My first time going to an NCAA Tournament game was in 2002 when I was twelve years old. I trekked 60 miles from my home in Louisville to Lexington for perhaps the greatest non-UK moment in the history of UK fandom. I saw Duke lose in Rupp Arena.
I have found myself with a growing distaste for a number of Kentucky rivals. I despise our archrival Louisville. Their fans are the most delusional I have ever encountered. Indiana is right up there with Louisville with their smug condescension and graceless attitude. They can lose every game for all I care. In the SEC, Florida and Tennessee are two programs that I find myself wanting to beat the most each season. Those four programs all pull at me for different reasons, but none of them have the overwhelming qualities that Duke possesses.
Thirteen years later I reflect back to wonder where did my disdain for Duke begin? Why am I so apt to cheer against Duke, someone Kentucky doesn't play on an annual basis?
1. The Players
Duke has a tradition of having a player that we all love to hate. The list is monotonous and grows with each season. Christian Laettner, Steve Wojciechowski, Shane Battier, J.J. Redick, Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer, Miles Plumlee, Tyus Jones, and now Grayson Allen have captured our ire for different reasons alike. Their players whine, flop, cry, scream, fist pump all the while being praised for their intensity and passion. Their players are the antithesis of Kentucky basketball.
2. The Bias
Duke has been very important to college basketball over the last twenty years. Coach K is the greatest coach in the modern era, and it's really not even close. However, this does not mean Duke is above everyone else. For the last six years, the media has poured it on John Calipari for his recruiting strategies and how he runs his program. In the meantime Coach K has mirrored Calipari's strategy the last three years and now is praised for "adapting" to the new college basketball. The hypocrisy and bias towards the Duke program is nauseating and mind boggling.
3. The Officials
A common theme in the midst of a Duke basketball game is the questionable decisions that the officials make during the game. I am tempted to go to You Tube to pull up multiple clips of unwarranted foul calls against the Duke opponent and questionable no-calls for Duke, but you know what I'm talking about. It's as if Duke has the three blind mice in their back pocket...
4. The Floor Slapping
I'm not sure who at Duke started this, but it goes along with their abundance of aggravating players. The Duke players consistently slap the floor while playing defense after making a play on offense that probably should have been called for a charge or a walk. I, for one, believe that the next NCAA rules committee meeting should ban all forms of douchebaggery including immediate technicals or ejections for any Blue Devil that does it.
5. The Flopping
Duke would not survive in the NBA simply because the NBA has steep fines for flopping. I am convinced the NCAA implemented the arc in the paint simply to deter Duke players from attempting to "take a charge" on every play. Duke players would be suitable for international soccer, not college basketball.
6. The Announcers
Duke Vitale. I'm sort of kidding because I really like Dicky V and believe he is one of the five most important people in college basketball history. However, his admiration for Duke is nauseating at times, but I will say he also loves Kentucky. Typically, though, the announcers have an unquestionable bias and love for Duke and that should NEVER be case.
7. The Game
I really don't need to go into it because you and I both know what happened that fateful afternoon in March 1992. The shot that should have never been because Laettner should have been ejected for stomping on Timberlake's chest. Ever since the game in 1992, Duke has been enemy #1 for Kentucky, and rightfully so.