Embracing the Hate

Top 5 Reasons Why I’m a Duke Fan

I’ll just come right out and say this, I’m a Duke fan.  Now spare me the cringe and the eye roll.  And spare me the token, “You’re a Duke fan?” question that accompanies the other signs of Duke hate.  Trust me, I’ve seen and heard it all before.  Whenever I tell people that I’m a Duke fan or whenever the subject comes up that’s what I typically have to deal with.  It’s ok, I understand.  A lot of people don’t understand why a regular kid and huge sports fan from Wisconsin can grow up in the heart of Badger country and root for Duke.  Forget the fact that Badger fans are among the most unrealistic bunch of official-blamers and homer (in football and basketball, but maybe more on this in another post) fanbases out there, but forgive me if I don’t want to root for a team that has overhyped expectations who will simply disappoint you in the end.  Also, forgive me if I’d rather watch the faster, more exciting, pace of play found in the ACC rather than the lethargic pace found in Big Ten basketball.

Well that explains why I don’t root for Wisconsin, but naturally you’re probably wondering why I do actually root for Duke. Believe me, I’ve done my fair share of explaining on this one, mostly because once people get past their initial looks of disgust and the initial question that comes from pure shock, they typically ask me why?? Well, here are the top 5 reasons why, and hopefully this helps so I never have to explain myself again!  Though I suppose as a Duke fan, I should relish the chance to explain my fanhood while also demonstrating how much better Duke is than your favorite basketball program!

  1. Everyone hates them – That’s right, one of the reasons why I love Duke is precisely because everyone else hates them. Admittedly, not the best reason but we’re just getting started.  The truth is I’m pretty contrarian in general.  Whenever a large enough group of people leans one way on a topic, I immediately tend to question it and start leaning the other way.  So growing up I would here so much about Duke hatred that it was only natural for me to start rooting for them.  If nothing else I know I ruffled a few feathers.
  2. My Brother liked UNC – Yep, one of those people who drove me to root for Duke was a member of my own family. It didn’t happen often, but every once in a while I would develop a bit of little brother syndrome.  In other words, I liked to annoy my older brother.  He was a big UNC fan growing up so again, naturally, I rooted for Duke.  Honestly I’m not sure how much it really annoyed him, but it was still fun for me.  As it turns out, he eventually grew out of his UNC fanhood whereas my connection with Duke only continued to grow.
  3. The Miracle Minute (January 27, 2001) – It is known as one of the most famous moments in Duke’s storied history. 2nd ranked Duke trailed 10th ranked Maryland by 10 on the road with exactly 1 minute remaining in the game.  But this is just where the exciting finish starts, a finish which ultimately overshadowed the rest of a fantastic basketball game and went down in history.  However rather than being glued to my TV like I should’ve been, I was actually attending a Milwaukee Bucks basketball game at the Bradley Center with my Dad and brother.  Keep in mind that back then the Bucks were a very good perennial playoff team.  But as luck would have it the Duke-Maryland game was playing on the TVs in the concourse, and the three of us went out for some concessions at just the right time.  We got in line for food when Duke was down 10 with about two minutes left, and as I already mentioned, they were still down by 10 with just one minute left.  With my budding Duke fanhood already taking a stronghold, I was a little bummed because Duke was the better team and should’ve beaten a still formidable Maryland team.  But even as we stood in line the tide began to turn, almost solely because of Jay Williams.  First he gets a layup, lead down to 8.  Then an improbable steal leads to a Williams 3-pointer, lead down to 5.  Just like that.  And then the almost unthinkable happens.  Maryland misses 2 free throws and Williams hits yet another three for Duke!  After being down by 10 with one minute left the lead was now only 2 with 40 seconds remaining.  And all the while I stood in the concourse of the Bradley Center with my Dad and brother, watching this game instead of the Bucks game my Dad had actually paid money to see.  But I think he knew there was something special happening while we were watching this game.  We simply couldn’t turn away.  To continue the insane turn of events, Duke got another steal and made two free throws on the next possession to actually tie the game.  While Maryland had a chance to win with the last shot, the game ultimately went to overtime where Duke took complete control and completed the incredible comeback.  It was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had while watching a sporting event.  It’s safe to say I fell in love with Duke basketball that day.
  4. J. Redick – That’s right, one of the most hated college basketball players of all time is actually one of the reasons why I love Duke basketball! Just a couple of years after the miracle minute by Jay Williams and Shane Battier, Duke got an incredible young freshman on campus who would come to almost define the school during his four year tenure. He was an unbelievable shooter from Virginia named J.J. Redick.  I was already a huge Duke fan by the time he came along, but there was something about Redick which drew me to be an even bigger fan.  And no, it wasn’t that he was white.  He played like me, the good and the bad.  He was a shooter and a defensive liability, just like me.  In some ways, he was like my Steph Curry.  Just like all undersized kids today look at Steph and say, “that could be me!” That’s what I could do with Redick.  I loved rooting for Duke during his years there, and it was extremely disappointing that Duke could not win a championship during his time there.  But nevertheless, my love for Duke continued to grow over those four years.
  5. They Win – Call me a bandwagon rider if you want (though hopefully my other reasons prevent you from doing so) but it’s much more fun to root for a winning program. Sure, maybe it’s slightly more rewarding to root for the perennial loser when they do finally win, but call me when the Cleveland Browns win a Super Bowl.  I’ll wait.  Forgive me, but it’s more exciting to root for teams that play well, play the game the right way, and embarrass a few opponents along the way.

So there are my top 5 reasons for why I root for Duke.  And if you don’t like them, I’m sure I could come up with a few more!

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