Congratulations to the 2010 NCAA (D1) National Champs...the Duke (Blue-Eye'd) "White' Devils! [img]smileys/smiley1.gif[/img][img]smileys/smiley32.gif[/img]
<h1 ="itemTitle">White Devils</h1> <h2 style="margin: 0pt; padding: 0pt 0pt 4px; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-size: 150%;">The Unbearable Whiteness of Duke Basketball</h2>
<div ="itemToolbar"> By <a title="Richard Spencer" href="http://www.alternativeright.com/authors/richard-spencer/" target="_blank">Richard
<div ="itemImageBlock"> </span> </div> <div ="itemIntroText"> There is no
college basketball team more hated
and reviled than the Duke University Blue Devils. Books have been written on the subject; websites are devoted to it.
Simply mentioning the names "Christian Laettner," "Bobby Hurley," "J.J.
Redick," or "Danny Ferry" in the wrong place evokes sneers, jokes about
high shorts, claims by some that they could take each of these men in a
fight, and crude accusations of homosexuality.
It's hard to
imagine another college team generating multiple Top Ten Most Hated Players lists, or being trashed on the Gawker family of websites. Even the cloying and
sleazy John Edwards was willing to announce publicly during his first
presidential campaign, "I hate Duke Basketball."
Duke can inspire love, too, of course, and a large fan base made up
mostly of people who have no real connection to the school. (Up until I
actually attended grad school at Duke, I was one of these, having been a
quiet but sincere fan since watching Christian Laettner sink "<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AY-iq58_oz4" target="_blank" target="_blank">The
Shot</a>" against Kentucky in the '92 NCAA regional finals.) ESPN's
generous coverage of the Blue Devils speaks to these vicarious Dukies,
but also to the millions who love to hate.
For me, the
source of Duke Hate has always been rather obvious ... and
</div> Yes, it has a
lot to do with the team's famed "Tobacco Road" rivalry with the
formidable North Carolina Tar Heels, whose Chapel Hill stomping grounds
is a mere 15-minute drive on 15-501 from Duke's faux-Gothic campus.
While UNC is a genuinely Southern place (or at least used to be), Duke
is an institution for transplants, a school mockingly known as the
"University of New Jersey at Durham." And while Chapel Hill is full of
wine-and-cheese liberals, Duke undergrads are imaged as an army of
mini-Gordon Geekos and overachievers ... a stereotype that's not
altogether inaccurate. In the only event of its kind I've ever heard of,
after Duke lost the 1999 Championship Game to Connecticut, tens of
thousands of Carolina fans poured out onto Chapel Hill's Franklin St. to
celebrate and get drunk. This rivalry is intense, to be sure, but Duke
Hate is much bigger.
Certainly, a lot of Duke Hate derives from
Coach Mike Krzyzewski's success, his three National Titles and winning
percentage over .750. Whenever Duke loses a regular season game on the
road, more often than not, the opposing fans flood the court as they'd
just won a title. But resentment alone can't explain the intensity of
Duke Hate. Few people truly loathed UNC's legendary coach <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_Smith" target="_blank" target="_blank">Dean
Smith</a>, whose exploits equal Krzyzewski's.
A lot of Duke Hate, no doubt, comes from a certain
"preppiness" associated with its players... a quality that was put into
stark relief in the '92 Championship Game, when clean-cut Duke went up
again Michigan's "Fab Five" freshman, who had pioneered the hip-hop look
of bald heads, baggy shorts, black sneakers and socks, and street-ball
style. Laettner would latter describe
them as "real loosy-goosy," which they were.
"preppiness" charge has alwats seemed to me like a euphemism for what really
bothers people about the Blue Devils -- during Coach K's tenure, his
teams have been majority white, and with some notable exceptions like
Grant Hill and Johnny Dawkins, Duke's most beloved/hated players have
been Euro-Americans. People love to hate the Dukies because they stand
as a flagrant violation of the trajectory of college and professional
basketball over the past 30 years. Duke is white, they play white, and
Duke 2009-10 squad is even blancher than usual. Led
by All-ACC guard Jon Sheyer, Nordic Superman Kyle Singler, 7'1'' Slav Brian
Zoubek, and the Plumlee bothers, Mason and Miles, Duke's starting line-up feature three, and
sometimes even four, white players. Eleven of the 14 slots on Duke's roster are filled by Caucasians.
comes in the context of the NCAA Division I being between 60-70 percent
African-American (and the NBA, 80 percent so.) The top-ranked college
programs of 2010 seem, if anything, to exceed the norm. Kentucky's
starting five -- and top 10 scorers -- for instance, are all black.<sup>1</sup>
The United States's 2008 Olympic squad, the elite of the elite of
American basketball, featured a total of zero white players.
(The '92 "Dream Team" had four, including Laettner.) This
trend is evident at the high-school level as well. As Sports
Illusrated reported twelve years ago, in the inner cities,
white kids have all but given up on playing competitive basketball.
