Never thought I'd say it, but folks, I think I'm a Duke fan. Duke basketball, anyway. I can't really explain it, but I'm going to try.
By now it's old news that Duke's season is done. Arizona and monster Derrick Williams did the deed—thanks in large part to the most perfect second half of basketball a team could ever play against Duke—in the Sweet Sixteen 93-77 the other night.
I couldn't believe Duke went down that hard and looked that bad doing it. And I was surprised how much I cared. How I was actually, unbelievably, sort of bummed out.
And by unbelievable, I really mean unbelievable. My brothers are Carolina fans. My uncle's a Carolina fan. My best friend, the guy I'm going to be the best man for, is a Carolina fan. I grew up a Carolina fan.
But now it seems I've been swayed.
Don Miller wrote in Blue Like Jazz that he never liked jazz music because it didn't resolve, until one day when he saw a jazz musician play and saw how intensely in love with jazz the guy was. He said, to paraphrase, "Seeing someone else love jazz is what made me love jazz."
It's like the least manly thing ever, but I think that seeing someone else love Duke is making me love Duke. Love does crazy things to people.
I'm married to one of the world's most intense Duke fans. She acts in ways and says things during their games that she'd say to no other human being, and sometimes she scares the dogs. She always apologizes later. It's just adorable.
She's passionate about sports and she's passionate about all things right in the world, and it all just explodes together come Duke basketball season. If there's one thing I can see about Duke and Coach K, it's that they do things right. Or at least, they try as hard as we humans can to do things right.
I'm not saying that Duke is the only school that does things right, and no, I don't believe that Carolina does things wrong. I still pull for Carolina—an atrocity, as a sports fan, I know; there's another blog post coming on that—and there are plenty of other teams I like, too. It all just boils down to liking good basketball and good people, and while I know they are imperfect as all of us, Duke year in and year out seems to have both of those.
I have to say: Duke lost way better than Arizona won. Kyle Singler took a pounding all night, and barely as much as smirked at the ref. Derrick Williams, beast that he may be, acted like a five-year-old half the night, complaining about calls when they were up 18 with two minutes to go and waving the fans to their feet as Singler and Smith took their one last curtain call.
On top of that, a friend who I thought I respected got on Twitter and started making comments such as, "Looks like Duke needs a little more color on their wings and in the post."
It was almost enough to make me mad. Seemed a little racist. But eventually I remembered that there are bigger things in life than basketball games and the way people act during them, and moved on. And then I watched Arizona lose to UConn 65-63 a couple days later. They looked like a completely different team, and not in a good way. That left me aching a bit again, because man, Duke so should not have lost to them.
But that's the beauty and the madness of March. And so I say, go Butler.
[ Coming up next, today or tomorrow: I still like UNC, and how that's possible if I like Duke. ]