Saturday, November 16, 2013

I Won't Be Watching

I am a sports fan. I am sometimes a highly illogical sports fan.

It's okay; I own it. I'm not the sort of person who believes that players or coaches are losing or making decisions to spite me or that my complaints or thoughts will somehow make some sort of difference in the outcome. Those people aren't illogical; they're insane.

I'm not insane. At least not to the trained eye.

I do believe in superstitions though. I believe in mojo. I believe in routine. I believe in lucky shirts and changing seats and whispered prayers. So maybe slightly cuckoo but not insane.

I've always followed Duke basketball intensely, and the addition of better technology has only heightened that passion. I've written about it a few times: here, here, and here too. Duke football, however, has mostly lived in the shadows for me and most everyone else. I've always been a little ashamed of that, but football itself has never had the same hold on me as basketball has. 

Yet, the last two years, I've watched an emergence of Blue Devil football. Through area sportswriters and fans on Twitter, I've delighted in watching Coach Cutcliffe lead this team. And for the record, I am falling in love with Cut in the same way I fell in love with K -- as a teacher. As a teacher and former coach, there's nothing that drives me crazier than people who think that it's "easy" to coach. As if all you have to do is draw up a couple of plays on a chalkboard and roll the ball out. But good teaching recognizes good teaching, and I can say with confidence that Coach Cutcliffe is not just a football coach; he's a fantastic teacher. Watching him, and reading about him, has piqued my curiosity and strengthened my belief.

Also, let me clarify about the word "watch". I have to confess that of all of the games I've actually watched in real time, most have wound up as losses, including the Pitt game this year and the Belk Bowl last year (sorry, Ben Swain). The only notable exception was the Duke-UNC game last year.

Last week, as the Blue Devils took on NC State, I left to grab dinner at 17-14. I was gone for 15 minutes, and no one scored. Within 30 seconds of watching, State scored. Testing out my jinx status, I turned off the TV and turned my attention to following the game solely on Twitter updates. Without my watching, at one point, Duke scored 21 points in less than 30 seconds. I got this message.

Of course I was. Jinxes cannot affect recorded television. But a lack of planning can. The DVR cut off 45 seconds before that scoring onslaught began. Duke won 38-20.

This afternoon, I was out of the house at the beginning of today's game against Miami. A win against them today would put Duke in the driver's seat of their division. I walked in the door to see Miami score a touchdown to go up to 17-7. I held on, watching, just long enough for a punt before I decided to test my theory one more time. 

I scheduled the DVR to extend an hour after game time ended, and I turned off the television. When the tide began to turn, I started getting the itch to turn it on and watch for a while. Instead, I left the house to erase the temptation. This is how I wound up sitting in the Quik Trip parking lot, searching my Twitter feed, and screaming in my car as Duke Football emerged, once again, out of all the shadows, winning 48-30.

Do I believe in superstition? Yes.

Do I believe in jinxes? Yes.

Do I believe in Duke Football? Hell, yes.

Congratulations, Blue Devils. Good luck next Saturday at Wake Forest. 

And don't worry, I won't be watching.

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