The character of the Duke program is so striking that it's hard for the
literary sportswriter not to view it as something more than just a team
-- something closer to a representation of an era or way of life. As
Will Blythe writes in his enjoyable book <a target="_blank" href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001O9CFQI?ie=UTF8&tag=alterright03-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390 957&creativeASIN=B001O9CFQI" target="_blank">To
Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever</a>:
Eighties were Duke's decade. They were America's team. Back then, the
Blue Devils were like boy bands: squeaky-clean, cute, irrepressible,
mostly white (with an occasional black guy like the point guard Johnny
Dawkins singing lead). They played hard, they played together, and they
had the added advantage of being the underdog, the team on the rise.
They were the perfect embodiment of the Reagan years: led by a
conservative [Coach K is a known Republican], cranking out the P.R.,
representing an institution peopled by those unapologetically in pursuit
of personal success.
It was the Danny Ferry years.
And for Blythe, Duke's rise eventuated in a racial drama:<blockquote>The
Duke of that era finally engaged in its epochal confrontation with the
forces of darkness (i.e. a predominantly black team) in 1990 and 1991
when they took on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in the Final
</blockquote>Much like the Fab Five of '92, The UNLV "<a target="_blank" href="http://rushthecourt.net/mag/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/unlv_running_rebels.jpg" target="_blank">forces
of darkness</a>" seemed like a novelty at the time, but in retrospect,
the team anticipated to a T what basketball would come to look like. Led
by Larry Johnson -- an anti-Christian (Laettner) if there ever was one!
-- the Rebs were trash-talking, undisciplined, and gone from campus
before graduation. All that was missing were sleeves of tattoos.
In the first match-up, the pretty boys got slaughtered by
the thugs, 103-73. The second match-up in '91, however, turned into one
of the great upsets of all time, with a three-pointer by Bobby Hurley
and two clutch free-throws from Laettner in the final minutes. As Blythe
narrates, this was the moment that the underdog became the overdog and
the country turned on the erstwhile "cute" Blue Devils.
claims that the Duke Hate centered around perceived double standards in
refereeing (Coach K's team have been notoriously eager to <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0upQDkY-pg" target="_blank" target="_blank">take a
charge</a>...) But this is minor. Far more significant was the color,
so to speak, that Duke Hate took on in the '90s: Duke was likened to an
evil, soulless corporation, with ruthless Coach K at helm; the Truth
About Duke website would feature a <a href="http://www.truthaboutduke.com/banner.jpg" target="_blank" target="_blank">still
shot</a> of Duke fans that makes it look like they're giving a Fascist
salute. And there's been even more creative variations on this theme -- "Coach KKK," for instance.
into why the Dukies' whiteness makes them so hated, it's worth asking
how such a state of affairs ever came to pass -- for a majority-white
team might seem particularly surprising at a place like Duke. The
school's undergraduate body might include many future "IBankers" (less so now, of course), and it's
certainly more "fratty" than the Ivy League, but Duke's faculty is about
as post-Marxist as you can get, exemplified by such pomo luminaries as
Stanley Fish and Fredric Jameson. While I was rooting on the '06 and '07
teams during the heights of the "Duke Lacrosse Hoax," I didn't know how
Coach K got away with it -- or how long the faculty would stand for a
starting five that so represented White Privilege and the legacy of
The credit or blame, as it were, for Duke
whiteness must surely lie on the shoulders of Mike Krzyzewski, not only
the head coach but the man who signs off on every recruiting decision.
Recruiting is, of course, a two-way street; recruits must choose Duke.<sup>2</sup>
But it's no exaggeration to say that Duke gets the pick of the litter
each year, and one must conclude that the fact that Coach K and his
assistants key in on the best white players in the country is part of a
deliberate plan. (And even if it's somehow unconscious, it's
Krzyzewski is by no means a "racist," as that
term is usually used, nor does his commitment to recruiting quality run
skin deep: according to the Encyclopedia of Duke Basketball, "Since
1976, only two players who didn't transfer or turn pro have failed to
graduate." All of Krzyzewski's star recruits were, in fact, four-year
players until Elton Brand went pro early in 1999.
each year, Coach K recruits the "golden boys," young men who are highly
skilled, fresh-faced, often white and handsome, sometimes cocky, and
invariably intensely annoying to other fans who wished their players
measured up. Duke has produced its share of NBA talent, but it's no
coincidence that its most cherished players were all "college athletes."
Hurley, Laettner, Ferry, Cherokee Parks (who's white despite claiming
some Indian blood), and Redick have all been either journeymen or busts
in the pros. Steve Wojciechowski, Duke's floor-pounding point guard in the late '90s, was
one of the most well-known (and most loathed) players in the
country at the time; after graduation, he played a year in Poland and
then moved to the coaching bench beside Krzyzewski -- proving that his
game really was all about guts, brains, and heart.
