No Sympathy For the (Blue) Devil

That annual rite of Spring called the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is about to come to an end. Many people, including my Father, are happy that Duke University is not among the 'Final Four' teams. As a loyal fan of Coach K and the Blue Devils, I can't help but wonder why the program is held in such contempt by so many.

I'm not immune to absolute disdain for various college programs; Notre Dame, Penn State, North Carolina, Michigan and Georgetown all come to mind. But I can also rationalize my distaste. Penn State, and Michigan for their being in the same conference as The Ohio State University. North Carolina is a rival of Duke in Basketball. Georgetown may have to do with the low regard I had for their previous coach.

But what reason could there be to hate Duke? I can actually come up with two, of many. The first reason is the same reason a lot of people hate Notre Dame, The New York Yankees or St. Louis Cardinals, the New England Patriots or Dallas Cowboys, the Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals, or Miami Heat and LA Lakers. They're simply overexposed. ESPN basically televises almost all of Duke's basketball games and their games are usually the top college basketball game on 'SportsCenter'. Many people are just tired of hearing about them from November until March or April.

But there might be another reason why many fans are not 'Cameron Crazies'. Jalen Rose, member of the infamous University of Michigan 'Fab Five', remarked that one reason he didn't like Duke was that the program "Didn't recruit kids like me". I think I can see where he's coming from; Duke doesn't actively recruit the urban, minority youth that make up a large segment of not only basketball players, but also basketball fans.

The reasons for this may have to do with the system Duke runs. The system that Coach K has installed puts emphasis on perimeter play, on teamwork, and on defense. This style is not what the average prospective 'sneaker camp brat' is used to. He's looking to what he sees advertised on the TV; play for yourself, get 'on the radar', getinvited to attend one of the summer camps that are run by the shoe company, get a scholarship to a school like Memphis or Georgetown, and finally the NBA. Never mind that the odds are stacked against this path, 'I got game!'

And the fact that Duke doesn't recruit kids that are on this path might be why the program does have an appeal to many. The idea that a program recruits young people with the intent of getting an education and not just to audition for the NBA reminds people of an earlier time.

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