Non-homophobic, Righteous Duke Hatred and University of North Carolina Reverence: The New Republic’s Libel of UNC Fans

–Richard E. Vatz

For a long time I have had a love/hate relationship with the liberal, centrist opinion journal, The New Republic (TNR). Some of the best writing on domestic issues and foreign policy, especially on the former for the non-Kucinichian left and on the latter for those in the non-isolationist left, has been found on their pages. On the negative side there have been plagiarism and accuracy problems of a very serious nature in the scandals of such curs as Ruth Shalit and Stephen Glass.

Reasonable historical ambivalence toward TNR notwithstanding, the magazine has now published electronically (March 19, 2009) and soon, I presume, in print, the most fatuous, illogically argued article in TNR history: “Devilish: Duke hatred and homophobia,” by Seyward Darby, a “reporter-researcher” for TNR.

To just telescope the context, University of North Carolina (UNC) and Duke University have a long history of mutual detestation, particularly in basketball. To typify Duke’s Blue Devils is to read Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s (Coach “K”) mouthing of profanities during games and to see his nonchalance when one of his fine young men is bloodying Tyler Hansbrough, the great center for UNC. To typify University of North Carolina’s Tar Heels, let me cite Coach Roy Williams’ articulated outrage at fans’ abusiveness toward UNC opponents and quote a line from Will Blythe, whose book, 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, is literature, one of the most brilliant, perspicacious sociological analyses of sport rivalry in history: “I spotted the funniest sign of the evening, and it was being held not by a Crazy but by a trio of fellow Carolina fans. It featured arrows pointing away from the sign toward the surrounding Duke fans, and it proclaimed simply: ‘Posers.’ ”

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The Darby article alleges that Duke haters, united in their making Duke “the most despised team in college basketball [said depiction of Duke being the one grain of accuracy in the essay],” have been exhibiting homophobia in their attacks on Duke in Wikipedia and other internet sites.

In the rest of the argument Darby makes a number of unsupported allegations, including that in some sense “loathing the Blue Devils” is “fundamentally liberal,” from which illogic she utilizes the label, “left leaning Duke haters.”* She advances the unsupported and unsupportable claim that because of selected coarse and profane homophobic abuse and smears on web sites, including Wikipedia and YouTube, by a relatively tiny number of despicable anti-Duke fans, that blessed UNC lovers who hate Duke should infer that those classless idiots represent “a nasty strain of bigotry emanating from their [Duke-hating] ranks.”

For such a highly esteemed journal to libel noble non-homophobic Duke-haters in an article wholly based on the fallacy of the unrepresentative example is a journalistic embarrassment.


*Full disclosure: I am a conservative who hates Duke, and one of my favorite children is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UNC. Darby is an admitted Duke fan, which is no excuse for anti-Carolina Blue yellow journalism.

Richard E. Vatz teaches the upper-level course Media Criticism at Towson University

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