Thursday, February 10, 2005

Drinking the Kool-Aid

OK, UNC lost (again) to Duke last night, and are now tied with said Blue Devils for first place in the ACC. No biggie. I'm not even concerned about the fact that Duke was 21 for 22 from the line, or that the Heels had 23 turnovers -- 5 more than they average (although I must admit I was a little curious as to why McCants was acting much weirder than usual; my guess is that someone forgot to replace his Boba Fett battery pack before the game).

But before I go any further, I've got to break out the sour grapes -- just this once. Is it just me, or does Duke go into every home game with something like a 15 point lead? And I don't attribute that to sound coaching, great fans, or better talent. I mean, how is it that officials call every touch (or phantom) foul against the visitors, while certain Duke players who also double as Frankenstein in the school play (yes you Shelden Williams), can mug guys -- big or small -- in the lane? To be fair, the referees did let the Heels rough up Redick at several points during the game, so maybe I shouldn't complain too loudly.

What really stuck out for me as I watched this game was the fact that Duke is a cult. Not the basketball team per se (although they're easier to hate than past teams, and seem to do some creepy stuff), I mean the whole university. They're weird. And I don't mean weird like, "hey, isn't it weird that Kevin Millar is actually considered a professional athlete?", I mean weird like, "hey, all those dopes painted blue are drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid laced; isn't that a little weird?"

The Tarheels were down virtually the whole game, so it gave me time to think about why I hate Duke so much (which in part, led to this post). Anyway, I think Duke officially tops my "most hated teams list," well ahead of the Yankees and Patriots. The Yankees because, well they haven't won anything since 2000; the Patriots because for as much as they infuriate me with their success (often at Pittsburgh's peril), they for the most part do it without a lot of complaining. I've never seen Belichick (or Brady for that matter) dress down an official after an awful call.

Turn to Duke. Coach Krzyzewski's fainting spell aside, this guy's a jerk. He spends more time berating officials than actually coaching the game. And look, I think NCAA officials are some of the worst on the planet, but Coach Krzyzewski complains more than any other coach in the country. How can every call be the wrong one against a team that wins 90% of their games? My guess is they're not all incorrect calls (pretty astute observation, I know). Krzyzewski has team success in part because he has his players believing that he's Jim Jones the leader of Jonestown Krzyzewskiville and his methods have proven successful in the past.

Still, it's not clear to me how making J.J. Redick fake a jumpshot, and then drive to the basket and take a dive is benefit to anyone other than Krzyzewski. Seriously, referees should be allowed to carry yellow and red cards during Duke games and book Redick for unsportsmanlike conduct every time he flops in the lane to draw a foul. It's almost criminal. And how exactly does this help Redick when he goes to the NBA? I haven't watch a whole lot of the NBA in the past few seasons, but from what I can remember, they don't call a lot of phantom fouls in the lane that benefit players who are undersized and overmatched.

I read this the other day but I don't remember where: have you noticed the correlation between Duke players' success in the NBA, and how long they stay at Duke (in case you're from Pluto, it's negative)? So Shelden Williams, Daniel Ewing, and J.J. Redick, my advice to you is to get while the gettin's good, because in three years, you'll be sitting next to the guy least likely to be accused of being a coach (Steve Wojciechowski), and the angriest guy ever to be an assistant coach for 20 consecutive seasons (Johnny Dawkins).

Getting back to the Yanks/Pats/Duke comparisons, I mentioned above that Duke spends an inordinate amount of time complaining about missed calls -- unlike the Pats (and to a lesser degree the Yankees). Still there are some similarities (which of course, is why I despise them). First, they all win -- and usually against teams I like. And other common theme that causes me to lump them together is that they all celebrate in creepy ways, but none more so than the Blue Devils (although if I didn't know, I'd wager a lot of money that A-Rod probably went to Duke -- and played basketball -- given his propensity to hug Jeter every time someone lays down a sacrifice bunt).

Seemingly after every made shot, you can expect J.J. Redick to throw both hands in the air and implore the crowd to join him in celebration. This is all well and good the first few minutes of the game -- it helps work off the nervous energy of players and fans -- but after every made basket? Isn't that a bit much? Do fans also have to do it after free throws? And I can already tell that Lou "don't call me Macaroni or Melancholy" Melchionni is next in line for the crown of goofiest Duke player I love to hate (I'll let you guess who's first), because he's almost as bad -- expect he's such a bad athlete that he only gets a few looks a game so he really has to lay it on if he's fortunate enough to score (because who knows the next time he'll get an opportunity).

Oh yeah, the students are the creepiest part of the whole Duke experience. I've never seen so many nerds in one place (I'm guessing these guys are all destined -- if they're not already -- to a lifetime of Dungeons & Dragons and Star Trek conventions). It's one thing to be a rabid fan supporting your team, it's an entirely different thing to come up with a bunch of dopey hand signs and goofy chants.

And while I've hated Duke for as long as I can remember, I don't ever think the fans have been this nerdy. In fact, they were actually really good back in the days of Hill, Hill, Laettner, Hurley and Davis; the stuff they came up with was actually funny. Now they're just a bunch of people you like to make fun of when you go out with your friends. In fact, I'm guessing being a student at a Duke game is like being one of those people who like to do Star Wars re-enactments. You know, the guy who spends his life savings on building the "perfect" stormtrooper costume, and then wears it a couple of times a year to the Star Wars conventions. It's all well and good while you're at the convention because you're with like-minded people, but once you decide to rejoin reality, you're just a weird dude who likes to dress up as a robot. I suspect this is very similar to the experience Duke fans endure.

All this is a little too weird for me -- I'll stick to weird stuff I'm accustomed to -- you know, like Rashad McCants. Oh yeah, J.J. Redick drinks his own pee! (not really ... I think).