Vaughan: Cheering and jeering the teams

Mar. 09, 2013 @ 10:27 PM

What’s your allegiance? We like to form ourselves into little groups, we Americans, we Southerners, we North Carolinians. Durhamites. Chapel Hillians. Hillsboroughers. Raleighites. Triangles. Piedmontians. Whatever. We enjoy being in groups. Divide, divide, divide. County, city, town, neighborhood, street. University. OK, that one’s warranted. Regular readers know I’m a Hokie, and that’s true even when the basketball team is, well, underperforming, to put it nicely in this month of March Madness.

I was talking to someone Friday about how when I moved here, I considered if I should choose a local collegiate allegiance. You don’t need to be alumni to be a fan. My sister earned her doctorate at UNC Chapel Hill. So is that my choice, for family? I work in Durham and spend time at Duke for stories, so, Duke then? N.C. State is a similar school to Virginia Tech, so, State then? I decided I’m just an ACC fan. And I like it when N.C. Central University does well, too.

My son is taking basketball lessons on Saturdays this month, which seems appropriate for the season. At his first class, he was decked out in his Hokies jersey and sweatpants as he learned to dribble a ball. On one side of him was a kid in a Carolina shirt. The other side, a kid in a Duke shirt. The coach wore an NCCU shirt. Maybe next week we’ll see an ECU, Wake Forest or Clemson shirt. As long as it’s not the University of Virginia. Ha, ha, just kidding. That’s my Hokie rivalry coming out.

We all have preferences for where we spend our time and who we spend it with, and that’s fine. We like identifying ourselves as part of some thing, some place, some where. It puts you at ease, having a sense of belonging. But we should proceed with caution when that belonging turns into provincialism. When we stand on our side of the fence and look with distain at our neighbors the next street, neighborhood, city, county and state over. Now, saying it with humor is one thing. I might joke about South Carolina, but I don’t really think we’re any better up here. Good people are everywhere, and bad, too. I prefer North Carolina, sure. But we’re not perfect.

Sports rivalries are how we should treat any other sort of categorical rivalry. Wave the banner and cheer for our team, yes. Shout mean things at the other players on the court, no. Good manners matter. Shout funny things to the other team in jest, fine. Talk for real about their mamas, no. Manners matter here in the South, and I’m pretty sure the same goes for the North.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at: or 919-419-6563.