Tony Soprano, meet Mike Krzyzewski, your newest network mate.
HBO has announced the production of an hour-long documentary about the rivalry between Duke and North Carolina, similar to the documentary about Michigan and Ohio State it produced in Nov. 2007. The documentary will likely air in March to coincide with the NCAA Tournament.
“Hopefully by the end of the year, we will have completed a film that not only chronicles the great rivalry on the court and the battles for the ACC and national championships, but give folks the idea of the psyche and culture and passion that exists around the importance of what this game means to people in your neck of the woods, which is pretty unique,” said George Roy, the film’s director and producer.
Roy, who also directed the Michigan-Ohio St. documentary called “The Rivalry” and has extensive experience in sports film, began shooting for this film last year and was in Cameron Indoor Stadium for North Carolina’s 78-68 win over Duke last year. He plans to shoot a rivalry game in the Dean E. Smith Center this year, and already has plenty of footage from the early 90s.
Roy and his crew have interviewed some of the most-recognized characters in the rivalry–“everyone from Vic Bubas through J.J. Redick,” he says–but he does not the want the film to be a simple history of the Tobacco Road rivals.
“This is a real story,” Roy said. “A lot of games, the more memorable ones, will act as templates because people remember specific games for specific reasons…. Certain games are significant because they supersede the actual game. Characters, personas, perceptions of Duke and Carolina fans, Duke vs. Carolina academically… the whole thing gets thrown into thte mix and gets stirred around and hopefully creates a story that’s a dramatic story more than a beginning-to-end.”
Roy was particularly affected by the impact of the proximity of the two schools. Ann Arbor, Mich. and Columbus, Ohio are about 200 miles apart, nothing like the eight miles that separate Duke and UNC. Michigan and Ohio State athletes don’t run into each other at the barbershop, or play in the same pickup games, or eat at the same Hibachi restaurants. The players don’t travel to enter a coliseum like a gladiator, Roy said.
And that’s not a bad thing, especially when tragedy strikes one of the campuses, as it did this year when UNC Student Body President Eve Carson was killed the week of the game in Cameron. This year’s game was unique because of the responses of both schools and how it transcended even the game, said Roy, who promised he had no allegiance to either school.
“Like anyone who goes into Cameron for the first time for a Duke-Carolina game, you’re immediately transported to a different place when the game starts,” said Roy, who was also fascinated by the Cameron Crazies. “I had been to a Duke home game, but it was my first Duke-Carolina game. I’ve been to a lot of sporting events–including Michigan-Ohio St. at the Horseshoe and the Big House–and there’s nothing that can even begin to compare to that experience.
“Between trying to carve out six inches of real estate to stand in among the bevy and masses of noise was challenging, but once I did, it was sort of remarkable to take in for experience, to imagine what it must be like to be both a student and a player when that is, in fact, the scene. When people look at the list that sports fans have to do before they die, I clearly would agree that that would be one that people should try to experience, because it’s almost indescribable.”
Almost. Because that’s exactly what the documentary will try to do: describe the indescribable.
–by Ben Cohen