Posted by MATT JONES
Admit it. You enjoyed watching Duke lose last night. I am not talking to you, Mr. Cameron Crazy, who took one night off from your molecular biology homework to go to your study partner’s house, paint your face blue and white, drink a couple of Zimas and watch your boy Mason Plumlee “do work” while discussing when you will find your own “hot girl from 'Big Bang Theory'” who will look past your dorky nature and see the inner Mark Wahlberg inside.
I am talking about the rest of the college basketball world, who either actively despises Duke or, among the more genteel fans, simply enjoys watching the Blue Devils squirm. For those folks, games like Wednesday night’s loss to Florida State are a lot of fun.
In college basketball, Duke is without question the hall monitor. With the exception of Kyrie Irving (who is now hurt), there isn’t a Duke player on the roster who would be considered one of the “cool” kids anywhere outside of New Jersey and some parts of upstate New York. All of Duke’s players have appropriate haircuts, say “yes sir, no sir” and occasionally even help old ladies across the street. They have all the swagger of Mark O’Meara , combined with the street cred of Glenn Beck. Coach K complains to the refs incessantly and the players always seem incredulous at the mere thought they could have committed a foul. When other players engage in any action that is not basketball the “Duke way” (such as oh, I don’t know … being interesting), K and the players go running to the principal, tattling and threatening to tell their NCAA sugar daddies. It can all be a bit much.
That is of course combined with the continued reality of every announcer, pundit or writer falling all over herself to let us know that Coach K does things “the right way” and that the players put the word “student” into “student-athlete.” To watch a Duke game is to be berated into accepting that you have drifted upon a set of players that are a physical embodiment of a mix between Oscar Robertson and Socrates , with the occasional floor slap mixed in. To those that pontificate on basketball, Duke is what A.J. Leibling’s “Sweet Science” is to books about sports, a dash of exquisite college basketball literature in a world of mediocrity and drivel.
It can all be a bit much. But when Duke loses … well those of us in the unwashed masses have something to celebrate. The “know-it-all” at the back of the classroom asking if more homework is going to be assigned or if the NCAA can crack down on this bully who is trying to recruit my players, gets his comeuppance in the most profound way. And then, when that loss comes from a team that is actually a football school and sees basketball as a hobby instead of a way of life…well that is even more grand.
Such a game happens every season. Nearly every year, Duke goes into some ACC team’s home arena, usually Florida State or Virginia Tech, puts their arms around each other in a little-too-tight huddle, sprints to Coach K’s every beckon call and looks terrified of the big, bruising bodies that are taking over and rudely beating them at their own game. Then as the minutes wind down, Coach K goes from cursing at the referees to inner acceptance of his fate and the players hit the one great moment where they no longer believe they will win and realize that for the first time, life is truly not fair. I love that moment every year and if you are honest, so do you.