Growing up in North Carolina, if someone asked you who “your team” was and you said Duke, at least one of the following things was true:
- You were a Yankee
- You were an alumnus/alumna (likely, a lawyer)
- You were loud, unapologetic and obnoxious
- You were Bobby Hurley
My best friend was the third of these, and if a camera would have been rolling, then there would be physical evidence of cuss words, pulled hair and a broken computer keyboard (remember keyboards?). Duke encapsulated everything a blue collar (whether faux or true) North Carolinian hated: A private school, full of out-of-staters, with a rat-like coach and a team that always seemed to either (a) have the referee’s favor, or (b) hit a last second jumper that beat your underdog (see: J.J. Reddick).
Maybe time is the healer of all wounds, but as Duke claims its fifth NCAA National Championship (with claims of bad calls, and all), now is the time that we need to stop hating Duke — and Coach K. Here are the arguments, and the counterpoints.
1) Duke University (and by association, its basketball team) Are Yankees.
Duke has (un)affectionately been called “The University of New Jersey at Durham”, probably with good reason. It’s a private school with a large reach, and that comes with academic pro’s and social cons. Whether the “yankee factor” is qualitative or quantitative, we need to get over it, and here’s why: conference expansion. Sure, expansion means honing in on your brand and creating more competition but don’t for a second think that it is not, at the forefront, about increasing a “footprint” and a greater market share. This isn’t just true of Division I schools, but also the smaller potatoes. Did College of Charleston recently move from the SoCon to the Colonial for the sake of competition — or was it so out-of-state students in New York considering Stony Brook might also consider going to school by the beach? The latter garners more money, what do you think?
2) Coach K Is A Rat
Actually, he’s a class act. Every press conference I’ve ever seen, whether after a win, a loss to an underdog, or the death of Dean Smith, Coach K has been equally parts venerable and appropriately versed in decorum. Sure, on the court, he has been known to be snarky with refs and infamously muted to avoid a litany of curse words — but football coaches do this and we call them bulldogs. Basketball coaches do it, we call them rats. Throw in no accounts of coach-on-player violence or academic fraud.
3) Duke Is Flat Out Evil
Duke, it could be argued, is actually one of the good guys nowadays. Coach K (who is a lifetime coach) maintains a team mentality, and he expects the same of his players. They haven’t succumbed to nearly the same degree of “one and done” as similarly successful programs (Kyrie Irving is a glaring exception, of course), and watching them play, it still feels like a team of the old “Big Four” on Tobacco Road.
4) The Cameron Crazies Are Obnoxious
They are, but let’s admit it, we’re kind of jealous. Duke has also stayed true to Cameron Indoor: an intimate setting, on campus, and not to an off-campus, high-capacity facility that caters not to students, but to a professional ice hockey team (looking at you, Wolfpack).
Perhaps I’m a traitor or, worse, a sell-out, but that doesn’t mean I’m also a fan. I don’t cheer for Duke under a number of circumstances, but now I do find myself cheering for them more than ever before.
Either way, Clinton, if you’re reading this, you still owe me a keyboard.
Cover photo source: http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/1200*675/Duke+Basketball.jpg