Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Return to Greatness

**post by DKM**

I’m sorry it had to be Butler. I’m sorry it had to be the hometown school with a student population of less than 4000. I’m sorry it had to be a team full of hard-working, yet baby-faced players. I’m sorry it had to be the team for whom I have cheered for in every other round of this year’s tournament. I'm sorry for Blue II.

But it had to be someone, and I’m not sad Butler lost. As a result, the one sports team I follow who is actually perennially successful, surpassed being just among the elite. Second to none. Champs! Despite all the haters.

It’s no secret Duke has a whole lot of haters out there. Most of them wear that faggy baby blue colour though, and they should be discounted from all consideration. Any team that wins a national championship one year and fails to qualify for the tournament the next is a joke. A really funny joke.

I have no doubt all the haters will eternally criticize Duke’s flawless run in this year’s tourney.Sure, they may have had the easiest bracket. But what the hell does seeding mean anyhow? IfButler can come within 3 inches of hitting a game winning basket for the championship then it’s clear, seeding means squat. Just ask Northern Iowa. The team who plays the best, most consistent basketball over 6 games wins. And that is no small feat.

I can’t really remember when or why I started liking Duke. I know that in 5th grade I went to National Sports and bought a Blue Devils hat. You know the kind, circa 1995, snap-back, pinstripes, cursive writing.
Yup. Just like that.

I know that despite never wanting to be a doctor, never having had ivy-league like grades, nor never playing competitive basketball, as I entered high school I believed I was going to go to Duke. I know that in 10th grade, on a family trip to Florida we visited Duke’s campus. We did the whole thing with a dorky tour guide: the mess hall, the chapel, the university hospital. It turns out not everyone on the tour just wanted to go to Cameron Indoor. Like a museum, a zoo or even a theme park, the tour conveniently ended at the university store, where I proceeded to buy as much swag as I could get my hands on, some of which I still own to this day.

I also remember that when considering a move to an unnamed country in the Gulf prior to grade 12, I was given a tour of a school by a princess of said country. During a bit of small talk she told me she was going to Duke in the fall. Meeting a royal in an abundantly rich nation didn’t impress me. Going to Duke in the fall?!? I was in awe. I definitely asked her more questions about Duke than about the school we were touring.

Then came University. Surprise! I didn’t end up at Duke. In first year at UWO, I came to the realization that March Madness would be spent planted on the couch, moving only to get beer. I would not be painting my face blue and white and hopping up and down in Cameron Indoor.Duke. Tobias Funke's favorite school.

As a consolation for my choice of Uni,
I met Mere...And so began her lifelong support of Duke-by-association. She still thinks they’re just a bunch of nameless white boys.

My nutty roommate managed to get free cable in our dorm in March 2004. It was some sort of promotion where if you signed up, you got the first month free. I don’t know what EVER gave the cable company the impression that a bunch of broke-ass students living in a dorm weren’t going to cancel it the day they moved out of the dorms, but that’s not for here nor there. We had TV. And it was March. My essay on Jane Austen’s “Emma” (not my choice) might have been handed in two weeks late, but at least I took pride in introducing many people from residence to March Madness. I showed them how to fill out a bracket, and told them it looked ugly if they didn’t have Duke going all the way.

nfortunately that year, like most, my will alone couldn’t crown Duke champs. Duke lost in the final seconds of a close game in the Final Four. Meredith was of great support after Duke blew their game-long lead and were booted from a return to the finals. She was genuinely awesome, suggesting things like “oh honey, I know you’re upset. Wanna make out?” and “How about I get you some keg beer?” What a doll.

Over the 6 years since, Mere and I always looked forward to filling out a bracket together. Despite winning a couple pools over that time, I was never fulfilled, as Duke got knocked out either during or before the Sweet 16. Five years in a row. And somehow winning the annual ACC tournament (which is practically a slamdunk deal – no pun intended) just doesn’t cut it if you can’t get more than three games deep in the tourney.

Chalk one up for the haters.

It didn’t help that North Carolina went out and won a couple championships in that span. Life could not get much worse for a Dukie.

The massive amount of Blue Devils clothing I accumulated over the last 10 years was growing tatty, and was worn with diminishing pride.
But this year, something felt different. Certain things couldn’t be ignored. All of a sudden this year, Zoubek was able to stay off crutches. Role players played their role. Smith more than doubled his average point total from last year. Scheyer was now the senior guard and no longer under the shadow of others. Singler turned out to be everything the Duke faithful hoped he would when recruited. And Coach K coached the fuck out of them.

Of course, all the haters still said they’d choke. Journalists encouraged fans to support the underdogs and spit on the contenders. The Butler bandwagon got really crowded.

Haters 2, Dukies 0.

Thankfully for me, Duke saved their best basketball for the end of the tournament, and truly deserved their first title since 2001. And it feels amazing. I’m now inspired to pass on my middle name, Keay, to one of my future children. But I’m just gonna spell it K.
(Meredith Ed Note. WHAT?)

Hate if you’re gonna hate, haters, but to all the Duke fans out there, kick back and enjoy this.

The Dukies executed down the stretch and overcame the Haters two-point lead for the win.

1 comment:

  1. Well, you are welcome DKM... Your analysis is thrilling... but it really was the magic Breton touch you see, picking-out the winning team!




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