If the exchange of barbs and banter among fans is typically the most fun aspect of college basketball's fiercest rivalries, then it's refreshing to know there can also occasionally be mutual respect among hated foes.
An NC State student proved that Thursday with a touching column in the school's student newsaper about legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith in advance of Saturday's first meeting of the season between the Wolfpack and Tar Heels.
In a column entitled "A prayer for Dean Smith," NC State junior Rob McLamb shared his admiration for the Hall of Fame coach, expressing hope that in Smith's more clear-headed days he feels loved by not just Tar Heels fans but supporters of their Tobacco Road rivals too. Smith, now 81, has made fewer and fewer public appearances the past few years as a result of a fading memory that on good days is still razor-sharp but on bad days prevents him from recalling the names of even longtime friends.
When Smith is having one of his better moments, it would be wonderful if he could just feel a warm breeze of love — the type of feeling people get when they look into the eyes of someone they care for unconditionally and see the exact same expression staring back. It would be an appropriate way to show gratitude for someone who gave so much to others.
Let the warm regard from each person who has had his or her life improved by Smith be combined to form a sustained feeling.
Let that feeling gain momentum all over the Triangle and the state. Let it be created right here, right now in Wake County and pick up steam as it reaches the gothic buildings in western Durham that represent a different shade of blue.
The reaction to McLamb's column has been mixed among NC State fans and largely positive everywhere else.
Among the first few responses to McLamb's column Thursday on the Tar Heels-themed Inside Carolina forum were "Wow," "Incredible," and "That was beautiful." Some Wolfpack fans on Pack Pride echoed those sentiments. Others weren't quite ready to move past the rivalry, one capturing that sentiment by writing "If the purpose is to make me have some kind of mellowing towards Dean Smith, it ain't gonna work."
Regardless, give credit to McLamb for having the courage to write what he did. Wishing the best for a man suffering from Alzheimer's should be a sentiment we can all get behind no matter what team we support.
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