Duke glory must be enough

As we in the business of laughing at our own silliness know all too well, the key is not the issue but the timing. Yesterday, it was the Jacksonian breast yearning to be free on international television. Today, it's the predictable overreaction, from the NFL, from outraged parents, from the cultural conservatives.

Well, we have the solution, and then we can all move on.

The Super Bowl halftime show provides us with one thing and one thing only -- the hiring pool for "Hollywood Squares" in six months. Put simply, if you're trying to be the rebel of your age, the 40-yard-line is a really bad venue, because you've already given in to The Man.

In other words, the people who you want jailed today have already chosen their punishment by simply showing up. Trust us here, it's a law of nature, and laws of nature are not to be lightly dismissed.

That having been cleared up, we can now move on to the next great issue before us, namely:

Why parents of great high school players who have dreams of a long and glorious NBA career send their kids to Duke.

This is not a new subject, we realize. Neither of course is the matter of halftime indecency, but like we said, timing is everything, and Duke plays at North Carolina on Thursday night (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET).

The history is clear --- Duke sends its share of players to the pros, faithfully, even dutifully. But none of them ever seem to explode when they get there, with the singular contemporary exceptions of Corey Maggette and Elton Brand.

Now here's the key to understanding this issue. Nobody seems terribly bothered by this. Not the NBA, not Mike Krzyzewski, not the players or fans at Duke, and not the players from other schools who get the glory the Duke grads don't. In fact, everyone seems downright content with the current arrangement.

But it is there nonetheless, and it speaks to three things.

One, Krzyzewski does not recruit for the benefit of the Denver Nuggets.

Two, the NBA game is less about what Duke players do well and more about shooting the 3-pointer and dunking.

And three, the smart, fundamental, controlled player that you typically see come from Duke is now losing opportunities to European players who do all the same things and have played more games.

What Duke does for the NBA, largely, is provide supporting players rather than go-to guys. It's not a very sexy way to go, and probably doesn't get emphasized on recruiting visits. Thus, for those parents who went to all the trouble of birthing, raising and honing their children to be pros (read: tickets to ride), Duke is in danger of becoming a fallback school.

This would be a tragedy for the Dukie faithful if Krzyzewski shopped that aisle much, but he usually doesn't. He isn't a binge recruiter -- he follows the list he made out at home and doesn't come back from the market with three small forwards he didn't need, or a point guard who thinks assists are a matter of shame.

And it would be a problem for parents thinking of riding little Tad's back to Beverly Hills, except that most parents in that mind-set are thinking other places -- places where you would never hear little Tad say things like, "I promised my folks I would get a degree" or "The NBA will always be there."

Most little Tads understand this and find other places to go, pleasing their parents and unofficial agents.

And it works out for Duke, too, because the NBA is sort of, well, the job you get after you leave the mothership. Schools who believe in their own eliteness tend to view the departure of their best and brightest more as days of sadness than of fulfillment, because, well, because they have to leave, and who in their right mind would want to leave?

But we're overthinking this, like we overthink a lot of things. The nugget of truth here is that Duke and the NBA have a polite but cursory relationship, and that's just fine with everyone involved. It's not an issue, it's just something you notice on your way to work.

In a related story, Kid Rock is the Secret Square, so relax. Nature always seeks its own balance.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.