Blue Devils’ Advocate Sounds Off
On the subject of college basketball — my alma mater Duke, in particular — my lips have been sealed for months.
That’s partly because of the old wives’ superstition “Tsk-tsk-tsk (practice spraying spit with each tsk). Don’t say it or it won’t happen.” I never said the Blue Devils would win the NCAA championship, so they did.
During this mute interlude, I studied the “hate Duke” phenomenon. Or, at the very least, the “anybody but Duke” rant. I read sports columns and blogged my eyes out. I questioned friends and strangers, sober and not. I listened with a reasonably open mind.
I even reread parts of the Duke-dissers bible “To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever,” a virulent explanation of the Duke-Carolina basketball rivalry by Will Blythe, to whom I say: You sure don’t sound so happy, Will. You sound like an ulcer in progress.
Duke detractors fall into three categories: those who hate the team, those who hate the school, and those who hate both. They concur that Dookies are arrogant, name-dropping Yankee intellectuals who sit around clinking Heinekens while checking their portfolios in The Wall Street Journal. I say Heineken because Ty Heineken, scion of the Dutch brewing family, was in my history class at Duke.
So how do you know they weren’t reading the WSJ sports page? It does have one. As for arrogant, how can any student or player grab that appellation from Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez, the ACC Player of the Year? He’s obnoxious and disrespects Duke, too, but nobody cares.
Anyway, before a modest gloat — and with the sole intent of sounding defensive — now that the Bad Fairy can do no harm, I want to address some of the Duke-haters’ accusations, basketball and otherwise:
— Dookies are spoiled trust-fund kids.
And the crime is ... ? Every society operates on a curve. I see plenty of Range Rovers with Jersey plates in Chapel Hill. True, these days it seems you have to be either affluent, smart, a study nerd or fast-talker to get into Duke. Or Harvard. Or M.I.T. Anybody heard of a Hate Harvard Club?
As for rich, at Duke I worked on the dorm switchboard and typed term papers for extra money, which I squandered on artichokes and a subscription to The New Yorker.
— Duke is a poseur. It doesn’t represent North Carolina.
Who says it should? Duke doesn’t claim to be a state university with preferential tuition and admission for North Carolina residents. Hurl a few insults at Wake Forest, why don’tcha?
— When Coach K scrunches up his nose, he looks like a rat. (This, verbatim from “Battle for Tobacco Road,” the excellent HBO documentary about the Duke-Carolina hoops rivalry.)
So don’t look. Bet you’d adopt a few ratlike scrunches for $3.6 million, his salary (before perks and endorsements) in 2008. I never joined the Rat Pack, but at least Coach K doesn’t roll his eyes, throw up his hands and act disgusted with his players like that good-looking white-haired guy in the pale-blue tie.
— Officials and bracket-makers favor Duke. This even has a name: the Duke Bias.
Look, some first seed had to play University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Show me a serial no-call ref and I’ll show you a pink slip.
— Duke fields too many prep-school white guys.
This is all over the blogs, honestly. Talk about racism. But I hear Jon Scheyer enjoys the “Jewish Jordan” moniker. Obviously, the Plumlee brothers (with another in the wings) learned more than manners at the fancy prep school they attended. At least it’s in North Carolina. And remember that Duke players maintain a high profile amid criticism of “student athletes” from all backgrounds who bide their time and bulk up waiting for the NBA draft.
I hear somebody saying “… because they’re not good enough.”
White, green, black; clean-cut, shaggy, tattooed or not, the Devils seem like a nice bunch of boys, an unselfish band of brothers who execute smart plays conceived by an experienced coach. I should know. I missed only one televised game this season.
— Duke destroyed the “tiny” Butler Bulldogs’ David-and-Goliath quest.
The mismatch between David and Goliath was size. Uh-oh. Butler’s undergraduate enrollment is about 4,000, Duke’s 6,400. And, as I recall from two semesters of Bible study required for graduation, David felled Goliath with a slingshot-fired rock between the eyes. No ref would no-call that. If their personable young coach stays on for 30 years through good seasons and horrific, Butler will triumph.
— The Cameron Crazies are a-holes.
This is a euphemism for well-organized and effective. Without the Crazies’ “Zoooob” moan, Brian Zoubek might never have come out of his coma.
— Duke won by a fluke. The Blue Devils could not have beaten Kentucky or Kansas.
Maybe. We’ll never know.
The fact is they won, fair and square, in a hard-fought, exciting, well-matched championship game unmarred by brawls, injuries or intentional fouls. Coaches and commentators agree on this. If anyone thinks otherwise, let’s hash it out over a beer.
My treat, if you’re drinking Heineken.
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com.
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