It’s tough to put into words, but the K in Duke basketball says I must try.
I shall forever remember exactly where I was in 1987, at the age of six, when I first popped the question to my Duke basketball fanatic father: “When will the Blue Devils win a national championship?”
His response? “Never. But hey, they won it all in soccer last year, so we’ll just have to be content with that.”
Yet Dad didn’t actually give a hoot about soccer. So neither did I.
Rather, he remained, understandably, in the ultra-pessimistic stage of recovery from the No. 1 seed Duke basketball squad’s heartbreak at the hands of No. 2 seed Louisville in the final minute of the 1986 title game. The way Dad figured it back then, if his all-time favorite Blue Devil, Johnny Dawkins, wasn’t able to deliver a Dukie’s dream come true, then no players ever would.
And even though Dad had taped every Duke basketball tournament game ever since VHS had become a common thing several years prior, he vowed that day to never in his life let me see how that loss to Louisville went down. Actually, he did allow for one way out of his rule: the Blue Devils had to somehow one day finalize their own “One Shining Moment.”
Now, let me tell you about my follow-up questions that filled the rest of our father-son chat that evening, or at least as I remember it.
In what was the start of my first season as a real-deal follower of the “Duke” word that I’d heard my father screaming about since I was in his wife’s womb, all I initially wanted to learn more about was that intense man with the weird last name I’d seen constantly yelling from the bench.
Really, all I wanted was a sense of hope to begin my shared fandom with Dad. And that Blue Devil leader I had noticed sure seemed to radiate exactly that.
So at that point, my Dad’s eyes lit up, for he was most eager to begin the history lesson that I had finally begun asking for on my own:
- “Mike Krzyzewski is his name.”
- “Learn to spell it.”
- “Learn to pronounce it.”
- “He’s only 40 years old.”
- “He’s brilliant.”
- “He’s our only chance.”
A chance? So you’re saying there’s a chance? A chance at what exactly?…