I don’t like Duke.
But, so many sportswriters have suggested lately that my hatred of Duke is irrational that I’ve decided I need to reconsider my position. Maybe I am being irrational, or maybe too many sportswriters are Dookies.
(Seriously, how many Dookies does it take to announce a UK basketball game, anyway?)
The word hate is problematic in this instance. We say we hate terrorists and we hate Brussels sprouts, but we don’t mean the same thing. I concede that I hate Duke more like I hate Brussels sprouts. Nothing irrational about that.
I have recently learned to love Brussels sprouts parboiled, then sautéed with bacon and garlic, (you can cook anything in bacon and garlic and it tastes good), but I can’t really see any way to camouflage Duke that would make me change my mind about their basketball program.
Duke lost in the NCAA tournament to Lehigh last week and I, like many fans from many schools, was elated for Lehigh— whoever they are. I knew that my Wildcats could lose to Iowa State the next day, so was it irrational to indulge in a bit of schadenfreude that karma might recall in less that 24 hours? Perhaps.
Was it fun? Oh, yeah.
Tell people you’re a UK alumnus and everyone immediately assumes you hate Duke because of Christan Laettner’s shot. I don’t. That would be irrational. That shot was glorious and I admire him for it. It’s probably the only thing I do admire about him.
I don’t admire him for losing $30M in real estate investments and dragging his NBA “friends” down with him, for example, but more on Chris in a minute.
This will surprise you, but I hate Duke most for losing to UK in the NCAA Semifinals. . . in 1966.
Had Duke won, UK wouldn’t have been stuck with the Texas Western fiasco all these years and I would now be enjoying every minute of Duke losing in Glory Road continuously on my DVD player.
Kansas lost to Texas Western in double overtime in that tournament and I would be perfectly happy (for the first time in my life) to have seen Kansas win a game. Thank you very much, Jayhawks, but this is about Duke.
Is it irrational to hate Duke because they didn’t beat us? No doubt. I’ll give you a point.
The second reason I hate Duke is Christian Laettner, not because he hit a last-second jumper, but because he intentionally stepped on Aminu Timberlake’s chest while he lay defenseless on the floor in front of 14 referees and a national TV audience. How did he not get ejected for that? Because he played for Duke.
No matter who your favorite school might be, if your player pulls that stunt, he’s ejected— unless you’re a Dookie. Somehow, Duke always seems to get babied by the NCAA. How else do you explain their perennial top seeding in some region whose 2-seed is East Chapel Hill High School?
That seems like a rational reason to hate Duke, so I’m taking my point back. We’re even again.
I also hate Duke because they recruit players like Laettner and J. J. Reddick and Jon Scheyer with pretty faces that you just want to slap.
OK, so that’s irrational.
Speaking of slapping, I don’t hate Duke because their players slap the gym floor and have been doing so for decades— that would be irrational. Though, I will say it’s more annoying than Justin Bieber.
I hate Duke because Corey Maggette was reportedly an ineligible player in the 1999 NCAA tournament, yet Duke still flies the Final Four banner, no wins were vacated, and the school didn't have to return any money. Maggette admitted to receiving payments while in high school and still the NCAA took no action.
Derrick Rose’s biggest mistake was not going to Duke. Fab Melo, too. He would still be in this year’s tournament.
I don’t hate Mike Kzw…, Kwyz. . ., oh hell, Coach K. That’s probably because he was so gracious after his loss to the Comeback Cats in 1998 in Tampa. The image of Coach K hugging Jeff Sheppard after losing to Kentucky is seared into my brain. Then he went to UK's locker room and told them what an amazing game they had played. Sorry haters, Coach K earned my respect that day.
There’s another reason I don’t hate Duke and that ties back in with the Lehigh loss. They’re fun to beat. They're even fun for someone else to beat.
Most college basketball fans have two favorite teams: their alma mater and whoever is playing Duke. They're arrogant and entitled and they don’t lose much, but when they do it’s a treat.
So, I hate Duke, in a Brussels-sprouts-without-the-bacon-and-garlic kind of way. if my kids came home and told me they’d received a scholarship to Duke, would I let them go?
Of course, I would. It’s a damned good school. I’m not irrational.
Dirk Cotton is a retired executive of a Fortune 500 Internet company who loves to spend time with his family, fly fish, shoot sporting clays, attend college baseball games, sail, follow the Wildcats, and write. Everything else he does is just for fun. A computer programmer-cum-marketing executive-cum-financial planner who now wants to be a writer, he apparently can't decide what he wants to be when he grows up. He and his family moved to The Southern Part of Heaven in 2005 and couldn't be happier with that decision.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
3.23.12 @ 8:32a
Love this. When you write about sports, I actually look forward to it. :)
I will say one of the best live basketball experiences was at a Duke game. But this is hilarious.
3.23.12 @ 10:11a
Thanks. I am the biggest UK basketball fan who ever lived. Had I gone to Duke, I would be the biggest Duke fan who ever lived.