, served as UNC-System’s vice president for public affairs and hosted PBS-NC’s “North Carolina Bookwatch.”