Thursday, April 4, 2013

Down with the Blue Devils

Why it's OK to despise Duke.

It's become a passage of Spring, the NCAA tournament begins and whether Duke does well, or Duke does poorly, the "Haters" come out of the woodwork, and you end up seeing articles like "Why We Hate Duke" and "The 12 biggest reasons everybody hates Duke".  Which usually start or end with the argument that basically, "they're really good".  This is true, but it's still ok to "hate Duke".

Normally, I'm not a "hater".  I'm not into that.  I like to cheer for my team(s), and hope for the best, and then (should they fail) pick another team (maybe one with a good story, or an underdog, or something like that) to cheer for.  I don't usually participate in the "hate" that many do.  Which is perfectly fine by the way.  If you can talk yourself into hating the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre more than life itself, and then turn around and cheer for him when he signs with your team, that's your prerogative.  But that is precisely why I don't do that.  Modern sports (particularly professional sports) lead to people "cheering for the uniforms", the players come and go, the coaches come and go, it really doesn't make much sense to have "hatred" for another pile of laundry.

But Duke is different.  They bring out the disdain in me.  I can't stand them.  This is not an uncommon theme.    There is a book for sale on that is #10 in humor sales (as I write this), that was written over a year ago, titled "Duke Sucks".  It doesn't seem to matter what team's fan base you talk to, either.  Of course North Carolina (Duke's chief rival) fans loathe the Blue Devils, but so do Kentucky fans, and Louisville fans, and UCLA fans, and Michigan State fans, and on and on we go.  

Why is the hatred so widespread?  Well, after scouring the Internet and reading a number of articles, I have a few thoughts.

Duke's fans 

I am not talking about the "Cameron Crazies" here (they get their own section).  I am talking your general, run of the mill, ordinary, 'one guy in the entire office who cheers for Duke' fans.  First of all, at best you are a "bandwagon fan" who chooses to cheer for them because they are good every year.  A very high percentage of Duke fans (I would wager 98-99%) have no affiliation or affinity to the university whatsoever.  They didn't go to school there (Duke has a smaller undergraduate population than my Alma mater, South Dakota State), and they don't know anyone who went to school there, they just cheer for Duke because they are successful.  Or worse, they choose to cheer for Duke to be antagonistic.  

This is priceless, and a great example of why Duke fans are disliked, in general:
1999: Duke alum Jennifer Taylor emails star forward Elton Brand to “express my disgust for your decision to leave the Duke program after only two years,” explaining to Brand that “he will not be considered part of the Duke family, in my mind as well as many others.”

The funniest thing about Duke fans is how "annoyed" they are that they are hated.  They espouse the "Duke is hated because they are good" motto like it's the first "commandment" of being a Duke fan.  You chose to be a fan of a rich, elitist, private school, you're going to have to deal with the consequences.  If you argue that duke is an elitist, rich, school please chew on these facts, directly from the Duke Chronicle.
  1. The mean income for U.S. households in 2001 was $58,208, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. The mean income for white, Duke freshmen in 2001-2002 was $230,000.
(That's only 4 times the national average).  I could go on, but the fact is you have chosen to cheer for a school whose population is made up of spoiled, rich kids.  Here, read this letter, written by a Duke fan (and former student) about being harassed by cheering for Duke in Miami!  

The Cameron "Crazies"

I know "Dickie V" loves them, and calls them the "best basketball fans in the world", and they are much ballyhooed throughout the college basketball world.  They are beyond ridiculous.  Other teams don't have good fans?  The fact that "Kryzewskiville" is celebrated is a joke.  Those kids are no more standing in line than you and I are.  
In Mike Krzyzewski’s sixth year as head coach, Duke students begin pitching tents in “Krzyzewskiville” before major games at Cameron Indoor Stadium. What started as a simple line has since devolved into a Byzantine three-color classification system with wait lists and line monitors. “At the end of Black Tenting, all remaining Black Tent groups will continue tenting under Blue Tenting rules,” the Krzyzewskiville site explains. Oh, however much fun

The following story got a 'bit' of play during the past season, but not as much as you'd expect.  Some Duke fans chanted "How's your Grandma?" to an NC State player, whose Grandmother had just passed away.  

Also, back in 1988, North Carolina Tar Heel Scott Williams was supposedly greeted with chants of "Orphan!" from the Cameron Crazies.  Williams parents had perished in a tragic murder/suicide the previous summer.  And although many Duke sources deny that this ever happened, I did find this:  
The story about the "orphan" chant was corroborated by several independent sources THE NIGHT OF THE GAME in 1989, including managerial staff, and several people working stats. I heard the story hours after it happened by some people who were upset in the actual sports info dept. - which means it was happening behind our bench. While I have no doubt that Ola Jero was not in a position to hear it, I have no doubt it happened.

Yes, I know it isn't verified, and yes I know it could just be a rumor. However, it's a rumor that still has life 25 years after the fact.  That should tell you something about how the 'Crazies' are perceived, and the "Cameron Crazies" behavior does not lead one to believe them of being "innocent" of such things.

