legalacidity's musings


Duke Basketball: Hated By Everyone, Everywhere

That's right, folks. No matter what you think, Duke is the best college basketball team in the country. Period. Not by much, but they are. The thing that gets me is how many people just plain hate Duke. They don't seem to know why, they just do. Call it the Yankee Syndrome, or the Evil Empire Complex; either way, success breeds love and hatred in ways that are seldom understood. The funny thing is, if it hadn't been for Christian Laettner, I may be in this same boat of hate as a lot of college basketball fans. In the early 90's, I hated, detested, abhorred, etc., Rick Pitino and Kentucky. Hated them. I'll never forget Pitino walking off the court at halftime at the BJCC in Birmingham at the SEC basketball tournament blowing kisses to a booing crowd. As an Alabama fan, I couldn't stand him or Kentucky. Then, guess what happened? Laettner hit that shot in one of the greatest college basketball games ever played and I've been a Duke fan ever since, now going on fourteen years. I figure if you stick with someone longer than ten years you're officially rid of the bandwagon stigma, but I really don't care. I liked them initially for what they did to Kentucky; I love them now because of Coach K's philosophies on basketball and how they play together as a team.

If you ask someone why they hate Duke, they seldom have a legitimate answer. If you are a North Carolina fan, or a fan of any ACC basketball school, then I could see how your hatred or dislike may be legitimate. However, why is it that the random person in Alabama or Utah or Idaho hates Duke? There seems to be a lot of anti-Duke sentiment floating around. Some seems to stem from the popular misconception that Dick Vitale simply loves Duke and professes this love at every turn. If you think this is true, actually listen to Vitale call a game (if you can) and you'll notice how he heaps praise on just about everybody. In the Duke-UNC game last night, he praised J.J. Redick, Sheldon Williams, Coach K, Sean Dockery, etc., from Duke. He also praised Roy Williams, David Noel, Tyler Hansbrough, Reyshawn Terry, the UNC fans, etc. He praised the officials, the Smith Center, you name it. He praises EVERYBODY. Just because he may mention Duke more in his ESPN spots doesn't mean he likes them any more than any other teams; he mentions UConn, Gonzaga, Florida, Tennessee, etc. I think it's an unfair assumption because, while Vitale is a media and basketball whore, he's an equal opportunity lover of all things basketball.

Another reason people seem to hate Duke is J.J. Redick. Why? Here's a guy who came into the ACC as a skinny freshman who shot three pointers; that's it. Now, he's a senior who's bulked up not only his body but his game: he's got a midrange jumper, increased ball-handling skills, and the ability to take someone off the dribble and get to the basket. Oh, and he's a pretty good defensive player as well. He's the nation's leading scorer (barely, over Adam Morrison of Gonzaga). He's probably one of the best college basketball players ever, yet he has to deal with the full venomous force of every opposing fan no matter where he goes. He is universally hated, almost as much as Duke is. As a columnist from ESPN said recently (and a UNC fan), you should admire and not hate Redick because of the tremendous and historic year he is having.

At any rate, it remains to be seen whether Duke will win it all this year. Stringing together six straight victories in March is one of the hardest things to accomplish in sports. But, with the guts and will to win that Duke has shown over the last few games, I certainly wouldn't bet against them.

8:34 a.m. - 2006-02-08

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