The Carolina-Duke basketball rivalry graduated years ago from a Tobacco Road brawl to an integral part of the national sports scene. The bitter rivalry has spawned a cottage industry of books, videos and gear cashing in on the enmity of the two college teams and their respective fan bases.
A UNC alumnus decided those chronicles too often left those cheering loudest on the sidelines out of the conversation about the very matchup they most deeply care about.
“The networks never told it correctly,” says Hassan Pinto ’94. “We wanted to give the perspective of the people who live it, and work in it, authentically.”
Pinto and director Jason Rem capture the raw emotions and visceral experience of backers for both sides in a documentary on the hardwood highs and heartbreaks. He eschewed the familiar format of narrator, highlight and sound bite. He wanted those closest to the rivalry to drive the narrative.
“With no voiceover, we allow the fans to tell the story,” says Pinto, a former UNC varsity soccer player whose Gfan Films produced Duke-Carolina: The Blue Blood Rivalry. “We have the story told through the perspective of the super fan, the players, the coaches and the unique characters that live on Tobacco Road.”
Favorite shades of blue
Nothing unites Tar Heels and Blue Devils fans like their mutual disdain for one another, especially on the basketball court. Nearly 800 fans, alumni and former players representing both schools came from across the U.S. to pack a downtown Los Angeles theater when the film premiered in February. Most in the crowd sported their preferred shade of blue, occasional face paint or decals, and jerseys.
The LA premiere raised $25,000 for the Staples Center Foundation as fans paid from $8 to more than $95 to attend the benefit screening. The higher-priced tickets included the opportunity to mingle with past players, who waxed nostalgic about the rivalry before the show started.
“Some of my best memories are the Duke games,” recalled former UNC and NBA star Mitch Kupchak ’76. The Los Angeles Lakers general manager lost only once to the Devils and inbounded the pass to Walter Davis ’77 for his buzzer-beating bank shot in 1974’s “8 points down with 17 seconds left” improbable comeback win over Duke.
“It’s still a great rivalry,” noted recently retired NBA star Jerry Stackhouse ’97, adding the competitive fire for alumni “burns just as strong as it always has” when it comes to the Duke game.
The documentary is based on a book of the same name (now a series of e-books) by ACC basketball historian Art Chansky ’70. It chronicles the rivalry through several eras as it grew beyond a grudge match into arguably the best rivalry in American sports.
“What makes this different is we filmed the entire film on game day. It’s a reality-hybrid documentary,” says Pinto. Blue Blood was actually filmed on two game days in the 2012 season (one at each school) and transports the viewer to locations on each campus as well as local businesses. The film features plenty of jabs, with the best zingers coming at the 40 Below barbershop in Durham, where current and former players join fans of both schools and dispense one-liners.
Building a brand
The film builds anticipation to tipoff time and features insights and commentary from the likes of coach Roy Williams ’72, then-UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, cheerleaders, bartenders and a host of former players and fans commenting on the rivalry and counting down to game time. The tension builds and pulls the viewer into the emotions for folks going to the game or settling in to watch it with friends or even the enemy.
The film blends in a mix of game footage with historical references from long-time N.C. sports reporters Chansky, Al Featherston and Dwayne Ballen. Comic relief comes courtesy of comedian Lewis Black ’70 and ex-Duke forward Kenny Dennard.
Pinto’s status as a former varsity athlete helped open some doors at UNC, but the production staff was divided equally between both schools to balance the film’s bias and leverage access on both campuses. Pinto’s wife, Meleata Pinto ’95 (who also received an MBA from Duke in 2011) helped produce the film along with a group of other UNC and Duke investors who joined after the project raised crowd-sourced seed money.
Pinto called his Kickstarter campaign a “litmus test” for the project. “When we came back in 45 days with $30,000, I knew we had the support to do everything that we needed to do.” The producer would not disclose the film’s total price tag, but said it was well north of that amount.
“It brought back great memories from being in Chapel Hill,” said Brent Walker ’94, who played soccer with Pinto at UNC and is now co-owner of apparel company SAYiWON’T in nearby Manhattan Beach, Calif. “Other than seeing friends in the film, the bonfire scenes [celebrating big wins] were the fondest memories.”
Robert Graves ’00 (MBA) of Marina del Rey, Calif., was moved as the rivalry video evoked strong memories: “There were a few moments that brought a tear to my eye. If they can pull this off, they were successful in a job well done.”
Rob Maitland ’97 (JD), co-owner of Chapel Hill’s Top of the Hill restaurant, appears in the documentary and flew out to LA for the screening. “It’s bigger than Duke and Carolina. The whole country’s interested in it,” Maitland said of the rivalry. “All it does is get better and better every year; that’s what’s so great about it.”
Beyond the documentary — which is available on DVD and as a digital download — Blue Blood has evolved into a multimedia online business.