Just a "model" group of Cameron Crazies.
No matter how you slice it, the "Crazies" aren't helping Duke's reputation, and it is quite easy to see why their "antics" and behavior turn people to cheer against the Blue Devils.

Dickie V excluded, for obvious reasons.

What?  Dickie V is biased?  No way!
(An aside on Dickie V, and his fascination with the Dookies.)
What is his deal?  Honestly, one time I was watching an ACC game between Virginia and Maryland (this was back when Maryland was contending, so around 2002, give or take a few years), and in the middle of the 2nd half, of a pretty good game, Dickie V. starts going off about Duke, and how good Duke is, and how great Coach K is, and what a great season they were having in Durham, and how fun the Cameron Crazies are, and I was just like.... Dick, there's another game going on right now, and Duke isn't even in the building?  He did earn the nickname "Dookie V", and I really don't understand why, except for maybe Coach K was the first "reputable" coach to be nice to him?  It's beyond weird.

The Duke Players

Let me go on record...far and away, MOST Duke players are good kids.  They are hard workers, they do well in school, and they are very good (some bordering on great) college basketball players.  However, there is a number of Duke players, who rubbed me the wrong way.  In fact, they rubbed most people the wrong way.  In fact, when held a "Most Hated College Basketball Player of the last 30 years" contest, not only did Christian Laettner (duh?) win, Duke got an entire region to themselves!  Think about that just for a second.  The other three regions were broken down by decades, and then the Duke region.  Clearly there is more than a few Blue Devils who get under people's skin.

Every time you watch the Final Four, or an NCAA tournament game, you see Laettner's historic last second shot, to lift Duke over Kentucky to the Final Four in 1992.  What is not shown, is that earlier in that very game, Laettner actually stomped on the chest of a Kentucky player who had the "audacity" to foul him.  In today's game, he'd have been ejected.  

In addition, as the "National Player of the Year" Laettner was added to the "Dream Team" that summer to play with Magic, Michael, Bird, Barkley, and crew.  You know who else was a college player that year, who didn't get to go, yet was the first overall pick in that summer's draft?  How great would a young and playful Shaq have been with those guys?  We'll never know.  Because career NBA Benchwarmer Laettner needed to go.  It was stupid then, and it's beyond stupid now.

There have been a number of others.  The guy who sits right next to Coach K during the games now?  Assistant Coach Steve Wojciechowski?  Was one of the more hated players (who really wasn't very good) of our era.  Bobby Hurley was a decent college player, who I am convinced has still never committed a foul to this very day.  And I'm not sure if there has been a more overrated college basketball player than Greg Paulus than any other player in history.  It's not that he was terrible, it's just that he was very average at best, but if you turned into a game that Dickie V. was calling it seemed plausible that the next Bob Cousy was on the court, and running the show for the Devils.

This seems to be an ongoing issue with many Duke players.  It's not so much that they are bad, most of them are decent players.  But they are SO HYPED up.  I mean, just this past season... Mason Plumlee was listed as a candidate for Player of the Year award early in the season!  Mason Plumlee?  Really?  Had no one ever watched him play the previous 3 years?  He is what he is.  An above average center in the college game.  Nothing more, nothing less.  To even mention him as a possibility as the National Player of the year is beyond ludicrous.  

This is why the Duke players are hated.  We are so beaten to death with "The Alaskan Assassin" and "Duke hasn't lost with Ryan Kelly starting" that we take pleasure in them losing, and can't wait for them to graduate.

The Hypocrisy of Coach K

Coach Mike Krzyzewski is a fabulous basketball coach.  You won't find me doubting his ability as a teacher of the game, as a strategist, or as a recruiter.  He's one of the best ever, and deserving to be in the Basketball Hall of Fame.  However, he's a big time college basketball coach, and he operates like one.  Don't get sucked into the "Coach K. Aura".

Coach K- doing what he does best.
Remember this little gem?  "I don't look at myself as a basketball coach, I look at myself as a leader who happens to coach basketball".  Okay.  Do leaders normally "inspire" their charges with profanity laced tirades?  The following quote is from a New York Post reporter in 2005, who sat behind the Duke bench:
Krzyzewski himself was an unfiltered Chris Rock concert for much of the day, but one of his assistants was worse. During one timeout, with the starters sitting on the bench, gulping Gatorade, this was his idea of "coaching" them: "You're a bleep, and you're a bleep, and you're a bleeping bleep-bleeper of a bleeper-bleeper. You bleepers don't bleeping deserve to wear the bleeping colors of Duke University! Bleep! Are you bleeping bleeping me? Bleep all of you. Get out of my bleeping faces."
At which point, he was replaced by Krzyzewski, whose assessment was far more succinct: "You bleeping make me bleeping sick."

