So you think you know how big March Madness really is around here? I thought I did, growing up in Durham just a couple of minutes away from Duke University. Like most people in the Triangle, I’m an avid college basketball fan. But I never realized how big it really was until heading to school in sub-zero-temperature Maine.

It’s bigger, even, than winning the World Series and the Super Bowl–in the same year.

Up in Maine, college basketball just isn’t a part of the culture. Instead, they have the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots, who both brought home titles this year. In October the Mainers got more excitement than they’ve had in years with the Red Sox winning their first World Series in 86 years. It was all I heard about for the next month from friends and all over the news. Everywhere I looked, someone was wearing some kind of “Boston Red Sox 2005 World Champions” gear.

In Maine, they talk about it a lot. But that’s about it. Here, there’s real excitement. Being a Carolina fan, I was on Franklin Street last week when UNC came from behind to defeat Duke in another great game of the classic rivalry, and I don’t think there is anything as exciting or as satisfying when your college basketball team pulls out a huge win like that. It even beats the gratification that comes from eliminating the Yankees in the postseason and breaking a curse that stood for the greater part of a century.

As the NCAA tournament begins and March Madness really kicks off, some of us will get to experience the sweet taste of victory, but most of us will feel the heartbreak of falling short of a national championship–which is, of course, what most people around here are anticipating for one team or another. The Mainers won’t experience any of this. All they’ll get is the dull excitement and steroid talk coming from spring training.