Friday, March 16, 2012

Not For the Faint of Heart

To everyone who knows me and knows how much I love Duke basketball, let me reassure you.  I am alive.  I am still breathing, and all breakables are still intact in my house.  I'm not even drunk and irrational.  Well, not yet anyway.  I'm disappointed, but you can't be disappointed if you're not fully invested.  And if nothing else, I'm always fully invested in Duke basketball.

I've lived the majority of my life with a heart broken by college basketball.  Even in '91 and '92 and '01 and '10, I wound up with a broken heart simply because the season of my favorite team comes to a close.  Sure, those 4 years were easier to take as they ended on a victory, a glorious victory, but still they ended.  And no season like that one will ever be again. 

I've also lived the majority of my life with people crowing about every Duke loss.  In the 4 championship years, I also endured the bitching about how they won.  When it comes to Duke basketball, most of the world will always have something to say, and if you can't handle it, you better find another team to support.  Being a Duke fan is not for the faint of heart.

Am I satisfied with this outcome?  Of course not.  No competitor wants to go out this way.  Have I enjoyed the hell out of it?  Absolutely.  My favorite coach became the all-time leader in men's Division I basketball.  We won the Maui invitational in the most thrilling of fashions.  We fought back in so many games that seemed desperately far out of reach, including snatching a win out of some powder blue clutches on their own turf.  I witnessed Miles Plumlee snag 22 rebounds in one game.  I saw Tyler Thornton emerge as the unlikeliest of heroes.  I watched the White Raven soar.  I fell hard for Austin Rivers' game and saw a level of swagger I haven't seen since #32 strolled the court.  The best part of college sports, of any youth sport, is bearing witness to the emergence of men from the footsteps of boys.  There is profound pride in their joy and empathy to their heartbreak.  And I found, after 25 years of searching, a hardcore Duke Family of fans via Twitter with which to share this roller coaster season.

There are lots of corrections left to be made, and no coach or player ever fails to realize that.  The wheel keeps turning, and work must be done.  My favorite tweet of the night for me was via Ben Swain (@thedevilwolf):
"Austin on what he'll do tomorrow.  Wake up.  Go to the gym.  This is my life.  This is all our lives."

And the saying is true, "Duke basketball never stops".  It never even takes a break. 

I don't know what the next season will hold, but I know I can't wait to see it.  Let's go, Duke.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Telephone Tomfoolery

Last night, I got a call from a friend in England.  The call woke me up (although I claimed that it did not, I am sure), to talk about our mutually shared third job.  The third job which I have resisted discussing because I'm just too tired to think that far in advance.  May seems so far away.  So, this afternoon, I had a small rant about how someone so incredibly smart could "STILL NOT UNDERSTAND THIS TIME DIFFERENCE".  I mean, for real, you just subtract like 6, estimate whether a normal working person would be awake, and then decide whether to call or not.

Shortly after my rant, I was scrolling through my recent call list, and I noticed something.  He called me at 8:20 PM.  So... uh... my apologies, Jamie.

8:20 PM.  This is when I was asleep.  There are octogenarians who were up later than I was last night.  Apparently, I'm now "that" person who complains about all of you hooligans calling me up after lights out.  Oh, you hooligans and your telephone tomfoolery.  I shake my tired, gray head at you.

Tonight, my only goal is to make it past 9:00 before hauling my weary ass into bed.  This is not a goal that I'm especially proud of.  And the two celebratory "school's out" vodka tonics I consumed during the Duke game are certainly not helping matters.  They sure did taste nice though.

Spring Break 2012 is off to a... start. 


Saturday, March 3, 2012

How My T-Shirt Caused a Convenience Store Showdown

It's a cool spring morning in Texas, and there's a familiar scent in the air -- rivalry.  It seems to have drifted the 1,201 miles from Durham to Fort Worth.  Today is an exciting day for any college basketball fan, and the wait is almost unbearable for any Blue Devil or Tar Heel.

