To Hate Like This is to be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry
by Will Blythe
Blythe is a sports journalist whose work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The NewYorker, and Rolling Stone, to name a few. A Chapel Hill native living in New York, Blythe has a keen awareness of his roots as both a Southerner and a Carolina fan. In this narrative, he blurs the line between sports writer and ethnographer. He makes no effort to come across as neutral. Rather he exposes his biases, making him a protagonist with whom you can identify. He is not just a sports fan. He writes about his relationship with his parents. He talks about his sister. He mentions his ex-wife and alludes to serious heartbreak. Blythe is just a normal guy who loves college basketball, and especially loves to hate Duke. Who can’t relate to that?!
This book struck a chord with me, as I lived in Chapel Hill for 6 years. I waited in line for basketball tickets at 6am on several cold Saturdays. I ate at the places where Blythe conducted several of his interviews (ie Allen and Son, Foster’s). I strolled along the streets he walked on. For me, reading this book was like sitting down at a picnic bench and drinking from a big cup at He’s Not Here on a balmy March evening.
But even if you have never been to Chapel Hill or have no basketball affiliations, Blythe is wickedly funny. As a journalist exploring the Duke-Carolina rivarly, he interviews personalities such as Coach K (what will he do if he doesn’t totally hate him in person???), Dean Smith (the chance to conduct this interview seems to have made his life worth living), his pastor (will he go to hell for hating so deeply?), a Hindu leader (will this hate screw up his karma??), a bunch of Dookies (do they have a right to be snobby considering their team is better this season??) and a group of Carolina students (down-to-earth kids, but Blythe hates to admit they lack the intellect of the Dookies with whom he spoke). Interestingly, he forms relationships with some of the players and their families, offering a window to these young men’s bonds with their hometowns, each other, and the game.
Blythe embarks on his literary journey as a both a fan and a writer seeking to elucidate the intricacies of the Duke-Carolina rivarly. Rooted in the belief that Duke represents all things evil and Carolina all things good, his world-view at the outset of this mission can be summed up thusly: Blue Devils as Yankee aristrocrats, Tar Heels as hard-working, unassuming Christians; Dookies as individual elitists, UNC students as the bright sons and daughters of North Carolina’s working class. As he wades deeper and deeper into the murky waters of this dichotomy he finds that the two sides may not be as distinct as he thought. I promise you will laugh as Blythe delves into a process of self-discovery that threatens to shake his whole world.