DEBORAH SALOMON: Hate Is Foul on The Court
A while ago I wrote about loving college basketball. This goes back to high school, when I was a cheerleader for a North Carolina state championship team.
Attending Duke cemented my affection. No matter how far north I lived, everything stopped when the Blue Devils took the court, especially when they played Carolina. This was a great rivalry, some say the most intense in all sports, because the teams are geographically close and usually very good. Of course, fans have always gotten nasty, in a harmless sort of way.
But on Sunday, during the ACC Tournament final, when a guy held up that "Anybody But Duke" sign I saw red, not blue.
The day before I had watched "Battle for Tobacco Road," HBO's excellent documentary (this week on the On Demand channel) which brought back old times, exciting times, tense times. I've read Will Blythe's "To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry." I skimmed "I Hate Duke: 303 Reasons Why You Should, Too" by Paul Finebaum. The first I thought was excellent satire until I realized it wasn't satire. The second was simply annoying.
So I decided to apply the logic, philosophy, sociology and deductive reasoning absorbed 49 years ago at Duke (when I wasn't cutting class to watch basketball) to the conundrum.
Detractors say Duke, basketball and otherwise, has never represented North Carolina, that its students are affluent prep-schoolers from up north and elsewhere, so GET OFF OUR BASKETBALL COURTS! Let's see, Tyler Hansbrough is from Missouri. Ty Lawson, Maryland. Danny Green, New York. Wayne Ellington, Pennsylvania. Deon Thompson, California.
Seven (mostly invisible) of the 17-member Tar Heels squad attended high school in North Carolina. Can you name one?
Dukies are arrogant, obnoxious,
self-aggrandizing. Yeah, whatever it takes to conceive and implement the Cameron Crazies, imitated but never equaled by any college, including U-know-blue.
As to costs, sadly, opponents are right. Duke tuition and fees soar over U.N.C., as might be expected at a university ranked 21 points higher in U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges 2009.
But what's that got to do with basketball, where almost all the players on both teams have athletic scholarships and fans in both gyms behave like wildebeasts?
As to being intellectual nerds, must brains and basketball be mutually exclusive? This year, Duke has two ACC Academic All-Americans (Greg Paulus, Brian Zoubek) and Carolina lists one: Tyler Zeller. Should he be benched for good grades?
My admission to rooting for every North Carolina team (except when opposing Duke) evoked many responses, mostly negative, like "traitor."
I have friends and family including my mother, uncles, cousins who are U.N.C grads so my loyalties are a healthy mixture. Call the guy with the inflammatory sign a traitor -- to sportsmanship.
When Duke plays lousy I'm the first to say they don't deserve to win. Roy Williams looks like a great guy who instills the right stuff in his players.
On what I've heard about Coach K, other than his genius, my lips are sealed.
I'm thinking this vitriol may be testosterone-linked -- the warrior instinct that, when not discharged on a field of battle, explodes onto the hardwood. I also suspect elements of envy, blind allegiance and inebriation.
Whatever happens, this was a thrilling season for the State of North Carolina collegiate basketball. And should my favorite blues meet again on the road to Detroit I will cheer enthusiastically for Duke but be proud if the Tar Heels triumph.
Now you can hate me, too.
Contact Deborah Salomon, but not during game time, at firstname.lastname@example.org
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