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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are those of Andrew Sharp, and in no way reflect the overall opinion of Duke held by SB Nation. In fact, we have an outstanding Blue Devils site as part of our network that we love and cherish and ... well, sorry, DukeBasketballReport.com. We'll make this up to you somehow.
When Duke takes the court for this weekend's Final Four, I won't be rooting for West Virginia, and if the Blue Devils advance to the finals, I'm not going to be rooting for Butler or Michigan State. The whole time, like a lot of other basketball fans, I'll be rooting against Duke. Don't care who wins or how, as long as it's not Duke.
And I didn't really think there was anything special about this perspective until I read this column from Sports Illustrated on Wednesday, directed at people exactly like me. From Stewart Mandel:
You can't wait to root against the Blue Devils when they face West Virginia on Saturday, though you fully expect the refs to do whatever possible to ensure they advance. Dude, you're such an outdated cliché. ... All this blind Duke hatred -- it's so 2006. Do you even know why you're still rooting against the Blue Devils?
Well, well, well... Stewart, is that a challenge? Do we need to explain why we dislike Duke so much?
It always seemed so... self-evident. For anyone that follows basketball closely, the holes in the Duke mythology are plain to see. This isn't exactly rocket science or detective work. Just watch them play, watch Coach K on the sidelines, and watch their fans as the camera pans the crowd. They're all terrible. Where it becomes infuriating is when the mainstream media just ignores what the rest of us can plainly see, continuing to fellate that snake Mike Krzyzewski, his overrated players, and the "best fans in basketball," the Cameron Crazies.
But maybe it's not so obvious anymore. It's not just Sports Illustrated, either. Deadspin's Ben Cohen had a piece up yesterday on why this Duke team's different, and undeserving of the scorn traditionally directed at Duke. Clearly, some people need a refresher on "Why We Hate Duke." Maybe this year's team is a little different, but we should still root for them to go down in flames. So here goes nothing... I Hate Duke, And Why You Should, Too.
No particular order here, but we may as well start with the picture above. The Cameron Crazies. We'll get to the Alumni in a second, but let's talk about the Crazies. Somehow, they've become the gold standard in fandom over the years, and it's maybe the most annoying Duke myth of them all. I mean, just look at the people in that photo. Does that look like a group that'd enhance your experience at a game?
In my experience, the Cameron Crazies are the worst kind of fans: impossibly loud, front-running, and most importantly, NOT actual basketball fans. These are the worst fans in sports. You the know the type. The people who love sports just because it's an excuse to get dressed up and yell, but don't actually understand the game. The group at the bar that cheers EXTRA LOUD, just to show everyone how PASSIONATE they are. Phonies.
For Duke students, games are more like a social engagement. They camp out together, and dress up together, and read from the same cheer sheets, and generally just have an awesome time being CRAZY together. Except... None of it's really centered on basketball. It's about getting attention, heckling opponents, and most of all, making friends. Because let's face it: Duke students are typically lacking in the friend department.
That last part's a joke, but this part's serious: People that like Duke are generally unlikable. Just... Not the people you want to hang out with, ever. It sounds like hyperbole—like suggesting all Yankees and Cowboys fans are evil—but it's generally borne out by reality. And clearly, I'm not alone. According to CNBC's Darren Rovell, 5% of those surveyed by Match.com refuse to date someone that cheers for the Blue Devils.
Because while the Cameron Crazies may be posers, "real" Duke fans are even worse. In short, people that love Duke basketball are generally pompous elitists, way too satisfied with themselves and convinced of their team's ultimate superiority. It's awful. Which brings us to our next example. Below, a Duke fan confronts Elton Brand about his decision to leave Duke after his sophomore year, the first underclassmen to leave early during Krzyzewski's tenure at Duke:
From: Taylor, Jennifer
Sent: Friday, April 16, 1999 2:55 PM
To: Brand, Elton
Subject: Leaving Duke
I graduated from Duke last May and just wanted to express my disgust for your decision to leave the Duke program after only two years. As an alum, not only do I hold the school in high regard, but the basketball program as well, especially since both have deservedly garnered such a great deal of respect for their accomplishments.
