Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Night Duke Finally Broke My Heart


Patrick Kendall

Some of you may have pieced together a few things about me in our brief time together (sixteen blogs and growing. For instance, I am a longtime Duke fan. I watched from a hotel room in Long Beach as that great1986 team came up short against Louisville (it nearly killed me); I watched with horror as UNLV ran straight through Duke in the most embarrassing championship game I've ever seen in 1990 (almost destroyed my love for the entire sport); then I watched with a mixture of pain and anguish (and more pain) as Scotty Thurman staked me through the heart with his game winning 3 pointer in 1994 (was paralyzed by the memory of that shot until about 1997).

I have been with Duke as they have endured gut wrenching hardships; I have grown up with the players who came along in the 80s as if they were family. Christian Laetner and I are the same age. I played a pickup game with Grant Hill when he was a freshman in high school. When Phil Henderson dunked over Alonzo Mourning in the NCAA tourney in 1989 I felt such joy that it's hard to even write about it without crying a little bit over the beautiful memory.

I sat through the worst part of Coach K's entire career when he handed the reins over to that poor overmatched SOB – Pete (can't even say his last name it hurts me so bad). All of this I shouldered internally, pressing it downward into the dark corridors of my tortured soul because I knew that always, ALWAYS, something good was on the horizon. Well, all that changed for me today. Changed as a result of one game. One, singularly unimportant in the grand scheme of things game that may have finally taken my tortured soul and kicked it into that abyss of Carolina Blue – and away from my beloved Blue Devils -- forever. I just don't know if I'll ever recover.

You see…I hate Maryland. Hate the program in an irrational way that even an educated, supremely articulate guy like myself could never adequately describe. If the world was the prize and Martians were trying to destroy it and only Maryland stood in the way of our survival, I would take up arms with my Martian brothers and lead the charge against Maryland with the most blood-curdling battle cry ever uttered in the history of warfare. And then some. Ever since Gary Williams took over the program at Maryland I have felt an unease, like the feeling a sick antelope gets just before a lion comes down on him and devours him mercilessly and without warning.

No…it's worse than that. It's more like after the Tribulation has begun and one-quarter of the world's population is literally torn from this realm, and another quarter is lost to God's wrath as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride roughshod over the entire planet and the way is paved for the anti-Christ to come and take control of the Earth for 1000 years and it turns out that the anti-Christ is actually Gary Williams and the mark of the Beast is actually a turtle, A TURTLE, branded on the betrayers' foreheads. Now we're getting close to how I feel about them.

So to watch my beloved Blue Devils come to Comcast and play like elementary school kids and basically get blown right out of the gym in a span of about 10 minutes is more than I can bear. I mean it! My world is ruined. I can deal with a lot: I've been divorced and that woman was not very nice at the end, but I survived it. I shouldered the burden and kept moving on. But I don't know if I've got the strength to get through what I watched tonight.

I have never understood how Maryland could insinuate that it had a claim to calling a Duke/Maryland game a rivalry. Based on what? Based on who? They don't have the pedigree of a Duke or Carolina. They've always been a notch below the likes of Coach K and Deano and now Roy Boy. Who do they think they are? I do have to admit that one of my best nights of sleep ever came on the night Jason Williams brought Duke back from 10 with a minute to go to win the game and shut that thuggish, object throwing at players' moms Cole Field House crowd down into a catatonic state, all while Juan Dixon and Steve Blake looked on in amazed shock from the court. Ahh, I love that memory.

So how could Duke do this to me? How?

I'm sorry. I'm not coherent right now, but I can't justify the atrocious play that I watched from Duke as they dug themselves a 20 point deficit. I can't stand how Grievous Vasquez woofed again and again as he had his way with the entire Duke defense, a defense I just singled out Wednesday night for playing tremendously against UNC. Where the hell was the defense? 40 points in a half, against a second rate group of pretenders that bark a lot but bite very little – except for tonight. Of course. Naturally.

JP Strawberry (I refuse to call him by his correct name) thumped his chest, made faces and suddenly looked like a D1 basketball player again after basically wasting his scholarship by crawling up his own butt for the last month and our boys couldn't finish him off. Couldn't reduce him to the state that their play reduced me to. It's not fair! Fear the Turtle? Are you serious? That's is the worst slogan for the worst mascot in all of sports (except for maybe that sweater-wearing turkey down in Blacksburg) yet Duke played like scared little babies as Maryland swarmed around them and basically took the ball right from Duke's hand any time they wanted.

I can handle the fact that Duke is young. I can handle the fact that McRoberts is not the player that I expected him to be. I can even handle the fact that DeMarcus Nelson airballed a layup tonight. But when they go on the road to THE hostile environment outside of Chapel Hill and roll onto their backs like a pack of submissive dogs, well it's more than I can stand. Now, I love Duke Basketball. I look forward to it the same way I look forward to the arrival of an old and dear friend each and every fall for the last 25 years but tonight I saw something that reminded me of something I hadn't seen in nearly as long.

Twenty years ago my high school coach accused our team of playing with no brains and no heat. In fact, that's what he wrote on the game stats the next day: NO BRAINS; NO HEART. That was it for stats.

Duke's play reminded me of my old coach's game analysis: they played with absolutely no brains and no heart and in playing like that they broke my heart in the process.

Plus, I've got to go to work and deal with Bob the Terp. Damn you for that, Duke! Man, do I hate Mondays.

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