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Duke is easy to hate ... until you've been there

DURHAM, N.C. -- Can't stand Duke? Me either. I'd rather eat phlegm on toasted rye than endure another moment of Blue Devil basketball.

I can't stand Krzyzewskiville. Well, I was pretty sure I couldn't stand it. It's a bunch of preppies wearing Faconnable, sitting in their The North Face tents that daddy bought them, doing Times crossword puzzles with their Montblancs, right? You might as well call it Pretentiousville. The place has its own bronze plaque and wireless.

The way it was explained to me by my buddies at www.hateduke.com was like this; You "tent-in'' (that's what the Dookies call it) for a few nights, pick up your hospital-style wristbands for Saturday night's Carolina game, toss your sleeping bags in the back seat of the Range Rover, and return to your Gothic-style dorm in time for afternoon tea. Webelos spend more time under the stars.

Yes, well, I got some bad info on that. The Krzyzewskiville I saw had a commemorative plaque and WiFi, but was situated on ground so wet from rain that herons could have mistaken it for marshland. There were 52 tents when I was there, but those numbers probably have doubled by now.

And I don't know if somebody was trying to pull a fast one, but I didn't meet one Biff, Bitsy or Thurston Howell III. I also didn't hear a peep about yacht clubs or summers spent abroad.

Instead, I met Duke seniors Chris and Devin, who are Krzyzewskiville line monitors and nicer than your local minister. Line monitors -- and there are about 30 of them -- maintain order in Krzyzewskiville and distribute those game-day wristbands. In return, the monitors are the first ones in the door and their seats are midcourt, first three rows.

OK, so the line monitors are cool. But what about this dude flashing his Duke student card to Chris and Devin? His name is Pearce (Precious name alert! Precious name alert!) and he probably used some of his trust fund money to have someone camp for him.

Uh, no. At least one member of Pearce's Krzyzewskiville group has been waiting in line since Dec. 21, 2005. This is not a typo. Duke's dorms were closed by then. Line monitors had yet to report for full-time duty. Tents were prohibited until Jan. 9. So someone from Pearce's group sat in a folding chair from 9 to 5 every day (with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) and staked a place in line.

So, sigh, the Krzyzewskiville residents are cool, too.

But without question, I can't stand the Cameron Crazies. I sat in front of them at courtside during the recent game against Wake Forest. It was like they were duct-taped to my back. One kid in a J.J. Redick replica jersey did a Bill Cowher and spittle sprayed me every time he yelled. I needed to clean my neck with Lysol after the game.

But, you know, the more I think about it, the Crazies do know their hoops. As Redick dribbled the ball near the top of the key, Cowher Jr. leaned over my shoulder and yelled, "You got nothing, J.J.!" But the kid wasn't ripping Redick. He was telling the Blue Devils All-American that no player from Wake was coming over to double him.

OK, so I'm cool with Krzyzewskiville, the line monitors, and the Crazies, but that's it. In the meantime, I absolutely can't stand that pretty boy Redick. Typical product of the Duke hype machine.

Except that the night I was there he broke the NCAA record for career 3-pointers, and he usually had a Demon Deacon attached to his hip. Even his misses were gorgeous.

When he was pulled from the Duke blowout with 2:28 remaining in the game, Redick didn't jersey tug or play to the adoring crowd. Instead, he took the time to hug everybody on the bench, from coaches, to fellow starters, to reserves, to walk-on scrubs, to team managers. In their own way, they were part of the record, too.

In the Duke locker room after the game, I noticed the scabs and scars on Redick's hands and arms. Some pretty boy. This is what happens when you get poked, slapped, scratched and whacked by defenders. Redick glanced at the marks and shrugged. Part of the game, he said.

OK, so I'm fine with Redick, but the rest of the Blue Devils are wusses. I'm positive I can't stand any of them.

Wait, did I say that? What I meant to say is that maybe they're tougher than I thought. Turns out the Blue Devils take everybody's best body blow without complaint, like in Wednesday's upset loss at Florida State.

Redick gets it the worst on the road. "There was one sign,'' says Duke senior forward Lee Melchionni, "and it said, 'J.J. Drinks His Own Urine.'"

Chances are it was written by a Maryland fan. Duke senior guard Sean Dockery remembers his first visit to College Park. Terrapin fans were waiting for the Duke team bus as it pulled up to the arena. Insults soon followed.

"I thought, 'Wow, these people really hate us,'" says Dockery.

What's the big deal? Opposing fans are always there right before the game.

"But this wasn't before the game,'' he says.

No, it was at the morning shootaround. Maryland fans were waiting to heckle the Blue Devils before a shootaround. They don't do that when Delaware State comes to town.

In review, I now can live with K-ville, the Crazies, Redick and the rest of the Blue Devils. But Mike Krzyzewski drives me nuts, and there's no way you're changing my mind on this one.

The guy has his own basketball court, his own XM Radio show, his own American Express commercial, and has co-authored a New York Times best-seller. He has three national championships, 12 national coach of the year awards, and 66 NCAA Tournament victories, which ranks him ahead of everyone. His team is on TV more than CSI. And now he's the first college coach to be named U.S. national head coach since USA Basketball began using professional players in 1992. I mean, get over yourself.

Wait a second. It also says here in his media guide bio that he's been at Duke 26 years. Geez, I didn't realize it's been that long. So that means he gutted it out during those early seasons when some Dookies wanted him canned, that he rebuilt a hoops empire, that he didn't bolt to the NBA, that he overcame a debilitating bout of physical and mental exhaustion in 1995, that his players earn degrees.

So -- and I can't believe I'm saying this -- I guess Krzyzewski is OK, too. Now I have to redirect all of my anti-Blue Devil anger toward ... Duke assistant and former player Steve Wojciechowski?

Sorry, I can't do that to one of my own.

I give up. Go Duke.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.