I can’t speak for anyone else, but I sure was feeling sick around 11:30 Monday night, as Duke University cruised to an 82-72 win over Arizona, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski cut down the nets for the third time in the last 10 years. It might have been the platter of ribs and chicken wings, half a pizza and big ice cream sandwich that I ate over at Yale Daily News sports columnist Mike Corwin’s place, but I really think my nausea was induced by a larger phenomenon than the work of the good people at the Rib House.
Why do all the teams I hate — all the media darlings, betting favorites and bandwagon beloveds — always have to win?
I used to like Duke. Really, I mean it. Back in the 1980s when N.C. State was the team to beat in the ACC and broadcasters used to stumble like hell over the name Krzyzewski, back when Billy Packer had hair on his head and Shane Battier was just learning how to shoot, I used to always root for the Dukies.
But now things have changed. The Blue Devils have been to eight Final Fours in the last 13 years, they’ve won three national championships, and ESPN.com college basketball guru Andy Katz is already picking them to repeat next year. And now everybody acts like a Cameron Crazy — Packer has taken to calling them “Duke University” to increase their airtime, Jim Nantz pontificates tearfully and extensively on Coach K’s early struggles, and I think Armen Keteyian has a nonsexual crush on Johnny Dawkins. Worst of all, the officials have sold their souls to the Devils too. Come on, Jason Williams committed at least six fouls Monday night, and Carlos Boozer gets away with murder in the paint.
I’ll admit it, I’m bitter. After all, Duke cost my beloved Pac-10 conference a national championship team and my wallet a few bucks in a tournament pool. It also cost the News’ Sports Desk an expensive keyboard as a result of my alcohol-induced fit during the Blue Devils’ comeback win over Maryland.
This has just been a bad year for good old honest sports fans like me. The Ravens, labeled as “Evil” by a source no less clairvoyant than Jeff Montez, prevailed over the pride and pageantry of the New York Giants. But it’s even worse than that.
The only team in sports that I hate more than Duke is the Yankees — the commercialized, corporate, dynastic, diabolical Yankees. And what did I see on the cover of my week-late Sports Illustrated when I opened my mailbox earlier this week? Derek Jeter polishing up his four World Series rings, along with the chilling prognostication: “Why fight it? The Yankees will win again.”
So is that it? Should we underdog-loving, dynasty-hating, fans of the thrilling upset and competitive sport just pack up our Jimmy Valvano ties, our Mike Eruzione jerseys, our ‘Amazins’ hats and retire to eat Flutie Flakes?
I don’t think so — not just yet anyway. After all, it’s the first week of April and that means major sports rites of spring are taking place. The first happened Sunday in Puerto Rico, and the other will occur this morning in Augusta, Ga. I’m talking, of course, about Opening Day and The Masters.
On the occasion of these hallowed rites, I’d like to offer up a couple of prayers to the sports gods (and no, I’m not talking about, Jesus Alou, Moses Malone or my favorite, God Shammgod).
First of all, please don’t let the Yankees win the World Series again. I’ll do anything, even if it means spending the summer scouring the country for Roger Clemens’ common sense. In all fairness, I think you should let a small market team win — maybe Milwaukee or Minnesota or even Montreal. If not one of them, then at least give the Red Sox some glory. You know they deserve it after all this time. And I’m not even going to mention the Cubs — I know that Corwin has wasted enough ink on these very pages praying for them over the years. Seriously though, just give the A’s youngsters the savvy, the Mets’ fossils the endurance, or the Dodgers the psychiatric help necessary for one of them to bring down the Yankees.
And as far as this weekend in Augusta goes, just don’t let Tiger Woods win. I know that it would be his fourth straight win in a major, but I don’t care. I’m tired of hearing how he is the best golfer ever and how if anyone else wins it’s only because Tiger didn’t play his best. I still haven’t forgiven him for his claim four years ago that he didn’t have his ‘A’ game when he brought Augusta to its knees like a repentant sinner. And I don’t want to hear Jim Nantz talk about Woods’ spotlight-stealing, raving loon of a father.
The best golfer ever isn’t a Tiger, not yet anyway. It’s still the Golden Bear. Jack may not have what it takes to win it anymore, but if his name is on the leaderboard Sunday, then anything Nantz says will be tolerable. If Nicklaus can’t pull it out, then I think Greg Norman should have next dibs. You’ve certainly dealt him his share of tough finishes in the past, and after his comeback he really deserves to wear the green jacket.
So, to summarize — no Masters win for Tiger, no ring for the Yanks, and no more hype about Duke. That’s it. That’s all I ask.
Unless you know a place where I can find a replacement keyboard …