Why America Loves to Hate the Duke Blue Devils

Courtsey Photo

James Williams
The Paw Print
As we approach the mid-point of yet another NCAA college basketball tournament, one can’t help but notice that despite the many changes in the tournament from year to year, one commonality exists from each year to the next.
Seemingly everyone, myself included, hates Duke.
The question here, of course, is why? Duke University’s basketball program has typically turned out young men of exemplary character, generally superior basketball talent, and their graduation rate and team GPA is annually among the best in Division I athletics. They’re what every athletic program in the country should be striving for.
As with nearly all instances of monumental success, there are a significant number of people who hate that success with a passion unrivaled in many other circumstances.
But we don’t hate Duke just because they win. We hate them for their perception as a group of spoiled, privileged rich kids who catch every break imaginable. We hate them because they are elite and private. We hate them because they aren’t “us.”
In the wonderful documentary on the Fab Five Michigan Wolverines team of the early 1990s that recently aired on ESPN, former Michigan guards Jalen Rose and Jimmy King expressed their distaste for Duke for exactly those reasons. King made statements about former Duke guard Grant Hill that can’t be printed in a newspaper, while Rose stated that hated Duke because they flaunted their reputation as a snobby private school and looked down upon those who come from underprivileged backgrounds.
Hill took exception to these comments in an editorial in the New York Times, retorting that he didn’t deem it fair that he was being vilified for growing up in a family with two college-educated parents in a middle-class area of Texas, but also adding how proud he was of the fact that Duke never lost to Michigan during his collegiate career.
That being said, the arrogance by the Duke community that is reviled by so many isn’t limited to those outside of Durham, N.C.
Rose recently tweeted a link to an e-mail sent by a former Duke student to former Blue Devils forward Elton Brand, expressing her displeasure that he was forgoing his final two seasons of eligibility to enter the NBA, while in the process giving the proverbial slap in the face to the importance of academics stressed by Duke University.
Brand’s response was nothing short of verification for reasons why we hate Duke.
Said Brand, “Thank you very much, for reminding me of the reason why I left Duke. People like you cannot 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 again. 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.”
As much as we love Brand for spelling out the truth, we also hate him, because he was a Blue Devil.
The hatred for Duke is aided by other minor reasons as well, of course. It seems that every year Duke’s opening round game in the tournament is in Charlotte, less than 3 hours from their home floor, hardly the “neutral site” that the NCAA tournament selection committee claims it to be.
Their fans, the Cameron Crazies, are some of the most devoted fans in college basketball, but also rival Philadelphia sports fans in their lack of decorum, or basic human decency, as their chants often crudely target ill family members of opposing star players, in addition to profanity laden chants directed toward fans of the opposing team who have managed to get a ticket to a seat in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the owner of four national championships, intimidates referees into giving his team beneficial calls just by glaring at them, in the same way that another one of America’s most hated coaches, Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson, does from his sideline. The Blue Devils cry on every foul call like they’ve been personally assaulted in a dark alley, and more often than not, the call will go in their favor, no doubt with help from Krzyzewski’s steely gaze.
We hate Duke because they’re winning “our game.” Basketball is the people’s game. Every neighborhood—urban or suburban, rich or poor—is likely to have more than one basketball hoop.
As such, every kid has at some point dreamt of playing in the spotlight and knocking down the jumper that brings home a championship. But in those daydreams on the blacktop, you’re never a Blue Devil. You’re on the underdog, the team that plays hard unselfish team basketball, plays the game the right way, and has ridden that level of basketball integrity to the big dance.
We revel in the hatred for years like last year, when the mid-major underdog Butler Bulldogs fought and scrapped for their chance to make their childhood dreams come true by beating Duke in the national championship game.
When Butler guard Gordon Hayward’s desperation heave from half-court that would have given Butler the title was off by less than three inches, or one degree on the x-axis, millions of hearts broke all across the world, including my own.
Hating Duke is just another reminder that it has always been, and always will be, the people versus the powerful. Duke is the college basketball equivalent of Wal-Mart, or Microsoft, or Goldman Sachs.
We hate them because they’re better than us, wealthier than us, and smarter than us. Or least they think they’re better, wealthier, and smarter than they actually are.
On Thursday night, we get one more chance to unite, hate Duke, and root against the Blue Devils.
And if they don’t lose? Well, there’s always the Elite Eight game.

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