Tuesday, April 6, 2010

One Shining Zoubek: A Tribute to Greatness

Between amazing basketball, amazing weather, getting to live like I was in college again, and a reverse jinx executed to near-perfection, these past few days have been pretty spectacular. Other than the picture below, I'll spare you the gloating -- I got that out of my system last night -- and bring you the fair and balanced. Also, you haters will be happy to hear that this will be the last Duke post for at least six months. After I wrap this up, it's time to move on to bigger and better things like, you know....the invention bracket. Sweet 16 voting ends tomorrow.

To comment on Daniel's last post: yes, I was pessimistic. Ask anyone in Durham, and they'll tell you that I spent the weekend acting as an emotional tether. At Duke, national championships are celebrated with a giant bonfire on the main quad. After the dominant win over West Virginia on Saturday night, people were talking about the bonfire as if it was as sure a thing as Bob Huggins and Da'Sean Butler eventually running away together. For the next two days, I put my downer soundtrack on repeat. "You guys know the bonfire isn't happening, right? Man, it's gonna suck when we lose to Butler. I've seen Hoosiers. I know how this ends."

At the time, did I believe that we were actually going to lose? Honestly, I thought we had a greater than 50% chance of winning, and if I was being offered even money on the game, I would have placed it on Duke. But to emotionally prepare myself in case of an upset, this is what I knew that I had to do. (Although I did end up placing some money on the game. I'll explain my actions in a future post which will be titled Emotional Insurance.)

Daniel never answered the question he phrased as the title of his last post (Reverse Jinx or Lack of Confidence?), but since I'm the only one who really knows the answer, I can tell you this: I believe in always hoping for the best but expecting the worst, and that overconfidence will often come back to bite you in the ass. And when it does....man, does that suck.

I would say that yes, there was definitely some reverse jinx action happening; but mixed not so much with a lack of confidence as an emotional safety net. If Hayward's half-court shot had gone in, I wanted to be able to talk people down from the top of the Chapel, not line up with them to jump. If you emotionally prepare yourself for the worst, the losses are that much easier to handle and the wins are that much sweeter. Just know that this reverse jinx started before any of you may have realized. As I've said before, don't blame me for this -- blame Rip Hamilton.

If any of you who where there at Duke watching with me want to chime in below on how you received my pessimism, I'm sure our vast, vast readership would be glad to hear your opinions.

And now, some highlights from the weekend:

Cameron Indoor Stadium was open to students to watch the game. Unfortunately, if you weren't a current student, you weren't getting in. About an hour before the West Virginia game on Saturday night, two friends and I were trying to find a way to get in, despite our lack of student-ness. The only open entrance to the arena was manned by a team of security guards and select Duke dignitaries, including a dean that my two friends had taken a class with. They decided that they would see if she could do anything for us. We walked up to the entrance and greeted her. She said hi, shrugged at us, and then turned away. Yes, we got a "move on" shrug from Dean Sue.

Campus was unlike I've ever seen it before. I'd been a student during one Final Four in 2004, but that year, Duke lost before the final. The campus was alive for that game, but the atmosphere then paled in comparison to what I saw over the past few days. As game time approached, you could sense something building. You could walk through the student center, and know that every single person was feeling the same nervous energy that you were. Still, I'm sure that at 10PM Monday night, there were probably at least 200 kids studying in the library. In my opinion, someone should've gone through the library at halftime and taken down a list of the people there. Then later on, we could revoke their student visas.

Food like the heaping pile of pig shown to your right. Now I know why I keep going back to the south.

During the postgame press conference, a reporter asked Brian Zoubek about his "up and down" career at Duke. Coach K quickly interrupted and refuted the notion of Zoubek having an up-and-down career with this gem: "He can't go up and down. He can't jump."

As recently as two months ago, if you'd told me that Brian Zoubek would be an integral piece of a championship team, I would have asked how you were related to him. Two months ago, he looked inept and constantly lost on the court. Somehow, he turned into a defensive force. Butler's inability to handle Zoubek's size on the boards was a pivotal factor in deciding the championship game. Two months ago, that previous sentence was #18 on the "List of Things I Would Be Least Likely to Say Two Months from Now," coming in right ahead of "The cigarettes were tough to conceal, but with my cunning and some KY, I was able to get them past the guards."

Also somewhere on that list: "The Duke basketball team won the national championship." It really is still sinking in, even after spending several hours last night at a victory bonfire and going to the welcome home rally in Cameron this afternoon. At the beginning of the season, most Duke fans would not have considered this team a great team. But as a national championship winner, you can't refute it now. The haters will talk about Duke's so-called easy path and the lack of other #1 seeds in the Final Four. The truth is, Kentucky couldn't beat West Virginia and Syracuse couldn't beat Butler. Duke beat them both.

Maybe this year was an anomaly. Maybe we regress back to a disappointing Sweet 16 appearance next year. At this moment though, I couldn't care less.

Duke University: 2010 National Champions.


  1. It was great to see you there Sam. *hugs*

  2. I think downer is an understatement.