Duke whiteness just doesn't work in the NBA --
much like its intense, trapping defense and complicated, three-guard
weaving patterns can't be transfered to the more primitive pro game,
which has devolved into scenes of eight men standing around watching a man-é-mano
matchup between each teams' two best players.
leader, John Sheyer, is archetypal in this respect. As ESPN's Jay Bilas,
a white Duke grad and former coach, noted while covering a game this
season, Sheyer has mastered playing "below the rim." Doug Gottlieb blogged, "Scheyer is probably not an NBA player,
but his Jewish faith allows him to get an Israeli passport and he would
be one of the most coveted players EVER for a team like Maccabi Tel
How has Coach K been able to buck recruiting groupthink?
Will Blythe claims that he was better able to understand cagey Coach K's
psyche once he recognized that Krzyzewski wasn't at all the slick, evil
CEO he's made out to be -- more the consummate outsider and underdog.
(A striking admission coming from a life-long Carolina fan!) Krzyzewski
had grown up far from wealth and privilege in a Polish neighborhood in
inner-city Chicago; he's a devout Catholic in a Protestant state and at a
(formerly) Methodist institution. In Blythe's words, "At Duke,
Krzyzewski had managed to go as far afield from the South Side of
Chicago as he could go, while at the same time creating for himself the
sense of being embattled on the block, embedded in hostile territory,
<blockquote>"With North Carolina and North Carolina
State around, we're a minority, "[Kryzyewski] said. "But growing up in
Chicago prepared me for that. It wasn't so much race there --
black-white -- it was nationality. I was Polish and I was a minority.
And I think that's one reason I've done so well here. Because we're still
</blockquote>Duke Haters love to associate the Blue
Devils with elitism and class privilege. But what's so unusual about the
team is that its players are precisely those the world assumes can't
compete in big time basketball. Christian Laettners aren't supposed to
be able to even hang with Larry Johnsons.
Smith, Krzyzewski's arch-nemesis for years, is often credited with leading the drive for racial
integration in the state of North Carolina by recruiting black athletes
in the '60s. Coach K has achieved much the opposite in creating a
singular program in which Anglo-Saxons and Europeans stand tall once
again in the game that James Naismith invented.
Why Coach K's
recruiting sensibility would be so deathly annoying to opposing fans
has a lot to do with an asymmetry
in American basketball. Simply put, fans are mostly white, players are
mostly black. (This has, no doubt, played a large part in the declining
fortunes of the NBA, and it's something no PR genius can fix.)
This asymmetry is, no doubt, experienced on a personal
level by most fans. I myself was obsessed with sports as a young person,
due in no small part to the fact that I grew up in the age of Sportscenter.
But by the time I hit my 20s, this passion had waned considerably, to
the point of disinterest. And I certainly hadn't chosen Duke in hopes of
becoming one of the "Cameron Crazy."
(In case you're unaware, these are the insanely dedicated, undeniably
mean, blue body-paint fans in the student section. As Blythe describes
them, "I was alternately envious of Duke's Nuremburg-rally cheers and
appalled at the smug mockery that nincompoops like Dick Vitale claimed
as evidence of high SATs and a predictor of future success.")
My interest in basketball had all but disappeared, but when I arrived
in Durham, camping out all night in hopes of getting in the grad-student
ticket lottery was just something one does. Period. And
interestingly, this obligation was shared by my left-wing colleagues,
who deconstructed Gender and Race by day and rooted on J.J. Redick by
night. I even began playing pick-up basketball twice-a-week in a scrum
that included both an ISI scholar and a nationally known liberal blogger.
Once actually inside Cameron Indoor, I learned how genuinely
spontaneous, and again, mean, the cheers really are. In a
memorable moment, the rumor passed through my section of the stands that
a regular in the front row, who always wore a Bobby Hurley #11 jersey,
had learned that a Georgia Tech player had been dumped by his girlfriend
the night before. When that unfortunate player went to the free-throw
line, the Crazy began calling her name, and within two seconds all the
students, much like birds in a flock, had perceived the signal and had
begun chanting in unison, "Brit-ney, Brit-ney" (or whatever the girl's
name was.) If memory serves, the Georgia Tech guy missed.
also learned that Coach K keeps a staff of specially selected waterboys,
each of whom is required to wear a suit and tie to games, which makes
for quite a strange scene when after every few possessions these
well-dressed students would sprint onto the court and assiduously wipe
sweat off the floor.
During a game against Clemson the full
significance of Duke whiteness really hit me. I looked across the arena
and observed our doppelgänger -- Clemson fans who looked and
dressed much like us (save the obvious) and were rooting almost as
intensely ... though not quite. The Clemson all-black starting five, on
the other hand, looked nothing like Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts. The
Tigers weren't quite the Running Rebs, but corn-rows and tattoos were in
evidence. I realized then that, quite frankly, if I'd gone to Clemson
instead of Duke, I wouldn't have taken the slightest interest in the
Much like nationalism, school spirit and
winning can overcome quite a lot, but I doubt the Clemson fans could
ever quite identify with their team like Dukies do. And I often wonder
whether there isn't something deeply unhealthy about college students
passionately rooting on players with whom they have little in common,
and, I'd add, with whom they'd never associate were it not for
In the end, Duke Hate probably boils down to this.
When opposing fans look at the Blue Devils, they wish in their hearts
that their home team were like that.