Behind the Scenes: How Sports Events in North Carolina Become Showbiz Spectacles


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With a host of Division 1 athletic programs and three big league sports franchises—in addition to a number of minor league clubs—the state of North Carolina enjoys one of the best sporting resumes in the entire United States, especially when it comes to entertainment value. Everyone knows about the Tobacco Road Rivalry between Duke and the University of North Carolina, for instance, or the pop culture phenomenon of ‘dabbing’ that Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers helped to kick off, but the origins of these traditions are a bit murkier. This is how they got started.

The Tobacco Road Rivalry

The Tar Heels and the Blue Devils make for excellent natural rivals for a number of factors. One is proximity, as they’re located just eight miles apart from one another, drawing on the same recruiting and fan bases in North Carolina’s Golden Triangle. Another difference is funding, as UNC’s public status lets them play a ‘man of the people’ role that the private Duke, often depicted as elitist, can’t quite conjure up.

This storied rivalry, with roots stretching back over a century, truly took on a new dimension in the 1950s and 1960s with the establishment of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Dominated by these two universities, especially in men’s basketball, they have collectively secured 77.7 percent of the regular season conference titles and 59.4 percent of the conference tournament titles. For bettors in North Carolina, this dominance makes them an attractive option, particularly for those utilizing Fanatics NC Promo Codes . Their consistent performance provides a compelling opportunity for users looking to engage in sports betting within the state.

Beyond their shared blue blood status, another complicating factor in the rivalry is those aforementioned recruiting battles. Because Duke and UNC are always in the mix, they naturally draw some of the top recruits in the world… often at the expense of one another, like when Michael Jordan spurned Duke’s Coach K to sign with UNC, or when the Blue Devils built one of the all-time greatest one-and-done lineups with Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish.

Recent made-for-TV highlights of the rivalry include the 2021-22 season, Coach K’s final of 42 seasons in Durham.

The Blue Devils might’ve seemed like a storybook pick to manage a championship sendoff for their beloved coach, but North Carolina was ready to play spoiler, beating the Blue Devils in Coach K’s final home game before ending his career for good with a Final Four loss. It was the type of sequence that Tar Heels fans won’t ever forget… and, rightfully so, won’t ever let Blue Devils fans hear the end of.

Storm Surgin’ Ahead

The National Hockey League has long been the weakest of the four major sports leagues in North America, struggling to find the compelling star power that make football, basketball, and even baseball shine. Unwritten rules and other crotchety stipulations make it so that hockey can’t get out of its own way when trying to reach out to new fans, and anyone who dares to break from the status quo receives a swift, harsh reprimand.

That’s precisely what the Carolina Hurricanes did during the run up to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where they co-opted the Minnesota Vikings ‘Skol’ chant into the ‘Storm Surge,’ a postgame victory celebration named after the devastating effects of their beloved logo. 

As one might expect, the Storm Surge didn’t sit well with the hockey establishment, as long-time Hockey Night in Canada personality Don Cherry called them a ‘bunch of jerks’ for their outspoken celebrations. Not to be outdone, the Hurricanes adopted the moniker as a rallying cry, making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before an unceremonious exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins

The Hurricanes have been one of the best teams in the NHL since adopting the Storm Surge, and while they don’t do it with quite the same gusto today, it’s still a part of their celebration repertoire.

Dabbing on the Haters

The Carolina Panthers had one of the more exciting seasons in recent memory during 2015, when they raced out to a 14-0 record behind the heroics of quarterback Cam Newton, who would win that year’s MVP award with 45 total touchdowns. Newton found the end zone early and often, giving him plenty of cause to celebrate. One touchdown dance move he decided to use was the dab, created by Atlanta-based rap group Migos but made into a global phenomenon with Newton’s encouragement.

Following Carolina’s November win over Titans, a fan of Tennessee wrote a letter to Newton asking him to be a better role model and tone down the dance moves. This, of course, sent the internet into an even greater frenzy, and dabbing became synonymous with the team as they carried a 15-1 regular season record into a Super Bowl appearance.

While Newton and the Panthers didn’t manage to raise the Lombardi Trophy, their charismatic ways in a miraculous season makes it so that we won’t soon forget them.

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