I've been up for almost 3 hours, rising without the use of an alarm clock.  A small miracle to anyone who knows me.  After waking, with nothing much to do so early in the day, I got up, dressed in my favorite Cameron Crazies shirt and some sweats, and headed to the Quik Trip down the street to grab a Diet Coke.  As I walked to my car in the parking lot, a man in the next car over rolled down his window and shouted, "I LOVE YOU!"

Since I had basically rolled out of bed with no makeup, glasses on, and only a haphazard use of a hairbrush, I was slightly confused as to what might have brought on such attention.  And then, from a gas pump, I saw a man point to my shirt and shout, "DUKE SUCKS!"

Then I saw Mr. I Love You flip the bird to Mr. Duke Sucks, and this morning's mystery was solved.  Even in a Texas parking lot, 1,201 miles and 11 hours from tip-off, enemy lines had already been drawn. 

Oh, how I love the smell of rivalry in the air. 


Thursday, March 1, 2012

From Apathy to Outrage

Life can be a pretty frustrating endeavor sometimes.  It's unpredictable and challenging.  So when the people I depend on to keep it steady begin rocking the boat, I get a little pissed.  And that was how my morning started off -- with people who should know to sit the hell down while in a mother-bleepin' boat.

But remember how I said that life can be unpredictable?  (Come on now.  I said it like 3 sentences ago.  Keep up.  Stop wondering if you're the boat rocker because I'm so over all of you boat rockers.  Done.)

Well, it is unpredictable, and that can be a wildly beautiful thing too. 

Today, in my class of charming ne'er do wells, we were reading from the novel Tangerine when my little unpredictable miracle occurred.  I had just finished reading a passage in which the narrator explains how little respect his school has regarding the on-field death of one of its football players (making no mention, not canceling classes -- not even canceling football practice) and its ensuing need to continue practice as is, with little regard for future players' safety.

At this point, I usually have a few kids with the "WTH is wrong with these people?" look upon their faces.  But not today.  Today, I had *Sally up in arms. 

She slammed her book shut, catching us all off guard, and proclaimed her hatred of the fictional Lake Windsor High School and all of its cold-hearted staff and students.  "That's so disrespectful, Miss!  What's wrong with these people?  They don't even care!"  And then she began to rally her classmates to anger as well.

I couldn't believe my ears.  Was this the same *Sally, who for 25 weeks has been hell-bent on getting me to just leave her alone?  Did she really just move from apathy to outrage in 55 pages?  Because she totally did.

And when a classmate tried to calm her down by saying, "Sally, it's just a BOOK", she fired back, "But it's not just a book.  People act like that all the time.  And it's wrong. They should be ashamed of themselves."  Oh, dear Lord, be still my heart.  Righteous indignation AND a moral compass?  AND real-life connections? 

I wanted to be all, "Holy Jesus!  You care?  About other people?  And doing the right thing?  I wasn't so sure!"  But that's unprofessional, and embellished for storytelling's sake, so I didn't.

I didn't even know what to say.  I just beamed. 

But this is what I wish I had said.   "You're right, kids.  It is just a book.  But that's what books and words do.  They move people.  They push people to be better.  They challenge you to question and think and defend your own beliefs.  They teach you what is right by showing you what is wrong.  They make you care so deeply, so passionately about someone you've never met -- someone who may not even exist in reality -- that you are enraged by his maltreatment, causing you to slam your book shut and declare that you're done reading it only to pick it back up 30 seconds later because now you can't resist knowing what will happen.  And then maybe, just maybe, it forces you to treat the next person you meet a little bit better than you would have before.  That's what books can do."

Perhaps I'll lay my diatribe on them tomorrow.  Or not.  Maybe I'll just let that glorious image of Sally, with her nose in that dog-eared copy of Tangerine, do all my talking for me.

*Name changed to protect the utterly fabulous.