Sam Landstra — Staff Writer
Let me be clear — I hate Duke.
I always have and likely always will. The Duke Blue Devils are a team that strips success and happiness from other basketball teams and monopolizes it for themselves.
A Michigan native myself, I’m a die-hard Michigan State fan and could not have been happier when Cassius Winston and Co. knocked off the Blue Devils to punch their ticket to the Final Four.
Two weekends ago, when Duke squared off against 9-seed UCF, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in America rooting for the Blue Devils. After a heartbreaking loss for the Knights, a locker room video revealed 7 foot 6 center Tacko Fall crying into the shoulder of his coach, his teammates in tears as well.
Following their down-to-the-wire loss to Michigan State, a similar scene can be witnessed for Duke. Freshman Tre Jones sat motionless at his locker, clutching a towel with tears in his eyes while teammate RJ Barret talked to reporters with a somber tone.
I’m not sorry for them.
Unlike UCF, the agony of defeat will not last for Duke. Freshmen sensations Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett will bounce back by being selected in the first round of the NBA draft, complimented by multimillion dollar contracts. Coach Mike Krzyzewski will return to the tournament next year with another top-tier team.
Am I jealous of Duke? Yes, but only of their success. I hate Duke because of everything else they stand for.
In 2015, ESPN produced the 30 for 30 documentary “I Hate Christian Laettner,” covering the polarizing 1992 Laettner-led Blue Devils. During their championship run, Laettner infamously stomped on the chest of Kentucky forward Aminu Timberlake in the East regional final.
Former Duke guard Grayson Allen made a name for himself by tripping opposing teammates.
Coach K. is known for profanity-laced tirades directed at his players.
Any dedicated college basketball fan can tell you that Duke teams always get the calls.
The team is worshipped by legendary commentator Dick Vitale to the extent that watching Duke games announced by him is borderline unbearable.
“I don’t like Duke because of how over-hyped they get,” Dordt freshman and fellow-Duke-hater DJ Droog said. The past three years, Duke has acquired the number one preseason ranking in college basketball and failed to make the Final Four each time.
Droog roots for the North Carolina Tar Heels, a team that, unlike Duke, does not exploit the one-and-done recruiting system. Tar Heels like Tyler Hansbrough and Luke Maye have stayed loyal to the program through their senior seasons, rather than jumping ship for an NBA contract.
“Every single game I root against Duke,” Droog said. The Blue Devils are also the Tar Heels’ biggest rival.
Nonetheless, Droog needs Duke.
“I’m glad Duke exists just so North Carolina has someone to beat on all the time,” Droog said. “North Carolina needs Duke to keep the best rivalry in sports going.”
Despite my hatred, I also need Duke.
College basketball needs Duke.
The thing about teams so widely disliked is that people watch them. Apart from their first round walloping of North Dakota State, I watched every single Duke game of the tournament. The rest of America did too. The Duke-UCF game earned an 11.9 rating, the second-highest rating in that time slot in tournament history.
When our favorite team gets knocked out, we need someone else to root for, or sometimes simply someone to root against.
Sports need a villain, and Duke fills that role.
Don’t believe me?
Consider the 2010-2014 Miami Heat. When LeBron James took his talents to South Beach on primetime television and assembled the “Big Three,” the Heat instantaneously became the most hated team in sports. After their formation, however, NBA ratings skyrocketed more than 75 percent as people tuned in to root against the Heat.
I didn’t like the Miami Heat, and I don’t like Duke, but every good story needs a villain.
Batman is only Batman when he has the Joker.