Race; Posted on: 2010-03-30 18:30:35 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
The unbearable whiteness of Duke basketball.
There is no college basketball team more hated
and reviled than the Duke University Blue Devils. Books have been written on the subject; websites are devoted to it.
Simply mentioning the names "Christian Laettner," "Bobby Hurley," "J.J.
Redick," or "Danny Ferry" in the wrong place evokes sneers, jokes about
high shorts, claims by some that they could take each of these men in a
fight, and crude accusations of homosexuality.
It's hard to
imagine another college team generating multiple Top Ten Most Hated Players lists, or being trashed on the Gawker family of websites. Even the cloying and
sleazy John Edwards was willing to announce publicly during his first
presidential campaign, "I hate Duke Basketball."
Duke can inspire love, too, of course, and a large fan base made up
mostly of people who have no real connection to the school. (Up until I
actually attended grad school at Duke, I was one of these, having been a
quiet but sincere fan since watching Christian Laettner sink "The
Shot" against Kentucky in the '92 NCAA regional finals.) ESPN's
generous coverage of the Blue Devils speaks to these vicarious Dukies,
but also to the millions who love to hate.
For me, the source of Duke Hate has always
been rather obvious ... and unmentionable.
Yes, it has a lot to do with the team's famed "Tobacco Road" rivalry
with the formidable North Carolina Tar Heels, whose Chapel Hill stomping
grounds is a mere 15-minute drive on 15-501 from Duke's faux-Gothic
campus. While UNC is a genuinely Southern place (or at least used to
be), Duke is an institution for transplants, a school mockingly known as
the "University of New Jersey at Durham." And while Chapel Hill is full
of wine-and-cheese liberals, Duke undergrads are imaged as an army of
mini-Gordon Geekos and overachievers ... a stereotype that's not
altogether inaccurate. In the only event of its kind I've ever heard of,
after Duke lost the 1999 Championship Game to Connecticut, tens of
thousands of Carolina fans poured out onto Chapel Hill's Franklin St. to
celebrate and get drunk. This rivalry is intense, to be sure, but Duke
Hate is much bigger.
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