As part of our basketball program, you represent Duke as a whole. We are first and foremost an academic school, you clearly did not belong at Duke in the first place if this was the extent of your commitment to Duke and a college education in general. You have not only insulted the current students who are putting in four years at a school they love, but also the thousands of alumni who have realized the value of a Duke education and what an honor and privilege it was to be there for four years.
If you do not realize the opportunity you has infront of you to play for Coach K and at the same time attain a Duke diploma, then that is certainly your loss. I just wish that you has spared us the notion that you were continuing in the tradition of being a Duke student-athlete, in emphasizing excellence in both academics and athletics. You will not be considered part of the Duke family, in my mind as well as many others. You have by no means proved yourself worthy of that title.
That e-mail pretty much speaks for itself. Elton Brand was the best player to come through Duke University since Grant Hill, and he went on to be selected first overall in that year's NBA Draft. And even though the sentiments there are extreme even for a Duke fan, it's too perfect to ignore. Instead of celebrating a crowning achievement for Elton Brand, after a lifetime of hard work, here is this snobby little girl getting pissed off, because he left her school. With the greatest fans in the world and the greatest coach of all time, Elton Brand just didn't realize how lucky he was to play at Duke... Whatever.
To Duke fans, it's never about great players like Brand; it's the system that made them successful.
All part of this smug, nerdy sense of superiority that makes Duke fans such terrible people to deal with. Put differently: If the entire Duke fanbase took the form of one human being, you have to think that person would look exactly like Tucker Carlson, and we'd all like to punch that person in the face. And before we move onto the rest of Duke's program, we have to include Brand's response to that one girl.
Thank you very much, for reminding me of the reason why I left Duke. People like you can not and will not ever understand my situation. I'm sure daddy worked very hard to send your rich self to college. While real people struggle. I would also like to extend an invitation for you not to waste your or my time ever agin. Never being considered a part of your posh group of yuppies really hurts me to the heart. Yeah, right. Because I don't care about you or your alumni.
Sincerely, Elton Brand #42 NBA
Besides the whole "Best fans in sports!" myth, there's also the simple fact that Duke is just like everyone else in college basketball. Which is to say, not perfect. On its own, this wouldn't be cause for indictment. Winning with a clean program in college basketball is much harder than you'd think, and the occasional shortfall isn't cause for uproar. But because of the way Coach K presents himself to the world as some paragon of leadership, paired with the media's penchant for casting Duke in this bizarre role as big time college basketball's White Knight... It's all pretty ridiculous.
The hypocrisy no less than suffocating when you listen to people like Dick Vitale talk about Duke "winning the right way" when compared to other major programs. Gimme a break.
Back in 1999, on a team that featured Brand, Trajan Langdon, and a handful of other future pros, Duke played an entire season with Corey Maggette, an athlete that was, by any interpretation of the rules, ineligible to play college basketball. The Blue Devils advanced to the Final Four that year, losing in the championship game to Uconn.
It was essentially the same situation that emerged a decade later with Memphis and Derrick Rose. A year after Memphis lost in the NCAA championship game to Kansas, it was revealed that Rose had qualified for the NCAA under false pretenses. Memphis was stripped of all its wins that year, and in the record books, it's like the 2008 Memphis season never happened. What about Duke's 1999 season? Gary Parrish at CBS Sportsline explains:
For those unfamiliar, here's the deal: A summer basketball coach named Myron Piggie made cash payments to Maggette when the elite recruit was still in high school, and that money came from a revenue pool that included donations from at least two sports agents.
Less than a year later, a federal grand jury handed down an 11-count indictment of Piggie that details the payments to Maggette. Piggie cut a deal and admitted to making the payments; Maggette admitted to receiving the payments. So none of this falls under the he said/she said umbrella, and the NCAA's Jane Jankowski was quoted in April 2000 as saying that the NCAA "will have to determine if Duke, in fact, had an ineligible player in the NCAA tournament. And, if so, what monies would have to be returned for use of an ineligible player."