I understand that it's big time college sports, and that he's dealing with young men, and not little boys.  But the public image of this man and how he actually behaves is quite different.  Here's a quote from an opposing player (and yes, it's a Carolina guy, so take it for what it's worth).
"I guess the thing that surprised me the most was you don't realize how much he curses and how much he's on the refs all the time," says former UNC guard Bobby Frasor. "I remember someone telling me about [former Duke player] Taylor King during his freshman year and how he thought his name was ‘motherfucker,' because that's how Coach K got his attention. I don't know how true it is. I mean, he's a great coach and I'm not going to deny that at all, but the way he handles his players or acts with the refs and media, sometimes it kind of rubs people the wrong way."

This type of behavior isn't just "on the court", reserved for players and referees.  In fact, I found he actually had a run in with Duke's own school newspaper.
1990: After Duke’s student newspaper gives the Blue Devils a B+ at the halfway point of the season, Coach K invites the paper’s sports staff in for a get-together with the team and his assistant coaches. "I'm not looking for puff pieces or anything like that,” Krzyzewski tells the student journalists, “but you're whacked out and you don't appreciate what the [bleep] is going on and it [bleeps] me off.”

There is more to that story, but what's the point of sharing all the curse words he used on his own school's student journalists for "daring" to give his team a B+?  

What word is coming out of his mouth next?
The point is these aren't isolated incidents.  Three Paths to Glory is a book written by Duke grad Barry Jacobs, chronicles the 1993 season following the teams of UNC, Duke, and NC State.   A March to Madness a book by John Feinstein also follows the Blue Devils through a season(1996-1997).  In each book, you will find that the reports of Coach K's language is not being exaggerated.  It's just who he is.

Never forget either, that Coach Krzyzewski quit coaching the team in 1995 season, citing back pain and exhaustion.  Certainly we can all understand that, as back pain is quite debilitating and can certainly affect someone's job performance.  However, one unusual thing about that...
 Long-time assistant Pete Gaudet takes over in Coach K’s stead, guiding the Blue Devils to a 2-14 ACC record. Contrary to the practice at other schools, these wins and losses stay on Gaudet’s permanent record. “I think I should have been credited with all the losses,” Coach K says in 2007. “It must be difficult for Mike Krzyzewski to influence the Duke athletic department,” Deadspin’s Emma Carmichael wrote earlier this season, “because the losses stayed where they were.”
Poor Coach K, he can't even influence the school (in which he is the highest paid person) to give the losses to him for the season that he quit on his team.  I mean if only they had named the BB court after him or something, maybe he'd have some influence.

Well, at least you can say that he runs a clean program.  Duke has never had improprieties of students getting cash or anything like that, while righteous Coach K has ran the program?
2000: After leaving Duke, former star Corey Maggette admits to accepting thousands of dollars from summer-league coach Myron Piggie. Though such payments would presumably have made Maggette ineligible, the NCAA declines to strip Duke of its Final Four appearance. The Blue Devils, in fact, aren’t punished at all. This undoubtedly confuses John Calipari.
2003: An investigation by the New Orleans Times-Picayune reveals that point guard Chris Duhon's mother “landed a job working for a Duke booster; co-workers say the job opening was never posted and that Harper was overpaid and lacked qualifications.” Again, Duke gets absolutely no heat from the NCAA.

Irony of ironies, that very same year, 2003, Duke named it's "Leadership and Ethics Center" after Coach K. 

Many people have mentioned the lack of success that Duke players have had at the NBA level, and used this as an argument for Coach K's greatness and the prominence of the "Duke Program".  I couldn't disagree more.  Most of these guys are McDonald's All-Americans and highly recruited out of high school, it's not like they all of a sudden lose their ability because they played in the "Duke System".  Personally, I think it has a lot to do with the "success" of Duke.  When they get into the NBA, and they don't have Coach K on the sideline intimidating officials, when they aren't on the team with more talent than 95% of the people they play against, the game isn't easy anymore.  It's not surprising that the Duke players who have had good NBA careers, are the hard workers...the Grant Hills, Shane Battiers, Carlos Boozers of the bunch.  The Laettners, Trajon Langdons, Danny Ferrys, and Chris Collins of the world never live up to their hype.

In Conclusion

It's OK to cheer against Duke.  They are an elitist, snobby, private college.  Their players are (consistently) overrated.  Their fan base is obnoxious and borderline irresponsible.  Their team is led by a cursing, intimidating, control freak who carries himself as some sort of Bastion of the Truth.  He's just a coach,  like every other coach out there, trying to win games.  Believe me, if he wasn't winning, I doubt he'd be as revered.  Winning is a wonderful deodorant.

In fact, just to prove this point:
 in 1984, Mike Krzyzewski told reporters the refs had a double standard when working UNC games. Nine years later, Krzyzewski and Smith faced off in a 1993 game inside the Dean Dome. After an argument with the longtime UNC coach, Coach K stormed back to the bench and, according to John Feinstein's A March to Madness, made the following request to his assistants. "If I even for one minute start to act like [Smith], don't ask a single question. Just get a gun and shoot me."
Then, read this article from Mike Lopresti.

Is he a great coach?  Of Course.  Is he "holier than thou", "better than everyone else"?  Of course not.  

And since he, and his program continue to be exalted and lifted up each and every year, it is perfectly fine to take a little pleasure when they fall short.

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