Hoops Smackdown From the Girly-Fan
This time last year, I was crowned Ms. Unpopularity for my wild-and-Cameron Crazy support - more like adoration - for Duke basketball.
And why not? I was a Cameron Crazy before blue face paint, wigs, chants, choreography and the appellation. I still am, amid a Sandhills sea of Carolina blue and State red.
Several responders noted that the "A" in my Duke B.A. must stand for -arrogance. Really, not all Dukies are arrogant, even about basketball. This one appreciates Carolina and cheers every other North Carolina team until they play Duke. Then it's all ugly gestures and obscene -epithets.
I know, only an arrogant Dukie would call a four--letter word an obscene epithet. No matter. I love basketball - a delightful, graceful, high-scoring game that's easy to follow. This sport appeals to both jocks and humanitarians: Watch the heartbreak in a player's eyes after missing an alley-oop. See the concern when cameras pan to his parents' faces. Sense team cohesion - or, sadly, lack of it lately at Chapel Hill. Observe uniform styling, including those spanky-pants undergarments.
For me, basketball is also very personal. I was a cheerleader when my high school team won the North Carolina State Championship more than 50 years ago. What a trip. Now, in November my neurons begin to squeak like sneakers on the lacquered hardwood. By March, the squeak becomes spasm.
I'm an ACC groupie who can identify most plays and shots but who enjoys games from a girly perspective. Which means I know players by name, hairstyle and the way they move: cool and smooth, like John Scheyer, or wild and rough, like Wake Forest's Chas (pronounced Chase - why?) McFarland.
I follow the coaches - their exaggerated gestures, their school-color ties. Doesn't Wake's Dino Gaudio have great hair? I try to lip-read what winner coach says to loser coach during the final handshake - probably less "Good game" and more "How'dya get a six-figure endorsement?"
I certainly wouldn't want to ruffle Coach K. Some Halloween I expect to see a pull-on Coach K mask, with shoe-polish hair, menacing eyes and pursed lips.
I even have favorite commentators. Len Elmore is clever, informative and calm, as are former Blue Devils Jay Bilas and "G-Man" Mike Gminski. Dick Vitale's shoutdowns rate the mute button.
Anyway, this is a special year for ACC basketball, a year bereft of glamorous Tyler Hansbrough, who melted away to the Indiana Pacers (posted salary: $1,859,160) like a Popsicle in August. The Tar Heels, plagued by turnovers and injuries (seven-foot giraffe colt Tyler Zeller out again - Ed Davis, too), seem lost without Hansbrough.
Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal lacks aura. Clemson's Trevor Booker ... not quite. Maryland's Grievis Vasquez, that hot-shot Venezuelan with the grandee goatee, plays like a fly I long to swat.
The main difference is my new TV, big but not obscenely so, in pimple-perfect high definition with screen shaped like a basketball court.
OK, so all screens are shaped like basketball courts.
When Kyle Singler sweats, I mop my brow. Cheerleaders' smiles look painted on, then frozen. Grunts come across in stereo. I can almost smell the huddle.
Despite the stunning loss to State, Duke is doing well, but they have always been a head team. One kid drops his lollipop, everybody starts to cry. Away from Cameron, the Devils get homesick.
Regardless, for me the Duke boys are magic, fluid, intense. They are the towering Plumlee brothers, whose mommy must be so proud. They are Brian Zoubek, the bearded seven-footer who finally differentiated his left foot from his right, and Nolan Smith, who comes across under pressure. They make me wish I had a granddaughter to bring Jon Scheyer home, so I could cook myself to death.
Whether Duke will hold on through March is beyond my girly expertise. Just remember, it ain't over till the tall guy shoots. That would be in April.
If Duke stumbles, you'll know why depression is called the blues. Duke blue, Carolina blue and my own brand: True blue.
Deborah Salomon says harsh words are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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