It’s understandable for Blue Devil fans to be worried after last night’s performance against Miami. But some perspective is in order as well. Calm and reasoned analysis will soothe the nerves much more so than will flying off the handle or reacting with anger or other irrational emotions. When I put on my fan cap, last night’s loss was disturbing in many ways. But on the other hand, I force myself to remember that I have seen this kind of thing before, having been around since day one of the Krzyzewski era.
Many fans cannot appreciate that perspective, because they have only been pulling for the team for a relatively short time, so all they have known is victories and championships. They haven’t witnessed the team-building required to create a top-ten mainstay. For those fans, last evening was an absolute and irredeemable train wreck, and many of them can’t help themselves from ranting uncontrollably on various social forums.
Late last evening I had to remove a post on our Facebook page that lit into Coach Mike Krzyzewski, with the poster saying he was embarrassed. As if Duke is never supposed to face adversity. Spoiled fans were uncommon early on in the Coach K era, because there was nothing to be spoiled about as he rebuilt the program after former Coach Bill Foster left the cupboard bare when he moved on to South Carolina. But now, there are too many fans who don’t remember those days, and are simply too entitled.
You think last evening was a bitter pill to swallow? Those fans who have been around awhile remember a crushing loss to Louisville and another in the ACC Tournament to Virginia in the year before the program started to make real headway, led by the recruiting class that included Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, Jay Bilas, and David Henderson. What about the huge lead lost in the blowout Fnal Four loss to Seton Hall? The blowout loss in the finals to UNLV? Or . . . The point is Duke has lost badly before, and they will again, but they rebound from it. Remember, folks, the sign of a true fan is to stick by your team through thick and thin. Today feels like “thin,” so this is the time that one’s loyalty as a fan is tested.
Granted, last evening felt a little different than some big losses in the past. Duke is no longer a program on the rise. The Blue Devils are on top, ranked #1 in the polls. Still, those willing to be honest with themselves knew that the ranking was a bit too lofty for a team that was minus a key senior in Ryan Kelly. With Kelly, Duke has three senior leaders who have been through the wars and collectively, they gave Duke their best on-court chemistry in quite some time. But without Kelly, Duke becomes much younger and less cohesive, relying on unproven freshmen to play big roles before their time. Last night, Duke went up against the most veteran team in the ACC, and the wheels simply came off.
Everyone here wants Duke to figure out how to regain the chemistry it played with earlier in the season, but to do so without Kelly. Finding that mojo may not happen as quickly as some might like. Yes, there are some glaring shortcomings that most of the Blue Devil faithful are not accustomed to dealing with. But my point is that there is also a serious lapse of memory happening here; we have lived through this before. Judging by some of the lunatic fringe responses on social media last night, the sky has already fallen, and the Mayans were a couple of months late. If you want to look at it like that, of course you can. There are always going to be glass half full and glass half empty folks, but in reality, the glass at Duke is almost always pretty darned full.
Just remember: Duke fans have four national titles to point to, a coach with more wins (and counting) than any in history and you know what? This team is still 16-2 and that awful loss to Miami, as rough as it was, counts as only one game. Each season is full of ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and this is but one of them.
Anybody remember the Miracle Minute comeback by Duke versus Maryland? The distraught Terps went out and lost their next game, and the home fans booed them off the court. They ended up rebounding and going to the Final Four and when they did, some players like Juan Dixon did not want the fans to celebrate with them, feeling the fans had thrown them under the bus earlier in the year, and now didn’t deserve to share in the glory. Could you blame him?
In 2010, who would have predicted Brian Zoubek would take on the role he did in the second half of the season and be a leader on a championship team? And remember, there was a bad loss or two during that season, which ended with the hanging of a banner. Anybody remember the Georgetown game? Duke once got drilled by UNC in the regular season finale by a 96-74 score. That team went on to beat Kansas for the National Championship.
I am in no way saying I expect that to happen this season. But I am making it clear that a bad loss is not the end of the world, or of the season.
I have yet to spin around the web today, but I am certain some media types have already begun the “Duke stinks” bit. Of course, these are the same guys who were honking their horn about the Blue Devils when they were beating the nation’s toughest schedule. I understand, this is an ESPN-driven, “what have you done for me lately?” world we live in, but it would sure be nice to see things with a little more perspective than that. Sure, some fans can think that Duke will continue to play as they did last evening. Let them think that. The fan side of me feels that Duke could lose the rest of their games this season and I would still be grateful for all the memories the program has provided, this year and in seasons past.
Duke has some issues to deal with and we’ll talk about those next go-round, but we’ll do so in a grounded and rational manner. Until then, some fans need to think about what the program has done over the years. There is a reason you decided to back the Blue Devils. They may not always play like we’d like, but they will certainly never stay down for long. History is proof of that.