Perhaps nothing can let you in on how my mind works better than my dilemma of if/when to root for Duke basketball. I have nothing against the school. It is a fantastic university and I would be very proud if either of my kids ever chose to attend college there. I think Coach K is an admirable man who has accomplished a lot in his position at Duke for decades now. I have respect for the athletes there who are not only gifted in playing basketball but also in academics. I think it makes a strong statement that a relatively large number of Duke basketball alumni are now coaching in the NCAA. Again, that speaks to Coach K's good coaching. I even like Duke's school colors.
So why do I have such a hard time finding an opportunity to cheer for Duke?
Well, I think a lot of it has to do with arrogance that I've experienced at an impressionable time in my life. I was living in Chapel Hill in 1991 and 1992 when Duke won back-to-back NCAA tournament championships. They were a good team in 1993 as well, and there was a lot of talk about "three-peat" NCAA titles. I heard a lot of bragging and boasting from Duke alumni my age with whom I hung out a lot. And a lot of arrogance in the Duke community as well, I perceived. Perhaps I was projecting this, but at the time it left a bitter taste in my mouth. (Now I know Carolina fans can be equally as arrogant, but I hope if you ask those close to me you would find that I do not engage of that type of boasting.)
Also over the years, as Duke has continued to have strong basketball teams, they have won a lot of ACC championships. For a while, it had become quite boring to watch - Duke would win inevitably. I didn't care necessarily who would win, just someone other than Duke! I like for things to be fairly distributed, if you didn't know that about me.
So as the time has passed, I've been in and out of vigilant basketball watching. With children, I've been even less tuned-in to the basketball seasons. Whenever I'd find myself watching a game (always on tv - I have only ever been to one live ACC basketball game when I was given free tickets), I pull for a team based on a very complicated ranking of the teams.
The order of teams from favorite to least goes something like this:
1. Carolina (this is because I grew up in Chapel Hill and attended one summer course at UNC. Also my mom attended there for her master's degree - the reason for our move to Chapel Hill)
2. Wake Forest (I only applied to two colleges, Rhodes and Wake. Got into both, but ended up choosing Rhodes. My parents met there, so I'm grateful to WFU for bringing about my existence in a round-about way.)
3. NC State (because I live in Raleigh now)
4. Duke (so I say, because it's in NC)
5. Virginia, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Clemson (rounding out the ACC teams in the conference when I first started paying attention to bball in 1982)
6. Florida State (the next team to join the ACC)
7. Virginia Tech (they may actually get moved up in the list, depending on who they are playing, because we lived in Blacksburg when my dad got his master's degree, but are down here because they were among the last three teams added to the ACC.)
8. Boston College and University of Miami (the last teams added to the ACC)
9. Teams outside of the ACC
*Note: If Rhodes College ever has an amazing basketball team that has a chance at playing any of the teams above, it would automatically trump all rules and be at the top of my list. (Just to be clear)
But here's where it gets a little tricky:
1. I usually pull for Wake Forest even over Carolina, but am usually okay with whoever wins that game.
2. I find myself pulling for the underdog most of the time (unless Carolina or Wake Forest is playing them), and this seriously messes with my ranking of the teams.
3. Since Duke is typically good, and typically seeded high in tournaments, I often find myself pulling for their opposing team as the underdog.
Now that Duke is playing Butler in the NCAA championship game tonight, I think I might pull for Duke as the ACC representative. But Butler has such a great underdog story. They've had a terrific season and are playing well. I would be so happy for them to win tonight. Duke has had a great season and is also playing well. I'd like to think I'd be equally as happy for them if they win, but we'll have to see. No matter what, I hope it's a good game. I don't like games with lop-sided scores. The nail-biters make me do just that (well not really, because that is gross), but they are so exciting and I find I can be happy for both teams more easily in those cases.
So, I think the bottom line is I will probably pull for Butler tonight. Sorry Duke. But just for the record, I do think Duke deserves to win tonight, and probably will.