“Duke … is everything that’s wrong with college basketball, personified.” – University of Maryland alum
“I really hate everything about Duke’s basketball team.” – NC State enthusiast
“[Unprintable]” – North Carolina fan
Duke’s Men’s Basketball team boasts a pretty impressive resume. It has won four national titles, and appeared in 15 final fours. It has yielded 55 All-Americans, and 71 NBA draft selections. It plays in one of the nation’s most petite, yet intimidating, gyms; its sainted head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, has coached several Olympic basketball teams. It has done all of this without any hint of scandal. To an objective obsever, there are few justifiable criticisms.
But, as we all know, when it comes to sports, objectivity goes by the wayside, especially amongst bitter rivals. In achieving its unprecedented success, it has unwittingly joined the ranks of the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, or Los Angeles Lakers – its wins have been countered with severe enmity. The loathing/envy extends far beyond fans, however. The sports media feel compelled to pile on in response to intense sentiment against the Blue Devils, and find a willing audience to which to pontificate against the appropriately named Devils.
I’m now sitting in front of the TV watching yet another Duke opponent, with seemingly no connection to Duke, lambasting our team with obscure insults. I know we do the same thing (in a more clever fashion), but I can’t help but feel like it’s more scathing, and I wonder if the genesis of all this vitriol started before basketball became such a fixture of life here in Durham.
I started writing this last night during the Duke v. Arizona regional semi-final game, but due to the late hour and my advancing age, I kept nodding off, and didn’t complete it until this morning. I didn’t stay up for the whole thing, but for enough of the second half to get a feel for what the ending would be like. Only, I woke up this morning to a Facebook page full of thinly veiled insults. Not from Arizona fans, mind you, but from ostensibly disinterested third parties.
As I do every morning, I moved over to espn.com to get a journalist’s take on what had transpired, hoping for more objectivity, only to find even more alignment against the Dukies. Apparently, not only did we get crushed in embarrassing fashion to a far overmatched team as a result of our “hubris” and “ego,” but for some strange reason, Butler University, our opponent in last year’s title game, was also somehow vindicated by our loss. Imagine that, winning two games in one night, separated by thousands of miles. Quite impressive.
The only relief that can come from a heartbreaking loss such as last night’s is that the Duke naysayers can stop saying, well, nay, for the time being. Though there is no one quite so loathed as Duke, certainly there’s someone else to despise for a while, if only to create the appearance of equality. But rest assured, when the leaves turn brown next fall and Midnight Madness gets under way again, the boo birds will come home to roost.