Lay your pity at their feet
It’s been a pretty rough stretch for the Blue Devils of late. After successfully navigating their four-game gauntlet of Syracuse, Boston College, North Carolina, and Florida State, they looked poised to do something special come March. They easily could have lost all of those games and came infuriatingly close to doing just that numerous times. Still, a win is a win be it good, bad, or ugly.
No matter how they are come by, victories feel much better than the alternative currently being experienced in Durham these days. Although dour and somber around the Duke campus, the Blue Devils have been very charitable in extending some goodwill to their conference neighbors. They have seen fit to leave behind some unexpected wins for a few ACC also-rans and the enjoyable times that accompany those upsets.
As the clock ticks down on another inexplicable road loss, the energy of the building starts to focus on one thing: storming the court. The TV cameras start panning the crowd in anticipation, as security personnel gather to form a wall to usher the defeated Devils off the court…hopefully.
There’s no thought of cutting away from the orange, red, and gold and black armies, as throngs of students are jumping up and down, screaming wildly, and mobbing the players. Everyone is taking selfies and videos that can actually be shown at a later date, unlike the alcohol-fueled and incoherent displays that were filmed a few hours later. Hit delete, boys and girls. Hit delete.
Normal students become memes, temporarily blinding themselves (see Clemson towel guy) in their surrender to the moment, while players become heroes and the big men on campus that they quite literally are. (Story update: a Yahoo search of “Clemson towel guy in Duke upset” still reveals him as the seventh most relevant tagline and cements the internet immortalization of his shining accomplishments and dedication to continue swinging that towel even after injuring himself that brave night two months ago.)
I’m sure the bars did good business those nights in Clemson, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem while the house parties had a little extra juice and were likely off the hook. I know this expression has surely been benched even longer than Joey, Jack, and Javin combined, but since I’m pretty sure we might have used it in my day, that’s what I’m going with.
Some memories, hazy or otherwise, were made that won’t be forgotten in those jubilant Carolina nights. They may not be remembered exactly, but they sure as hell won’t be forgotten. This sounds more like my collegiate experience, and even though I never stormed a court or field in my days at PITT, I can look back through red and squinty eyes with few regrets in that regard. Since social media wasn’t as prevalent, I don’t have to rethink that regret part.
As I watched the frustrated and downtrodden Devils trudge off the court, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of pity for them. I know they could hear and feel the arena going berserk around them. As a direct byproduct of their own disappointment, this excitement probably deepened their collective wallow in the bowels of the opposing locker rooms. No matter what great accomplishments they go on to do. No matter how many big wins they have in Cameron Indoor. Duke Blue Devils never get to experience that crazy, spontaneous elation that a color-matched mob of young and ready energy can create when storming the court all around them. At least the good parts of it anyway.
Though the Crazies manufacture the best environment in college basketball, the Blue Devils are always expected to win. Even when they are not, they are never so bad (1994-95 was just a bad dream as far as I am concerned) where a home win over anybody would bring the students pouring out of the stands. While the wins over the Tar Heels are enjoyed with a little extra relish, I can’t remember the last time Duke stormed the court after beating UNC. At this point, it’s pretty much the rule rather than any kind of exception.
Despite all the accolades and primetime games. Despite the constant attention, the All-Americans, and the overblown, but well deserved, sense of pretension. Despite the wins, the titles, the constant heap of praise on players, coaches, and college that some find sickening; although I feel is significantly underdone and not nearly as effusive as it could and should be.
Feel pity for the poor souls that are the Duke basketball players. Feel pity for them no matter all they have and seem to have in front of them. Feel pity for them for their never getting the opportunity to have a wild night of raucous, drunken fun, and unbridled, spontaneous revelry with the likes of you and me when we were or are in college.
I don’t know about you, but when I look back to some of the stuff I did in school, I just have to shake my head and laugh, and I feel like they are really missing out.
Story update: Now we can feel pity for them, for real, and for all of the NCAA athletes who saw their dreams taken away by something beyond their control or ours as a global society. That still doesn’t make it any easier for anyone, though, and we can only say thanks and good luck to them in their next dream. For those coming back, on to No. 6. GO DUKE!