As part of the “Hate on Duke” week, Flop proposed to the contributors a single question: Why do you hate Duke? I did not immediately answer, rather I allowed the question to flutter in the gray matter. The question seems easy enough, but it gets deeper.
I could sit here and type about all of the perceptions of Duke basketball. They get every foul call at the crucial stages of the game, their coach looks like a rat, they teach players to flop on purpose, Scheyer has a weird face, they win all of the time, rich snobs, etc. I do not think my dislike of the Blue Devils comes from a combination of the above.
It’s not the luck of hurling the ball 90 feet to a waiting Christian Laettner who turns and hits the fade-away. And it’s not Greg Paulus sliding under someone’s feet at the last second and getting the charge call.
I can appreciate those plays. They are not my reason to hate Duke. My hate derives from ESPN. They shove the Blue Devils down our throats. Duke deserves it too. They’ve been winning big games for most of ESPN’s life. And what is a television station most concerned with? Ratings.
Duke brings in the ratings. They bring in the ratings just like the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, and the L.A. Lakers. Duke is all of that. And that’s why we hate them. We hate the big teams with the large fan bases who win all of the time. It is human nature. It’s a bit of envy mixed with emotion (and the damn refs don’t help either, see the video below).
But ESPN doesn’t stop there. No, they have to put Mike Patrick on Dick Vitale as the broadcast duo for Duke games. It is two straight hours of “Holy cow, are you kidding me?” followed by “Awesome with a capital A, baby!” Then they slobber all over the coach whose name I cannot spell without Google. And, again, all of it is deserved with their success.
But Duke suffers from the same thing the rest of the big name teams do: overexposure. The average fan sees the Duke highlights on SportsCenter and just wants them to lose. The university puts itself on a pedestal with their academic standards and, even though academics have nothing to do with sports despite what anyone ever says, they carry over to the hardwood. Duke comes across as this elitist organization seeking to keep its membership exclusive (apparently exclusive to whites and Asians, but that’s another post for another day).
And when the perception exists, people want them to lose. They want to Duke to lose badly. But Duke doesn’t get blown out often which fuels the fire of hate. So Saturday night when you’re sitting on the coach rooting for West Virginia, you will now know why.