The Smell of the Face Paint, the Roar of the Crazies
Hear that? It’s the pitter-patter of huge feet on the hardwood, the squeak of rubber on the varnish, the opening rant of the Old Blue Broad.
College basketball rules. And why not? You don’t have to speak the jargon or study the regulations. Basketball is self-evident. Basketball is lead changes every 30 seconds.
Basketball is also beautiful, graceful, powerful, smart and, in high def, up close and personal.
Most of all, college basketball is affiliation. Graduates who don’t follow the home team make me nervous. They missed the indoctrination part of the collegiate experience.
When 18-year-olds leave home they need new identities — fast. Their brains are not only fed, they are washed.
Their bodies are clad in T-shirts and their cars plastered with stickers. Ever watch grandpas turn into frat rats when alma mater takes the floor?
And now, for the 55th anniversary of donning the ridiculous blue-and-white frosh bow (the guys wore beanies) and picking up a student ticket book, I will rekindle my enthusiasm, muster my arrogance and become, once again, an armchair Cameron Crazy.
This year, a shock: Most of my boys are gone. I’m part of a “trading places” reality show where I mother another’s children. Oh, the separation anxiety. Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are gone. Scheyer, Zoubek and Thomas are long gone.
My heart is in the hands of gangly Ryan Kelly, shy Mason Plumlee, hawkeyed Seth Curry and a young phenom named Austin Rivers (sounds like a detective, circa Mickey Spillane) with whom I have not yet bonded, still burned by the cruel defection of Kyrie Irving. Truth be told, from what I’ve seen, they haven’t bonded with each other, either.
Bonding. Aye, that’s the rub. In a poor cheerleader’s opinion, these boys aren’t quite hooked up, except for the Plumlee brothers, who practiced passing in the playpen. (A third and tallest brother, Marshall, has joined the squad but may be redshirted, which cheats Sports Illustrated out of a great cover; three brothers haven’t played on the same team since the 1950s.)
As for bonding, Coach K teaches hitting with a clenched fist, not five separate fingers. You saw it happen during the Michigan State game. In the beginning, Duke played like gym pick-up. Then brotherhood kicked in, confidence soared, shots dropped.
Last season I did not miss a single televised Duke game. Once again, by March Madness I will know every zit, every chipped tooth, scraggly goatee and tattoo. I will recognize each player’s walk. I already feel their energy. So when my boys’ proud parents appear on the screen, I scream no, no! Get me a custody lawyer!
This may be a learning season. I want Duke to win, but win or not, the thrill still zings down my spine every time Andre Dawkins swishes a three, or Mason Plumlee sinks a running hook.
This is the cycle of college sports. Baby birds learn to fly, to forage, then go pro — Singler to Detroit Pistons, now Spain; Scheyer to a top Israeli team. We alums mourn, regroup and keep the faith. We are affiliated for life.
Except around here, Devils’ advocates serve as target practice dummies.
Duke’s greatest opponent is not UNC. It’s public opinion.
State-Carolina guys aren’t alone hissing at Jersey girls in Range Rovers sporting superiority complexes distributed with their parking stickers.
That’s OK. You respect my affiliation, I’ll respect yours.
Besides, this Dookie aced Thickskin 101 on the way to her Abercrombie & Fitch tent in Shuh-shef-skee Village.
Vituperation welcome at email@example.com
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