Fast-forward nine years, and no money has been returned. The banner still flies.
As Parrish writes, "None of this falls under the he said/she said umbrella." These are just facts.
The point is, Duke basketball is not sacrosanct. At the end of the day, the difference between Coach K and John Calipari is negligible. And yeah, sometimes, Duke just plain, cheats. Remember Chris Duhon?
In September 1999, during a team barbecue in Krzyzewski's back yard held during Duhon's official visit to Duke, Duhon committed to the Blue Devils. He also asked his mother to join him.
The next summer, Harper rented out her house in Slidell and headed for a two-bedroom apartment in Durham, N.C. There she found a job at NCM Capital Management Group, a billion-dollar money management firm owned by Maceo Sloan, who displays in his office the basketball he received as a gift from Duke's 1991 national championship team.
Robert Sinclair, former manager of operations at the NCM, said Harper was the only candidate for the position. He also said when his supervisors gave him Harper's resume and he questioned her move from Louisiana to Durham, his supervisors explained, 'Her son is going to play at Duke.'
That's from a 2003 article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Now, technically speaking, can we conclusively call that "cheating"? Not necessarily, because it's impossible to prove whether Mike Krzyzewski had any knowledge of favorable treatment to Duhon's mother. But um, isn't that exact scenario in a storyline from the movie Blue Chips?
Why, yes... It's the story of Butch McRae! (1:00 mark). Exact dialogue from Butch McRae's and the fictional head coach in Blue Chips, a movie about corruption in college basketball:
Lavada McRae: "I got a family to consider. If Butch chooses to become a Dolphin, I plan on moving to a new and better job. I have references."
Pete Bell: "Well, there are rules, you know—"
Lavada McRae: "I would also like a house, with a lawn. My children have never had a lawn."
Pete Bell: "Mrs. McRae, do you know how the 'NCSA' regulations work?"
Lavada McRae: "Mr. Bell, I don't know a great deal about basketball, but I do know this: A foul is not a foul, unless the referee blows his whistle.
...Ladies and gentleman, "Duke Basketball: Really not that different from Blue Chips."
See, we don't hate Duke because they "get all the calls" or anything like that. No, we hate Duke because they don't get called on crap like Chris Duhon's mother getting a brand new life, playing an entire season with an ineligible Corey Maggette, or Carlos Boozer, Sr. getting a job at GlaxoSmithKiline. It's all out there, and yet, we never hear about this stuff from the media, let alone the NCAA.
And as far as "full of crap" is concerned, nobody's worse than Coach K. Nobody in sports, except maybe Tiger Woods, approaches his mastery of the Jekyll-and-Hyde routine. In the words of Krzyzewski himself (in an AmEx commercial), "I don't look at myself as a basketball coach, I look at myself as a leader who happens to coach basketball." Indeed, look at the example he set for one of his most famous admirers:
Alan D. Schwartz is the president of Bear Stearns, a Wall Street firm that generated more than $7 billion in revenue last year. Sitting in his office one recent morning, looking out over much of Manhattan, he told me that Krzyzewski was his role model: "I think executives like me aspire to be his peer, and I don't say that tongue in cheek. Leadership is such an intangible quality, but it's really clear when you see it."
That comes from a GLOWING New York Times profile of Coach K, and it's pretty excellent in hindsight. Schwartz, you'll remember, took over as Bear Stearns CEO in 2008, when the company's stock was trading at $75-a-share. Later in the year, speaking from The Breakers resort in Palm Beach, he assured the world that Bear Stearns had no liquidity problems whatsoever. Four days later, the firm was sold to JP Morgan at $2-a-share. "Leadership is an intangible quality, but it's really clear when you see it."
