Rivalry, aka The Random Musings of a Slogger

I'm sure this, and the thousands of other punches to the face by Duke players, were all accidental.

I didn’t always hate Duke.  In fact, once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I liked Duke.  There was a time when I actually looked forward to seeing Duke students on the Carolina campus.

As a walk-on freshman on the North Carolina track team, I’ll admit that I wasn’t very good.  During meets, I ran in the slowest heats, and often had to fight ridiculously hard to avoid finishing last.  But before every race, I scoured the heat lists to scope out the competition.  And I was always grateful to see the word ‘Duke’ beside a competitor’s name.  Because as bad as I was, many of the Duke middle distance guys were worse.  As far back in the pack as I finished, the guys in navy blue invariably finished farther back.  Needless to say, I was happy to line up against them.  I welcomed them to my campus with open arms.

Around this same time, Duke had a young upstart basketball coach by the name of Mike Krzyzewski.  Maybe you’ve heard of him.  I honestly liked some of his early teams.  Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, Jay Bilas are just a few of the Duke players from the 80’s that I liked – they seemed like nice, hard-working, All-American kids – I respected those early teams.  I cheered for them in the 1986 national championship against Louisville.

I even enjoyed watching the Duke students at basketball games in Cameron Indoor Arena.  Back then, their cheers were often quite witty and humorous.  I laughed when my beloved Tar Heels faced Duke at Cameron and the kids started chanting “Inhale!  Exhale!” – an obvious taunt directed at our guard Steve Hale who was coming back from an injury in which he sustained a collapsed lung.  I can respect taunts, even mean-spirited ones, as long as they’re at least funny (see Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globe awards).

But something changed over the years.  More and more of the Duke recruits seemed less and less like good kids.  Exhibit A – Christian Laettner – witness “the stomp“.  Exhibit B – Gerald Henderson – witness “the elbow” (anybody that says that was inadvertent is kidding themselves.  It was about as inadvertent as this).  And the Duke students got just plain lazy, unoriginal, and downright plagiaristic with their cheers – “That’s alright, that’s okay, you’ll all work for us one day.”  Yeah, that one wasn’t funny the first time, when Harvard kids yelled it.

Years later, the Detroit Lions' Ndamukong Suh would pay homage to this patented Laettner move.

A tiny little dislike was given birth inside me and it began to fester.  By the time Steve Wojciechowski joined the team and was being praised as a defensive wunderkind (aside – anytime a college basketball player is called a great defender, that’s just a euphemism for “he can’t score”), my slight distaste for the University of New Jersey at Durham had grown into a full-fledged loathing.  I dubbed Steve, “Foul-ciechowski”.

During the next 25 years, I grew exceedingly nauseous with Coach K’s disgruntlement over every single call that went against his squad.  I grew so incredibly tired of his whining disciples and their hacking, grabbing, punching, moving screens.  I can barely stand to watch even one more of his masterfully evil, svengali-esque, manipulations of the referees.  Thank god for the tiny number of officials from other conferences who are less susceptible to his mesmerizing powers, powers that I can only assume were obtained by some selling of souls, either his or his children’s, to Duke’s number one fan, Satan.

Coach K, in his natural form, lounges around his home before the UNC/Duke game.

More on Coach Mephistopheles, I mean Krzyzewski.  Do you honestly believe his back required surgery during one of Duke’s worst seasons ever?  What an amazing coincidence.  At least assistant coach Pete Gaudet was praised by the university for stepping in and grabbing the reins of a lackluster team that year.  Oh wait, no he wasn’t – he was fired.

"Hey everybody, see this guy on my left? Going forward, please refer to him as Coach Scapegoat. Thanks."

But don’t take my word for it.  Ask the city of Durham about all the wonderful things Duke has done for the surrounding community.  Now ask Chapel Hill the same about their venerable institution.  No further questions, your Honor.

So yes, the hatred has grown inside me until I fear that I would cheer for an Osama Bin Laden (yes, from the grave) coached Al Qaeda basketball team against Duke.  If that game were to take place, I would pray for Taliban referees.  But I’m sure Krzyzewski would somehow have those officials making bogus calls against the Al Qaeda Jihadists before the game was over, such is his puppeteering mastery over refs.

Unless you went to Carolina,  I don’t expect you to understand this rivalry.  But if you’d like to, I encourage you to read the book To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever, by Will Blythe.  He does a much better, much more eloquent job, of explaining things.

I say all this to tell you that when Austin Rivers hit that game-winning 3-pointer the  other day, it hurt.  It hurt bad.  Immediately after the game, when my step-mom texted me with “Your father is upset” (Dad attended Carolina in ’59), I responded with “Yeah, so is his son”.  That game sent me reeling.  If you want to understand Allen’s Road to Boston, you need to understand that Carolina’s loss to Duke, especially after leading by 10 points with less than 3 minutes to go, will have an effect on me and my training.

So I blame last week’s crappy training week on a bout with a cold, a shortage of asthma medicine, but mostly on the heart-breaking loss to our most-hated archrival.  After all, it’s hard to train with a giant dagger stuck in your heart.

But things have started turning around after yesterday’s drubbing of the University of Virginia’s basketball team, towards whom I harbor not the least bit of animosity.  I ran a solid 15-miler today (thanks in no small part to Big Kahuna teammates Colonel and Coach) and I think I got a brief glimpse of that oh-so-elusive fitness that I’ve been desperately seeking.

Please keep your fingers crossed that my training goes well after March 3rd.  Another loss like the last one and I may be too devastated to ever run again.

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