As millions tuned in a few nights ago to catch college basketball’s final game, many were watching to see just one thing: Duke lose. For a variety of different reasons, this Durham school has built quite a few followers who watch their every game and travel to tournament games simply to watch them falter.
On nearly every neutral site they travel to, the Blue Devils have to answer to their negative following. So, why is it that everyone whose team has already been eliminated continues to tune into the games simply to watch Duke falter?
One of the first reasons is because they are about as good as any team in the nation and have been for the past decade. They started off as the hero, edging out a heavily favored UNLV squad to capture their first national title in 1991. They followed up the next year with a repeat and established themselves as a national powerhouse.
Back then, it was popular to be a Blue Devil worshipper. With poster boys Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill among others, Duke was the team everyone admired. They were the good guys, and they were supposed to win.
Over time, however, people started to turn against the Devils. Every year they would contend for the title, and fans across the country began to get sick of it. Furthermore, their new players, guys like Rashawn Mcloed and Elton Brand, had a fiery confidence that most took for cockiness.
What most people forget about, or at least choose to overlook, is that these guys had a reason to believe in themselves. The fact that one team has a dominant squad that can compete for the national title perennially is not a bad thing, at least not for job security.
I guess they forgot to tell head coach Mike Kryzewski that his time was over, and his team had to take a few years off before he was allowed back to the Final Four. He and his squad’s dedication to winning year in and year out, however, is exactly why people should like, or at least respect, the Blue Devils.
This year, the crowd in Minneapolis decided to turn to the officiating for a reason to hate Duke. Somehow, these people told themselves the referees were heavily favoring Duke in both of their Final Four matchups.
Is this how far we’ve come, guys? Are we so desperate for a reason to root against this national power that we will credit all they’ve accomplished this season simply to a few helpful calls? After the game, fans across the nation comforted themselves in the belief that Duke didn’t “earn” their title, but that it was given to them.
So, how about nine Final Fours in the past sixteen years? They must have had a lot of friendly officials, huh? What about the five straight ACC titles? Thank goodness those ACC zebras bet on Duke.
Well, I think it’s finally time to put our biases and hatred aside. If one would look at how hard every one of these Duke players has worked throughout the season, taking every game to the wire, I don’t see how you could still blame the Devils for winning.
Most of you out there don’t know how tough this column is for me to write. I’ve been a Carolina fan as long as I can remember and have never been a huge fan for the Blue Devils. At the same time, I could not be happier after the game Monday night when I saw Coach K embracing senior Player of the Year Shane Battier.
This was one of those scenes that was meant to be. Throughout the season, Duke was a team of destiny. They played better than anybody in the country and deserved to cut down the nets this year.
After losing Battier, Nate James, and, most likely, Jason Williams at the end of this year, Duke will not have as strong a team next year. At the same time, there will not be a team that good for a long time in college basketball.
So, most people look with glee to next season, as Duke will have to struggle through an ACC season that will be loaded with national powerhouses. Here again, as with all Duke teams from years past, they will win more games than they’re supposed to and many more games than anyone would like to see.