Rooting against Duke just isn't fun anymore

Mon, Feb 1

Ten years ago, I would have been Powerball-winner ecstatic; five years ago, I would have spent the weekend in a celebratory haze. On Saturday, the Duke men's basketball team suffered an 89-77 shellacking at Georgetown -- the game wasn't as close as the score -- before a national television audience, jeering students and President Obama. It was a humiliating beatdown that was everything a Blue Devils hater could hope for.

Nevertheless, I yawned.

Time was, beating Duke meant something, the way depositing a proton torpedo in the Death Star's ventilation shaft meant something. It was epic, a blow for everything right and good, a takedown of college hoops' evil empire. No longer. The Blue Devils just aren't the Blue Devils anymore. They're … Syracuse. Or Gonzaga. A pretty good team with pretty good players, sure, but a program that hasn't been to the Final Four since 2004, hasn't won a national title since 2001, hasn't produced an NBA player of note since (no, really) Carlos Boozer.

In short, beating Duke is now a résumé-padder. But not a career-making Shining Moment-producer.

This makes me sad.

I miss the Blue Devils' long line of get-under-your-skin floor villains: chest-stomping Christian Laettner, floor-slapping Wojo, so-smart-his-brain-is-on-the-outside-of-his-skull Shane Battier, poetry-penning J.J. Redick. I miss Duke justifying Dick Vitale's breathless exhortations with an overwhelming armada of All-America talent. I miss Coach K bullying ACC refs, and not being the patriotic guy who helped us reclaim Olympic gold. I miss Cameron Indoor's finest being basically as good as North Carolina; I miss seeing Virginia Commonwealth's NCAA tournament upset of Duke as proof that the long arc of the universe bends toward justice.

In short, I miss the bad guys.

Look, my Duke-disliking credentials are in impeccable order. I once called on His K-ness to join the Los Angeles Lakers, the better to unify my sports hate. I announced plans to move to Canada in the wake of Krzyzewski's Team USA appointment. For years, I've railed against a college basketball universe tangled up in blue; to this day, I celebrate the anniversary of UNLV's epochal title game demolition of the Blue Devils. But things just aren't the same. The thrill is gone.

When Lando blew up the second Death Star, the Ewoks threw a party for the ages. And rightly so. But after the last remaining bits of Darth Vader's helmet drift off into deep space, what's left to celebrate?