Saturday, November 28, 2009

Duke is the Real Evil Empire

While the State of Connecticut was usually split between New York and Boston when it came to sports allegiances, where I grew up (outside of Hartford), we usually could agree to root for two teams - the Whalers and the UConn Huskies Men's basketball team.  Ever since I witnessed Corny Thompson play back in 1979, college basketball to me meant UConn.  With the NIT Championship in 1988, Tate George's "Shot" after Scotty Burrill's "Pass" in 1990 and the two National Championships in 1999 and 2004, the school has had a nice run for the last 20 years.  By the way, we'll talk about the Whalers some other time.

Unfortunately, one of the worst days as a fan occurred just a couple of short days after the "Shot."  Christian Laettner's little runner to push Duke past the Huskies to reach the Final Four, 79-78.  I still remember Mike Krzyzewski looking around with that smug look on his face as the Dukies ran around like chickens with their heads cut off.  I still remember where I was when I watched that game, and I still remember that smug little smirk that Coach K had that day.  Never mind that Duke has only sent underachieving players to the NBA (Bobby Hurley, Jayson Williams, Cherokee Parks, Alaa Abdelnaby, the list is simply too long).  Even its most celebrated player, Grant Hill, has underachieved due to his fragile personality and feet.

All the information above was disseminated to my children when UConn and Duke met for the ninth time in the Preseason NIT Tournament finals last night.  My daughter quickly retreated to the toy room as I was speaking, somehow knowing that Daddy was going to be "talking" to the TV a lot.  The boys, however, ate it all up.  My seven year old started calling Coach K "stupidhead" (the one day I would let him say the word "stupid" over and over again) and my five year old, when I told him that Duke was the "Evil Empire" asked whether Coach K was really Darth Vader and if he was why he wasn't wearing a mask.

5pm.  My kids keep asking when they are going to show Coach K/Vader so they can see the smug little smirk he always has on his face.  Thatta way boys.


18:30.  After a sequence where a couple of Dukies flop trying to get fouls (what, are they all European?) and Jerome Dyson goes in for an easy layup, Dickie V., a notorious Blue Devil lover, shrieks "UConn's playing in the rafters baby!"  This is going to be a good game.

16:25.  The camera has a picture of Kyle Singler standing next to Coach K.  "Wow the Dukers are really tall." No Coach K is just 5 foot 2 inches tall.  He makes everyone look tall.  Okay the kid's 7 feet tall, but tonight's not about Kyle Singler.

9:30.  After a jump ball, I tried to explain the college system about the possession arrow after a jump ball.  This is proving difficult as my seven year old doesn't see the arrow and can't understand why no one is jumping for a jump ball.

6:45.  I excitedly point out to my kids that one of the new Huskies, Alex Oriahki, is from Lowell, Massachusetts, but I see that the boys are playing with their DSs and my 3 year old is asleep.  Oh well, maybe I'll have to entice them in some way to keep them watching.  I'll probably have to buy a book from the book store that they set up in the living room.  And in trying to figure out how to spell Oriahki's name, I discover that one of the players is from my home town.  He can't possibly be that good; he must be one of the towel wavers.

0:02.  A dubious non-call when a UConn player grabs the rim as a Duke player tries to cover a lay up.  The pro-Duke ESPN crew was completely up in arms - Joe Buck style.  I thought they were going to call the referee over to show him the replay.  Hey guys - I know you don't like to admit it, but ESPN is based in CONNECTICUT!  Duke is leading 37-28.


16:05.  After another curious non-call of goaltending favoring the Huskies, I am lead to believe that maybe the Huskies will get a fair shot in this game.  Not 30 seconds later though, a Duke flop leads to a Huskies' foul.  Even my boys scream that it wasn't a foul, that he wasn't even touched.

11:30.  My kids go nuts when the Duke player flops into one of the ESPN cameras after a Gavin Edwards put back.  Actually, its pretty funny to see that camera during the play.  I always like seeing the cameraman's viewpoint when something like that happens.

9:00.  John Schuyler has the ball bounce off his head into the 10th row.  I'm trying to decide if the UConn player meant to hit that punk in the head.  If the game were out of hand I may have fired it off his noggin myself.  Why does Duke always have at least one player that you love to hate?

7:25.  An intentional foul is called on Gavin Edwards when it looks like he's just trying to go for the ball.  At this point Duke is leading by 16.  I'm debating turning the game off anyway, since it's getting increasingly difficult to explain how a famous athlete, like Tiger Woods, can get into a one car accident at 2:30 in the morning after Thanksgiving and alcohol was NOT involved.

2:00.  UCONN starts making a little bit of a comeback, but the dearth of three point shooters is now a glaring weakness when you're down by that much.  Despite some excellent play down the stretch, UConn ends up succumbing to the Empire 68-59.  The Huskies' first loss of the season.

Despite the game not turning out the way we wanted, I was able to convert a couple more kids to the UConn way.  And the Duke anti-way.  My seven year old, turning his attention back to the game when UConn made it close at the end, turns to me and glumly states, "Coach K likes to brag, doesn't he, Dad."  I didn't notice it, but it certainly sounds right.  My five year old then asks if Coah K will put his mask back on now that the games over.  "Not until the camera goes off."  I explain turning the station to SpongeBob, as I had promised.

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