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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Congratulations to Duke!

I'm just so very happy for the Duke basketball team! I've been a fan for the past 10 years since my older daughter started there in the year of the 2000-2001 championship season, but started following them more intensely in the past few years as my younger daughter spent four disappointing years camping out for more than a month for the UNC game only to see the team lose four years in a row. And I never, ever thought that this year's group had a chance at the championship. But I came to really like this group of guys. They are just a great set of kids. They're not superstars, but they played together with such heart and friendship that, even when they had some humiliating losses, they were just a lot of fun to cheer for.

People might complain about Duke's luck and easy bracket, but that is how it worked out. And being lucky is sometimes just as important as being good.

Being a fan is a funny phenomenon. There is no reason why a middle-aged teacher should be so happy for a group of young men I don't know to have won a championship, but there it is. The Butler team seems like an equally great group of young men. And the story of Brad Stevens, their coach, who quit a job at Eli Lilly to work as an unpaid assistant at Butler simply because he had a dream to work as a basketball coach is simply a fantastic story. If I hadn't been a Duke fan, I certainly would have pulled for them. They played a great game and I look forward to seeing them play again. Even though they lost, they were truly a gutsy group who could have won the game.

And on a day when the other big sports story was a guy talking about his sex addiction, this excellent NCAA championship game was a marvelous alternative story.

Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated captures
the poetry of the game.
The ball is in the air. And because the ball is in the air, anything is possible. Miracle? Heartbreak? Pandemonium? Silence? Yes. Anything. That's the beauty of a magical game like this, and also the pain. The basketball is in the air. If it misses, Duke wins one of the greatest championship games ever. And if it goes in (and it looks like it is going in), Butler wins the greatest game that has ever been played.

The basketball is in the air, a 45-foot shot that looks like it is going in, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski knows that if it goes in, the right team won. And he also knows that if it misses, the right team won, too. This is that kind of game. Both teams have played impossibly hard. Every player defended with every ounce of strength they had. Every player made a winning play -- something, a rebound, a block, a devastating pick, a tough foul, a big shot, a good pass, a hard drive to the basket -- that added a line or shade to this masterpiece. Duke wore white, and Butler wore black (the opposite of the image they came into this game with), but they played so much the same -- the same energy, the same violence, the same togetherness, the same purpose -- that at some point they just seemed to mix together into this wonderful blend of gray.


equitus said...

It really was a fantastic game - one for the ages. It's stories like this that make me a sports fan.

SoccerPlayingMom said...

I share your thoughts about the Duke players both now and in 2000-2001. And I am extremely grateful to Coach K for recruiting and training class after class of great young men who have been (and still are) role models for my own boys. They have grown up knowing that it is entirely possible to be a great athlete, student and person all at the same time. And not only that it is possible but it is also important.

And like you I was also impressed with Brad Stevens and Butler. They are another first class group. I knew that after Butler won on Sunday that no matter who won the Duke/West Virginia game, I would have someone to root for on Monday night.

Skay said...

This was basketball!!

Great game. Both wonderful teams.

Congratulations Duke.

Little Towhee said...

All of my family is from East Durham, and they grew up Duke fans. But admittedly, I went to NC State for Architecture and am a Wolfpack fan. . . I was cheering for Butler. Nonetheless, I believe Coach K is the best basketball coach out there. Maybe ever. The Wolfpack beat Duke earlier in the season, so that's not saying much for Duke's talents. BUT Coach K takes a different group of guys every year and works around the team's strengths to build up champions. It's awesome. They peaked at the right time!

Bachbone said...

I am soooo sick of the Tiger Woods non-story. And if Woods had an ounce of...concern (?)...for his wife and family, he would have made clear at the start of the press conference that only questions about golf would be answered. Voyeuristic fans and sports "journalists" will never be satisfied as long as Woods keeps feeding their desires, and either he or his agents seem quite willing to do just that.

Locomotive Breath said...

I was a junior at Duke in 1978 when they were the Cinderella team under Coach Bill Foster and lost the National Championship to UK. The Duke of then is comparable to the Butler of now. Perhaps we have witnessed a new arrival on the scene.

John A said...

The players are to be congratulated, as are the coaches, trainers, etc.

--- SNARK ---
They'd also better be sexually abstinent, as the administration does not seem to have learned a bloomin` thing from the lacross fiasco:
If they have sex under any circumstances, now that they are "powerful" and have high status, they are guilty of rape. And should they have been drinking, the woman may also be guilty since the player would then be "incapable" of actually giving assent.

equitus said...

Betsy, you were wondering why all the hate for Duke. I'm sure part of it is people like to root for underdogs, which means usually rooting against the basketball teams.

But you must also realize that the Duke administration is frequently exposed for its PC lunacy such as John A mentioned (including the lacross non-rape scandal and others). These leaves many of us with a bad impression of the school. Yes, it's unfair to the athletic programs (who are the victims of the admin's policies). But they are giving a lasting black eye to the school.