There’s the main website, BlueBloodRivalry.com. An interactive e-book series features classic videos, including UNC’s Larry Brown ’63 duking it out with Blue Devil Art Heyman. Blue Blood TV is a partnership with Google Plus. It features 45-minute interviews with former players, and there’s a social media component, compiling feeds from UNC and Duke players past and present.
“It’s a brand that’s all about this rivalry,” says Pinto. “When I invested in the brand, I did it under the auspices this rivalry will be here when I’m dead and gone. … It’s bigger than the players, the fans and the coaches.”
— Robert D. Gray ’91
Always the best treatment from the one-and-only @PhysioNiccoli. Working with @sheed_ctmd1 before practice.
Photo gallery from the win over UNCG: bit.ly/1J0bWZd #UNCBBall
Rapid reactions from @jadamlucas to the win over UNCG: bit.ly/1yX9FFV #UNCBBall
Had a blast at the Dick's event last night for the fans. Now it's time to focus on Houston...
Haa I didn't even get to tell her how awesome and she came home with this today lol #dukenation #dukefanintraining #dukebluedevils #goduke
Recap last night’s win with today's Inside Carolina Basketball podcast w/ Roy Williams: bit.ly/U84Abx #UNCBBall
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#Dukenation #Tarheelnation - Are you ready for the UNC-Duke game this Thursday night? Tyler's Restaurant & Taproom is! Grab a pint of our newest beer, the Blue Blood Rivalry Pilsner, brewed exclusively for the loyal fans of the greatest rivalry in college sports. Catch the game on their big screens and cheer on your preferred shade of blue. Cheers Y'all
The @BestCutManInMBB is getting the guys ready in the high-end Nets training room
Text blueblood to 25827 to join our exclusive Blue Blood Society and to be the first to know about things happening in the rivalry.. Duke Carolina, The Blue Blood Rivalry Film is available on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.com, download it today - Search "Duke Carolina"
By GreatestFan Media LOS ANGELES -- Former Duke and UNC basketball stars will highlight a star-studded gathering for the West Coast premiere of the new documentary film Duke-Carolina, The Blue Blood Rivalry at the Staples Center on Sunday, February 9.
The Blue Devils and Tar Heels meet for the first time in the 2013-14 season the following Wednesday in Chapel Hill, NC. The Los Angeles showing will be held between NBA games hosted by the Lakers and Clippers on the afternoon and evening of February 9. Former and current NBA stars such as Rick Fox, Kenny Dennard, Kendall Marshall, Ryan Kelly and James Worthy are scheduled to attend, along with many other UNC/Duke athletes and celebrities who either have played in or followed this rivalry intensely over the years.
The premiere is being staged by AEG. Tickets to the premiere are available at Eventbrite, click here to purchase tickets http://bit.ly/1hi1pKi
The 90-minute documentary debuted on the East Coast to rave reviews last November. Based on the best-selling book, Blue Blood, by Art Chansky, the movie capsulizes a generic day in the life of a Duke-Carolina game, considered the greatest rivalry in college basketball and one of the best in all of sports.
"Art Chansky and I looked at the Blue Blood brand and decided to enhance it first by creating a picture / video eBook called Duke-Carolina, The Blue Blood Rivalry that enabled the rivalry to come to life," said Hassan Pinto, Managing Partner of GreatestFan Films and Executive Producer of the documentary.
"Once we started filming for the eBook, we realized that we had something much bigger on our hands and that was a film that needed to be shared with the world.
"When we embarked to make the film, we didn't want to follow the ESPN 30/30 format. By contrast, we wanted to create a hybrid documentary that was a mix of CBS' Amazing Race, so we came up with a reality/documentary.
"We always felt that the Super fans understood the rivalry as well as anyone and we wanted to give them an opportunity to contribute to the story."
"We think that the shooting style of this film will be recreated by other networks because of its revolutionary approach.
"The key to our success was working with a group of people who were hungry, passionate and wanted to re-create how documentaries are filmed and presented.
"It was important to ensure that everyone who was hired lived somewhere near Tobacco Road or spent time here to ensure the authenticity of the project.
Head coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams are interviewed throughout the movie, sharing their thoughts and anecdotes about being the current "caretakers" of the rivalry. Dozens of former players nationally known figures from sports, politics and the entertainment industry are also featured, but the soul of the documentary comes from fans of both schools, officials on each campus and those public figures in Durham and Chapel Hill who not only revel in this twice-a-year happening, but also have the responsibility to prepare for the two regular season games and control the celebration in aftermath of victory, wherever it occurs. "This project was truly a love project for the University of North Carolina and a love project for our arch rival Duke University," Pinto said. Duke-Carolina: The Blue Blood Rivalry is available on Amazon, iTunes and other video retailers and the DVD will be in stores by February 1. http://bit.ly/1hi1pKi
Go 1-on-1 with Isaiah Hicks (@IDHicks) in this new interview: bit.ly/1GQnFWg #UNCBBall
About to get some work in at the @BrooklynNets Practice Gym
ICYMI: Adam Lucas on the win over UNCG in Greensboro last night: bit.ly/1GPbCIC #UNCBBall