Saturday, March 17, 2007
My Sunday Feeling
This week's edition will be short and sweet. The day job has kept me pretty busy and I've got another free lance project that is due tomorrow. Will try to get back to posting more frequently soon but there's only so many hours in the day and so much staring at the computer screen I can do.
Let me begin by saying that I am not a Duke-hater. I reserve the bulk of my disdain for a certain school South of here that wears purple and gold as well as for a certain Roman Catholic institution of higher learning East of Chicago. I have no use for either of those schools, and furthermore, I do not suffer their fans gladly.
But there are those that despise Duke University and Mike Krzyzewski and their name is Legion. Granted, most of them are basketball fans at other ACC schools. But Duke bashing abounds all over the place and it usually manifests itself this time of year during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament when Duke is typically in the thick of things.
Only this year, they are not. Duke got sent packing in the first round of this year's tourney by Virginia Commonwealth to the everlasting joy unbounded of Duke haters everywhere. Indeed, for one of the more conspicuous (and vitriolic) examples of this phenomena hit the link:http://www.truthaboutduke.com/.
Now Duke's getting the bum's rush should not have come as any great shock. They weren't very good this year. The lost their last 4 games of the season and limped into the tournament as a 5 seed mainly because, well, they're Duke. But Duke's guards are slow afoot and had trouble handling pressure all year. About all I knew about VCU was that they pressed all over the house. So, I figured they would give Duke trouble and picked them to win as did my friend PM. If guys like us are getting this right, then this isn't exactly brain surgery.
So why all the schadenfreude? In the first place, there are certain clubs that inspire class hatred. Duke is like unto the New York Yankees in that regard. I'll bet there are Yankee haters somewhere on my street. There is a certain smug arrogance about both clubs, most of it unjustified by recent performance. The Dallas Cowboys gave off much the same vibe during Tom Landry's tenure as Head Coach and Conduit to Jesus Himself.
But unlike the Yankees, Duke was once kind of America's hoops darling. Duke was pretty mediocre in hoops until Bill Foster took over. When I was a senior at Hendrix (another renowned hoops hotbed) Duke went to the Final Four with Gene Banks, Mike Gminski and true thug Terry Dennard who threw elbows at guys just for the sheer unabashed joy of it. Duke's second resurgence came under Coach K. Grant Hill, Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley were the poster boys for all that was right in college basketball, especially when viewed alongside their main rival, frequent NCAA recidivists Jerry Tarkanian and UNLV. (The hell of it is, UNLV had actually pretty much QUIT cheating by that point in time. But sometimes thy reputation precedes ye always.)
So how did the Dukies morph into the Evil Empire? Partly they are a victim of their own success. Everybody likes to root against the Overdog and Duke, while a shadow of their former selves, has been one of college basketball's Elites for years. It's just human nature. Secondly, it cannot be denied that they brought some of this on themselves.
Dukies, while not nearly as insufferable as your average Notre Dame aficionado, tend to think very highly of themselves. This is not surprising seeing as how the majority of their constituency is upper middle class and white. Secondly, while Coach K has certainly done things the right way at Duke ( their graduation rate is one of the highest in the game. Contrary to the bullshit that is put out in Durham, Duke ain't Harvard. But still, it is an excellent school and this is commendable.) But it irritated many people, myself included, to see him shilling for both American Express and Chevrolet during last year's tournament. To profit from the cult of personality that is college coaching while kids can't get paid anything was repellent. Such an indifference to appearance is borne of arrogance.
Finally, one must concede that the recent unpleasantness concerning the allegations of improper conduct by Duke's lacrosse team did not help matters any one little bit. Rightly or wrongly, Duke came across as a lily-white bastion of privilege and indifference while racial and economic tensions in Durham roiled about the ivory tower of academe.
So Duke haters may rejoice. Duke is out of the tournament. And they make take solace in the certain truth that the days of dynasties are over. There's no way a team can keep guys together for 4 years anymore. If you have kids that are any good they will jump to the NBA draft after 2-3 years.
But Duke's signees for next year are touted as highly as any class the Evil Empire has ever signed. Love 'em of hate 'em, Duke and Coach K will be back.
You can count on that.