What could possibly be uglier than a Duke Cheerleader? How about a self-loathing Duke Cheerleader……which was exactly what I was tonight. As some of you know, Duke and I are interconnected in ways that are very difficult to describe. As many of you can certainly sympathize with, Duke began haunting me in 1992 when Christian Laettner and his band of evil rogues beat the forces of good, ruining the Unforgettables, Cawood Ledford’s last game and all that is holy in the process. From that day forward Duke (who until then I had actually liked, stemming from my adoption of them as my “second team” during UK’s probation) was dead to me and became my white whale. But then, fate took me to Duke Law School, where I spent the formative days of my legal education trying to love the school while hating the basketball team. I was able to do that and still consider myself a Duke football fan to this day (0-12 baby!!!). But Duke basketball never grew on me, and that day in 2001, when I had to watch the campus joyously celebrate a national championship, I knew that hating Duke basketball could never leave my blood.
So imagine my difficulty tonight when I found myself having to cheer for the Blue Devils. You see, I consider myself, if nothing else, an entreprenuer. And thanks to my association with Hubby, I have found myself occasionally placing a sports wager or two. Hubby and I found that we had talent at this during football season and made a tidy sum of money. So like the day trader looking for the next big hit, I occasionally scan the odds lines for possible winners. This morning I saw it…..Duke (-3) over Gonzaga. SLAM DUNK. Look, we all know Duke is overrated this year. But there is no team in history more overrated than the Gonzaga (never made it past the Sweet 16 with Mark Few) Zags. A team coming off a 17 point loss to Georgia should not only get three on anyone ranked…..especially Duke at its second home in the Garden. Slam dunk. Thus a sizeable amount was put on the Devils and Hubby and I crossed our fingers.
So what did that mean? It meant having to hold in my vomit as I listened to Dick Vitale out “Dukie V himself” to give an unlistenable commentary. I have always liked Vitale, but tonight he was impossible to listen to. Paulus is gritty….McRoberts is talented…..Scheyer is smart….Henderson is an athlete….blah blah blah. Sometimes it seems as if Vitale is just doing an intrasquad Duke game and no one has told him another oppenent is on the floor. Plus this Duke team is particularly annoying. Unlike past annoying players such as Battier, Redick and Hurley who were at least talented…..this group is simply a bunch of floor slapping unfit McDonald’s All Americans. For a team loaded with “Burger Boys”, how can announcers say that they “dont have Duke talent.” Could it be that they shouldnt have been so highly rated to begin with? Nahhhh….going to Duke couldnt affect any high school player’s ranking…..
But I digress. With the money on the line, I had to bite my tongue and root for Greg Paulus…..not to bleed (which was an added benefit), but to actually make shots…..and he did. I had to root for Josh McRoberts not to underachieve (which he is good at) but to make key passes and get key rebounds….and he did. I had to root for Coach K, not to be outed as the Bobby Knight with a smile (although one that has been nice to me), but to make changes to pull out the victory…..which he did. It was tough….but the money was on the line. Thus when Paulus went for 20, rather than scream to the high heavens that he is not a “star that anyone would want to have” as Vitale said, I said, “thank you Greg, may I have another” and laughed all the way to the bank.
I hate myself for it. A self-respecting Kentucky fan (or for that matter fan of humanity) should never root for Duke. Watching the Devils play the Zags (which together led to more dorky white guys on the floor than the Republican National Convention) should have been a great day to pull for the plucky underdog. But the money won out, and for one night I was a Duke fan. Hopefully Christmas can cleanse me of my sins and Vegas will never, ever set such a tempting Duke line again.
Now listen to EPISODE 18 with Billy Packer and others. Ravi Moss is on there and Packer whines and rants…..you gotta love it. Perfect pre-Holiday fodder….