Sometime during tonight’s epic Duke-Carolina match-up, while Butter is busy carving up the Blue Devils defense and John Henson has smacked another of the 16 Plumlee brothers’ weak shots back to Durham, you will turn to whomever you’re watching the game with, exchange drunken high fives and know true contentedness.
There are few things in life better than seeing Duke get beat down. Not chocolate gelato, not the first season of “Lost,” not even sex. (Though most of my experience with that has been at a New York bus depot, so I could be doing it wrong.) Blue Devil hatred is the one universal thing that binds all sports fans.
There are so many individual reasons to loathe Duke, both old and new. We hate them for “The Stomp,” for Coach K’s foulmouthed surliness and for Ryan Kelly’s complete lack of chin.
We hate them for their obnoxious, overpraised fans and for their crappy faux-Gothic campus built on the back of the stained teeth and tarred lungs of a cigarette empire. We hate them for Austin Rivers, who decided to give himself a nickname.
But the thing is, Duke hatred on a national scale can’t possibly stem from a random collection of individual offenses, be it a single “stray” elbow to Tyler Hansbrough’s nose, a phony flop or an F-bomb by Coach K — no matter how terrible those things are taken alone. No, something bigger is definitely going on.
If you ask me, the tidal wave of bad feelings toward Duke comes from the same kind of populist outrage that drives the Occupy movements. Duke is the one percent, the Goldman Sachs of basketball — and not because the average freshman sleeps on a bed of his daddy’s $100 bills like Scrooge McDuck, though that doesn’t help. What Duke has in common with those fat-cat bankers is that both offend our sense of fairness. They are downright anti-American.
Think about the reason you hate Duke most. Reduced to its simplest level, it probably comes down to a feeling that they’re getting away with something, never held accountable, that they’re being treated differently than other teams — be it by the refs, the media or the NCAA — and that is what is so galling.
Take two recent examples.
Let’s start with Coach K, that “leader who happens to coach basketball.” And who also happens to shill for more brands than Vince, the ShamWow guy. Last November, he was crowned the winningest coach in the game after he notched his 903rd W. Only problem is, by any reasonable measure, he’s not quite there yet.