Duke Basketball: The Great White Hope

Yes, I waited until the day after UNC exacted regular-season revenge on the Duke Blue Devils at Duke's home arena before writing this. But it seemed petty to write it after Duke beat UNC at the Dean Smith Center on Austin Rivers' last-second shot. And I didn't think about Duke all in between the two games. I'm not an ACC guy. So I'm writing this now, while Duke's on the mind.

I just don't like Duke.

I don't have the unreasonable but very rational hatred of Duke that a UNC or even an NC State fan has. Again, I'm not an ACC fan.

In some ways Duke is like the N.Y. Yankees of college basketball, in that they have a clean-cut image and get whatever they want. And oh, yeah, they win all the time. They're easy to hate because of that. But that's not why I don't like them.

You might think that I pull against them because of their mascot, the Blue Devils. And you'd be right to think that's an issue with me. But I have a limited amount of vituperation in my heart, so I reserve all the "demonic mascot" hate I have for another ACC team, which thankfully has been doing terribly the past few years: those wicked Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. (Seriously? A Deacon wasn't scary enough for you? Have you ever met a Baptist deacon?) So that's not the reason.

They annoy me because they're so white.

And listen, I'll pull for a white dude because he's white. This is another topic I've been meaning to write on, so I won't say a lot about it here. Suffice for now to say that I hate it when comfortable white suburbanites think they're not as good as other athletes because they're white, when the truth is that it's because they're suburbanites. I've got a lot to say on the topic, but I'll save it for another.

When NCAA Tournament rolls around, I'll pull for some little college from Podunk, Indiana or Nowheresville, Kentucky. And to a great degree I'll pull for them because most of their players are white. Love to see the white boys do well. I've been the only white guy on the floor often enough. But again, the race thing here is not about pulling for the underdog; white dudes aren't underdogs in sport.

Which brings us back to Duke. Not only are they white, they're prep school white. Like that private high school in town that has the best of all the equipment, has the best coaches, has great recruiting. All the things that annoy people about Duke get to me too, not in se, but because they do it while being so white. And yes, I know who Austin Rivers' dad is. And yes, I know lots of black players have played and do play for Duke.

But every year they roll out what looks like a collection of the very best basketball players white America had to offer. And that's what bothers me. I love to see some white dude slam a rebound back in over some guy's head. I just don't feel good about it when it's a white all-star team. The UNC rivalry shows this off to good effect, because UNC is as "classy" a program as Duke is. Both are clean programs with long histories of winning. Their campuses are forty-five minutes apart. So why is it that every year UNC rolls out four or five black players against Duke's four or five white players?