For Krzyzewski, though, no such downfall seems imminent. Not as long as he continues to be "coaching's Michael Jordan," as his agent calls him, making up to 30 appearances per year at $50,000-a-pop. No, he'll be fine. Just read the Times piece again: Coach K's the best leader we have right now. Unless, of course, you read a different Times piece, from back in 1990, before Coach K was bulletproof in the media:
Already irritated by [the Duke student paper's] recent coverage of his program, the coach grew upset after reading a column that gave his team and its members letter grades for their performances through the first half of the season. No player received lower than a C-plus. The team, 12-2 at the time and rated in the top 10 in the news-agency polls, got a B-plus. [...]
The get-together was held Jan. 15 after a late-afternoon practice in the school's 50-year-old arena, Cameron Indoor Stadium. Besides the 12-member basketball squad, several assistant coaches and the team trainer were on hand as Krzyzewski cursed and raised his voice while upbraiding the student-reporters for coverage that ''degrades my basketball team.''
Once he had spoken his mind, in comments that included scatological and anatomical references, and had given the largely mute reporters a chance to reply, the forthright Krzyzewski believed the matter was settled.
Read carefully there. Those were college kids, writing for a college paper. And then there was the time he screamed at the mother of William Avery. A little game I like to play... Anytime you see Coach K screaming at the refs during a game, just yell out, "YOUR SON IS GOING TO F@&K MY PROGRAM!" Because that's what he said to Avery's mother. Wonder if they teach that at the $1600-a-head Coach K leadership conference? From the Augusta Chronicle:
Krzyzewski used an expletive to tell Simonton that her son was going to mess up his program. She said Krzyzewski was "rude, personal.''
"Coach K is selfish,'' Simonton told ESPN The Magazine. "He talks about a so-called close Duke family. But he just wants to protect his program. He lied to us about where William would go in the draft. Late in the first round? Maybe even second round? Come on. Even I could pick up the papers and read he was going earlier than that.''
None of this is even rhetoric. I'm not making an arugment here. But I'd just like to go on record that, considering all the facts, I truly believe that Coach Mike Krzyzewski is just a bad person. No different than his mentor Bob Knight, K's just a bully. A bully that happens to have rich friends, a glittering reputation, and spectacular PR to keep it that way. But still a bully; the sort of person who would scream expletives at the mother of a kid that's about to fulfill his lifelong dreams, or invite college kids to the Duke locker room to shout at them for 15 minutes. That's Mike Krzyzewski.
Maybe it's true that this year's Duke team is different. Nolan Smith's story is as inspirational as any player in the Final Four, and maybe the whole country. The team, in general, is exactly the sort of overachieving, tight-knit bunch that college basketball fans are conditioned to love.
But the Duke fans are right about one thing: it's not about the players, it's about the system. Duke basketball, as an entity, embodies a suffocating blend of hubris and hypocrisy. It represents the worst elements of America; abuse of power, favoritism, double-standards, and a two-faced capitalist like Coach K profiting from it all. It's not cliché to root against a team like that; it's downright patriotic.
The Blue Devils could switch rosters with any team in the Final Four, or any team in the country. It wouldn't matter. In the end, Coach K is still their leader, and the fans, his followers, are still some of the most insufferable people you'll ever meet. The players are incidental here. Most sports fans know this intuitively, but it's rarely explained in full. Hence the opportunity for various columnists to call it cliche to root against them.
So, send this to your friends. Spread the gospel. Duke's as close to evil as a college team can come.
Hating that program isn't dead, and it never will be. Go West Virginia.
Stewart Mandel, "Overachievers Are Worth Rooting For" Sports Illustrated
Ben Cohen, "Why You Shouldn't Hate Duke, And Why You Probably Will Anyway" Deadspin
Gary Parrish, "Selective Enforcement? The NCAA Failed To Admonish Duke" CBS Sportsline
Michael Sokolove, "Follow Me" New York Times
Elton Brand's E-Mail Exchange, Courtesy of SB Nation's A Sea Of Blue
And finally, for all your Duke myth-busting needs, TruthAboutDuke.com
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