It’s March Madness time again, America. Office’s across America are bracing for Thursday and Friday’s lack of productivity as we all spend the vast majority of our work days refreshing whatever sports apps or sites we use to keep up with scores if we’re not altogether saying “fuck work” and watching the tourney on our desktops or company supplied televisions.
What a time…to be alive.
I’ve filled out a few brackets, and I always save one bracket for the Duke Blue Devils. No matter how good or bad the season, I have one bracket that has them winning the whole thing. You see, I’m a Duke basketball fan.
Fight me, bro.
Now, I wasn’t always a Duke fan. In fact, there are a few very confusing years in there where I was both a fan of Duke (kinda sorta) and a fan of Michigan (because who wasn’t?). But my fandom and resolve for Duke has hardened over the years and I’ve become steely eyed in said resolve. I’ve worn Duke jerseys in the lion’s den (on the campus of the University of Maryland-College Park in 2002-03) and have gladly spoken the praises of Trajan Langdon to anybody who will listen. I own a Chris Duhon jersey. Read that again.
I also own a Jay Williams Duke AND Chicago Bulls jersey. I actually really liked JJ Redick, bad poetry notwithstanding, and loved to see him bomb out on folks from the three-point line.
P. What the fuck? How the fuck?
Glad you asked. See, I’ve never graced the campus of Duke University. Hell, I was a fan of Duke roughly twenty years before I ever ENTERED the state of North Carolina. Nobody in my family went to Duke. Coach K is not my homeboy or cousin. I have nan tie to the state of North Carolina OR Duke University, unlike I do with the University of Michigan; I never attended the school but my little sister was born at the UofM hospital and for a short time I lived on State Street in Ann Arbor as a mere tyke during the many moves my family made around southeastern Michigan.
Me? I became a Duke fan the old fashioned way: Starter jackets.
In the early ‘90s there was one very, very hot commodity on these streets, Starter parkas. If you grew up in the ’90s then you know exactly which ones I’m talking about. They had the zipper on the right side (I think) to holster your gun (I guess?) and were all the rage. Everybody had one. If you were a kid back then you HAD to get you a Starter parka with the hoodie. I lived in Frankfurt, Germany, during this time and our PX (similar to WalMart with way less items and everything is tax free) had a various array of parkas. The thing is, they were not cheap. I don’t remember the exact price point, but let’s say it wasn’t exactly a slam dunk on convincing my parents to make said purchase.
Now, as a family with strong ties to Atlanta, Georgia, and few cousins who would eventually attend Georgia Tech on the way to the NFL, Georgia Tech was long a school I could get behind. It helped that Kenny Anderson was kicking ass and taking names. I was definitely rooting for the Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech in 1991 and 1992. In fact, I really wanted a Georgia Tech parka.
(Confusing fandom was a thing for me as a kid: I had tons of Michigan stuff because my mother still lived in Michigan and would send me stuff for Christmas. I STILL have my authentic Chris Webber jersey from, like, 1992.)
Well my mother decided to finally get me one for Christmas and I guess that day they were sold out of Tech jackets or something because my mother came home with the fresh all blue Duke Blue Devils joint with the emblazoned “D” with the blue devil logo on the front left side and the words “Duke Blue Devils” written out on the back. Had me lookin’ like I was straight crippin’ outchea.
It wasn’t the one I wanted, but let me tell you how much I loved that jacket. For starters (pun intended), it was about three sizes too big for me. I was a shrimp in 8th grade. In fact, I didn’t actually grow until – for perspective, I was shorter than even my three years younger little sister – 11th grade. So even though this jacket drowned me I wore it ALWAYS. It was fresh. This jacket was purchased in probably 1993 or maybe 1994 (after doing some background checking, I originally thought it was purchased in 1991). Duke was a champion squad, having bested both Kansas and Michigan in back to back season (1990-91 and 91-92).
So by the time this jacket was purchased, I was wearing winners on my back. And because I was around 14 at the time and never really paid attention to college basketball unless Michigan or GT was involved, because I now had a jacket to go along with a team, I started following Duke pretty relentlessly. To the point that all of my boys know I’m a Duke fan and my fandom has remained intact since the leary 90s.
It’s funny how that happens: Before that jacket, I didn’t really care one way or another, but after getting the jacket and folks asking me if I liked Duke, I had to really buckle down on my fandom, which I did. Then a funny thing started to happen, I really started caring. I’d be fully invested in the winning or losing of Duke. I’ve even vehemently defended the program in arguments about their recruitment efforts, especially in the wake of the awesome Fab 5 doc produced by Jalen Rose who spoke very candidly about how they viewed Duke and the type of Black players they recruited. All in, b. All in.
Point is, I just spent over 900 words to tell you that I’m a Duke fan. And really, it’s my mama’s fault and I’m pretty sure she couldn’t care less.
I know Duke is weaksauce this year and is about as likely to win as Morehouse. But they’re still my squad. However, on the bracket I’m submitting, I got Villanova.
(As a brief aside, when Maryland started rocking the Duck Fook shirts, I absolutely did a very private and personal slow clap because THAT shit is brilliant.)