Name: Duke Blue Devils
Team Motto: “1, 2, 3….WIN IT FOR DUKE LACROSSE!!!” (Coach K nodding approvingly in the background)
Reason for winning award: Toppling that Butler dynasty
Forecast: Coach K: Infomercials, selling those mini stools he so enjoyed during the tourney; Jon Scheyer: 1st pick in the ABA draft (alla Greg MacNamarra); Kyle Singler: A Casey Jacobson-like 4 yr NBA career; Nolan Smith: Career already reached it’s pinnacle; Brian Zoubek: The Lew Alcindor of the 21st century
Growing up, I always kinda liked Duke. To be honest, I didn’t really get the hatred. Sure Christian Laettner turned out to be a real clown, but name a school that doesn’t have annoying alumni. You honestly find Jerry Stackhouse “likable”, UNC fans? Mateen Cleeves, Rip Hamilton, Kevin Love, Rashad McCants, Eric “House of Pain” Devendorf, TJ Ford, DeMarcus Cousins – all of these guys come from basketball powers and have annoying traits about them that only the blindest of fans would refuse to acknowledge. Yes, Duke contributed to the abominable JJ Redick/Adam Morrison season, but by this point, Duke hatred had been existence for almost 2 decades. So going back to my point, why the hate for Duke?
Maybe it’s the team huddles after fouls. This always reminded me of the Uconn lady Huskies or a volley ball team. Slightly gay but I can’t hate them for it. Maybe it’s the slapping of the floor on D. Maybe it’s Coach K. Recently, Coach K has been getting to me. Him sitting on that little stool on the sidelines during the Final 4 was a little, I don’t know, pretentious. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re predominantly white and they have no problem acting awkwardly white at all times. (For a good example of this, next season watch a Duke game and look for the Brothers Plumlee and you’ll see exactly what I mean). Maybe it’s a combination of all these things…But I really don’t think it is.
I think it’s their fans that cause us to hate them.
This startling moment of clarity came to me only recently. Like I said, all the way through high school, I never minded Duke. Then I went to college. And it was there, in the sacred dorms of Oral Roberts University, that I met 2 of my favorite people in the entire world who also happen to be 2 of the most annoying Duke fans on the face of the planet. Nate and Matt. Nate is the screamer. He’d be watching Mike Dunleavy dribble the ball off his foot and would scream obscenities about how he should be out there (another problem with Duke fans, they see white guys playing and think “Hey, I’m white, I could probably play with that guy”..No Duke fan, Mike Dunleavy, Jon Scheyer, or Bobby Hurley would murder you…let’s move on). Matt is the more cerebral basketball fan. Can admit team deficiencies. Knows when his Dukies should win and when they got lucky. Non Duke fans hate the Nates of the world because of the Coach K-like whining. We hate the Matts of the world because they know more than us.
It wasn’t over night. It wasn’t like I saw my 2 buddies cheering on Duke and decided to be a jerk and go against them. No, it was more like a slow turn against Duke like Anakin turning to the dark side. It was gradual. It started off one night when I found myself cheering for the Tar Heels in a Duke/UNC blood bath. I was shocked! I hated UNC. More than any team in college basketball. What could cause me to actually root for the Tar Heels? Oh that’s right, watching Nate do a giddy little Nate P dance as Jay Williams blew by poor Joe Forte like he was nailed to the court. It was seeing tears of rapturous joy flow from Matt’s eyes as Duke dominated an overmatched Arizona team for the 2001 national championship. It was in these moments that I went from “Eh, I wouldn’t mind seeing Duke lose tonight” to “For the love of God, can someone box out Boozer???”.
And before I continue, I have to go off on a mini-tangent in appreciation for Jay Williams. That 2000-2001 Duke team was the best Blue Devils squad I’ve ever seen. Better than the early 90’s teams. Better than the ’99 team that lost to UConn. (Sorry but this year’s team isn’t even in the debate). They were absolutely loaded with 5 future NBA players and J-Wil was the hands down best player on the team. Jay reminded me of Derrick Rose, just not quite as athletic but with a better J. He had that same body control and level headed vision of the floor. He was clearly the best player in college when he left after his junior year and I really thought he was a no brainer superstar in the making. He was the #1 player in high school, #1 player in college, and would have been the #1 pick in the draft if not for Yao. He had a solid if not amazing rookie year, but truly seemed destined to do amazing things. Then out of no where, he has this freak motor cycle accident where he almost loses his leg. Boom: Career done. Several failed NBA come backs and a bitter dose of reality later, he’s covering NIT games on ESPN. He’s 28. Now, clearly it’s great he has a career, but I NEVER hear Duke fans bring up his name. I find this odd. I’m a Cuse fan through and through. If Melo lost a limb from crashing his new ski doo in some Denver lake, I would be on my soap box, telling the world how we’d all been robbed of one the most amazing basketball players of our time. Duke fans never acknowledge Jay like this and it bothers me. The guy was legit.
Anyway, so yes, it was these Duke fans, 2 of my best friends, who made me curse the very name Krzyzewski. All of this culminated on our spring break trip in 2002 which some how found Matt, Nate, and myself in a Myrtle Beach hotel room, watching Duke’s Sweet 16 matchup with Indiana. That story alone is a master piece and I’ll tell it some time in the future.
This brings me to our current Mediocre athlete(s) of the month, the 2009-2010 Duke Blue Devils. I really wanted to give this high honor to Butler or Northern Iowa or Cornell, but I just couldn’t do it. While Northern Iowa (with their rag tag team of balding, mutton chopped, corn fed farmers) beating Kansas is still the biggest shock of the tourney, Duke was simply…the best. I watched Butler beat my Syracuse Orange and Butler looked like the better team that day. I watched Duke beat Butler and even though it was close, Duke was clearly the better team. They were the best team this month. And they did it without any Jay Williams, Elton Brands, or Grant Hills. They really had a bunch of mediocre athletes. They got hot and started playing their best at just the right time. And with all the upsets and Cinderella stories happening, Duke kept rolling over teams, including the Big East Tourney champs, West Virginia and the home town hero Butler Bulldogs.
And while I would love to pull an ESPN on you and start giving you game analysis (like so many of their non-credible anchors and “experts” enjoy doing) I highly doubt you want to hear any of that. I also don’t believe this blog is the place for any such re-cap. So please, be the bigger man or woman and just congratulate the Matts and Nates in your work place, neighborhood, and circle of friends. We all have at least one in our life. And even though they’ve ruined your enjoyment of Duke basketball (which can be fun to watch), don’t hold back your pats on their backs. Give them the recognition their due and anticipate 2011when you can rub their round of 32 loss to Sienna in their face.