Chuck Klosterman, when he isn’t trying to save movies about LCD Soundsystem, writes for Grantland and is a genuinely interesting read (Fargo Rock City, being my personal fave). He is an instigator, if not by nature, then certainly by practice, because this piece (of garbage) he wrote about rooting for Duke is nothing if not a button pusher.
Here is the part of Chuck’s logical, if flawed, thought process:
5. Because I am compelled by contradictions, I am drawn to Duke’s paradoxical success. Over the past 25 years, Duke has had exactly one bad team. This is amazing when you consider the limitations of their talent. Outside of Grant Hill and Elton Brand, how many Duke graduates have turned into top-tier pros? Those two names are pretty much the whole list. You could make a strong argument that Luol Deng is the third-best player they’ve ever produced. (Shane Battier, who’s never been the third-best player on any NBA roster he’s been a part of, might be fourth overall; Christian Laettner was underrated as a pro, but he only made the All-Star game once; Carlos Boozer is hard to quantify; Jeff Mullins played 40 years ago.)
Traditionally, Duke’s greatest players are only slightly better than good. If the 12 all-time best Duke alumni (at their professional peaks) played the 12 all-time best North Carolina alumni (at similar apex levels), the Tar Heels would win by 30. Assuming the game was uncoached, a Duke all-star squad might lose to the ‘84 Tar Heels, and that team didn’t even make the Final Four. Yet Duke-UNC remains an annual toss-up. Every season, Duke’s collection of high-end role players defeat at least 10 teams who would kill them on the playground. And they do this by retaining and perfecting the enduring qualities (and the arcane strategies) of non-pro basketball.
It’s worth noting, the lack of superstars that have come out of Duke, the reasons why would be endless. Off the top of my head, most NBA superstars a.) in recent history didn’t attend college and b.) hate Duke like everyone else — but the main fault with this argument is that the college game isn’t about individual players. As much as the NCAA would like you to believe the personal narratives at tournament time, a good zone can shut down a big man and one strong ballhandler needs shooters and spacing. It’s about competent and complimentary pieces. Or: recruiting and coaching.
The real reason I can’t stand Duke stems from Christian Laettner being a supreme number of negative adjectives and Bobby Hurley being just a hair below him, but Chuck doesn’t let such trivial things get in the way of his Big Leap (and probably the inspiration for this entire article)…
6. Because Duke succeeds with an anti-pro style and subpar athleticism, the Blue Devils are the “most collegiate” major college basketball team. It’s not even close (Indiana is second, but a distant second). It’s almost like they’re a caricature of what people who love college sports supposedly desire. They evolve, but just barely.
7. Because Duke is the “most collegiate” college basketball team, rooting for Duke is rooting for college basketball as a whole. Their games matter way more, if for no reason other than the sheer number of people who obsessively hate them (and are thereby rooting against their own best interests, assuming they want the college game to remain relevant). If you care about something, you should want to see it flourish. When Duke wins, everyone cares.
So there you have it: If you’re against Duke, you’re against college basketball.
If you root against the Yankees, you root against Major League Baseball. If you root against the Lakers, you root against the NBA.