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Duke and North Carolina rivalry debuts on film

A film that documents the rivalry between Duke and North Carolina debuts tonight on HBO. The Battle for Tobacco Road: Duke versus Carolina chronicles what many consider the best rivalry in college basketball, and some think is the best in all of sports. George Joye produced the hour-long special, and he spoke to WFAE's Scott Graf from his home in New Jersey. Scott began by asking him why the project interested him. George Joye: Well we'd done a film last year on the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry and the response was pretty overwhelming. I mean we had not done a collegiate sports documentary up to that point and just the reactions said (you know what) we should look at another sport, and there was no bigger and better rivalry in college basketball than Duke and Carolina. Scott Graf: So when you got here and you got on the ground, did it surprise you how intense the UNC-Duke rivalry is? GJ: Yeah, it really did to some degree because we were down there on an off-month. We were down there in the spring and summer doing interviews and production. It's almost a 365-day-a-year saga down there whether it was sports radio or in the paper. 'Who was recruiting who, who had signed, what was going on at camp, who was hurt?' It clearly hit us, particularly coming from the Northeast where everything is sort of professionally-based sports up here. It was actually quite nice. SG: How would you describe the dislike between fans, broadcasters, and coaching staffs at these two schools? GJ: Well you mentioned fans, and I think you have to begin and really end there. Most of the animosity, as we know it, is galvanized within the two fan bases. That's clear when you realize the players do have somewhat of a dislike for one another once the game begins, but the respect they have for each other is also incredible. The respect they have for each others schools and the stature that they've each climbed to speaks for itself. The fans kind of have some fun with it. It becomes an activity for them whether it's on the blogs or talk radio or in and amongst their selves at workplaces. It is unique in that they're 8 miles apart, so you'll also be working with someone or going to school with someone, or your neighborhood could be littered with fans from both sides. So I think it plays itself out from within the two fan bases more than the other elements. SG: I think a lot of people from here look at the Michigan-Ohio State college football rivalry that you mentioned earlier as being a little bit over-hyped. Did you get any sense that this rivalry here, from an outsiders perspective, is over-hyped at all? GJ: It's hard to say. I think they continue to live up to the hype on the court. The games tend to live up to the hype. ESPN has taken that particular game, sort of a cottage industry now, from a regional showcase to a national event. I'm sure that folks in North Carolina don't get tired of it and actually look forward to it, and perhaps would look at the hype as a positive more so than something that you might get tired of. SF: Did you see any unhealthy aspects that you can take away from this project. GJ: No, I don't think so, and I think that's a great point. Towards the end of the film, we make the point that both schools have done a tremendous amount for each other. (They've done a tremendous amount for) the communal building of the programs' statures through the years, particularly the last 20 years. The two programs are indispensable to the college game. I can't even imagine what the status of college basketball would look like if you took Duke and/or Carolina out of the mix. Thy both speak for themselves on their own and they've made each other better, collectively and individually. There's a moment or two along the way, a remark that a coach may say to another coach, or perhaps the Cameron Crazies have gone over the line/edge in a few instances through the years. You're always going to have an incident, or an occasion, or a game that may stick out as being inflammatory for whatever reason. Perhaps they'd like a do-over, but I think overall the whole speaks for itself and would diminish or eliminate any single moment that may have dampened it along the way.