Incidental Acts of Spontaneous Cerebral Violence

Monday, July 05, 2004

Almost as classy as Freddy Blassie

It's no secret. I hate Duke. And, truly, there are very few things on this planet I actually hate. Because, ladies and gentlemen, hatred involves an investment of energy. Mere dislike, on the other hand, is easy. To dislike something is the intellectual equivalent of merely crossing it off your mental list. ("This one's dead. Well, cross him off then.") While I dislike the jappy bitch lawyer who has the office across from mine, I certainly don't hate her. In fact, I never waste a moment's thought upon her unless she is directly in my line of sight (or, more typically, shrilly infesting my aural dominion).

However, I do hate Duke. And, yes, that hatred stems directly from envy. Envy at the chips they so mightily wear upon their shoulder, both academic and, principally, athletic.

A brief aside: One of the highlights of my mother's remarriage was that I was given a fully remodeled basement (with fireplace, leather couch and full-size fridge) as my bedroom/playroom in our new home. In that basement, due to the lack of natural television reception, I was given cable. And not just basic cable; I had the works. For a 14 year old boy who didn't do much homework in the first place, this was valhalla: late night soft-core porn on showtime (yes, I know the entire Sylvia Kristel ouvre by heart) and college basketball triple-headers on ESPN. That's when I fell in love with Tark. You see, ESPN had a contract with the Big West conference to show a Big West game late every monday night. And from 1989 through 1991, there was only ONE Big West team worth showing: the wonderful UNLV Running Rebels coached by Jerry Tarkanian. I dutifully watched EVERY televised UNLV game those seasons.

For the unitiated among you (read: foreigners), during this time frame UNLV was the BEST college basketball team in the country: Greg Anthony, Anderson Hunt, Stacey Augmon, Larry Johnson, George Ackles, David Butler, H Waldman, Evric Gray, Elmore Spencer and others. They won the national championship in 1990 (beating Duke by 30 in the championship game) and were undefeated going into the national semifinal in 1991 until . . .

Mike Krzyzewski and his underdog Duke Blue Devils upset Tark and my Rebels (79-77) in what I like to call the "Second Seder Massacre" (I vividly remember sneaking away from my grandmother's passover seder table every 5 minutes to check out the game).

My first year at Michigan, Duke not only beat the Fab Five in an amazing overtime game in Ann Arbor (which I missed, by the way--passed out on my then girlfriend's dorm floor--recovering from her birthday the previous night), but they beat us again in the National Championship. Ultimately, no school I have ever attended has defeated Duke in basketball while I was enrolled.

And that, my friends, is why I hate Duke. Their utter success, while ALWAYS playing by the rules (yes, unlike Michigan, I admit it) makes me physically ill. I despise Mike Krzyzewski for his success, his demeanor and, yes, his utter class.

Today, I hate Duke just a bit more. I was so close to seeing the Blue Devils lose their edge and become like every other school. However, it's not to be. Because Krzyzewski did the smart thing. Did the classy thing. Did the right thing. He turned down insane amounts of money and (probably) the most prestigious job in all of basketball coaching to continue to do what he does so successfully: coach at a place he loves and that loves him in return. Coach K is Duke basketball. And Duke basketball is Coach K. That mutual loyalty is virtually impossible to find anywhere, let alone in the arena of sports.

This hasn't changed much of anything: I still hate Duke. And will continue to root against them at every opportunity (unless they're playing Notre Dame or Ohio State, of course).

However, I admire and respect Coach K. And that's even rarer than the hate.

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