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Won't Somebody Think of the Duke Children?

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I think my definition of shameless has just been recalibrated by this News and Record story on the horrible obstacles Mike Krzyzewski must overcome every day. Apparently, some people hate Duke, and well:

More and more often, Krzyzewski says he hears critics in the media taking shots at him and his program. Bashing Duke hardly is a new sport, but something, Krzyzewski says, has changed about the criticism. It's more harsh, more personal and, in his view, unacceptable.

"Believe me, I'm not being paranoid," he said. "It's just a fact."

Here's the list of indignities shattering the spirit of these valiant young men in Durham:

  • Members of the media cheered for VCU to beat Duke in Winston-Salem. Well, one VCU cameraman at least, and maybe some others. But who could have foreseen neutral observers pulling for a plucky underdog against a traditional powerhose? That's madness!
  • Dick Vitale may be going a little overboard in his praise, and that may be beginning to annoy fans a bit. But probably not, as Krzyzewski says, in the most brazen paragraph ever put to print:
Krzyzewski scoffs at the notion that Vitale is a Duke mouthpiece, arguing -- as Vitale has -- that Vitale is merely praising a program that has done plenty to deserve such kudos.

"But I've told him, I've said, 'Look, when you're doing another game, don't talk about us,' " Krzyzewski said. " 'Especially me. Don't talk about me.' "

  • Apparently, some people think Duke gets a lot of calls. And this is the local media's fault for not stamping down these spurrious lies, like they should have done after the Alexander Johnson incident in 2006. Of course at the time there seemed to be plenty of debate on the subject, and even Gregg Doyel denied that Duke gets an inordinate amount of calls. But somehow that's been reframed in the last year and a half as a betrayal of Duke by the media.
  • Gerald Henderson wasn't allowed on the bench for his suspension after the Tyler Hansbrough foul. But Krzyzewski took that like a man, waiting until three months later to whine about it in the press.
  • The media's not reporting all of the good things he's doing. He gave the graduation speech at Duke's business school! Why aren't the papers reporting on something that's only newsworthy for the fact Duke couldn't get a better commencement speaker for Fuqua than their own basketball coach?

Krzyzewski also helps troubled youth, and promises to respond more to the press. Which is good, because if there's one thing college basketball coverage needs, it's more Duke. (In fact, if he starts talking to the sideline reporters during the NCAA tournament, it will eliminate the one thing I like about the man - that he has better things to do, and Erin Andrews can go talk to Johnny Dawkins or somebody.)

Now the one part of the article I think has merit is the role of race and the reaction to Duke. Not Krzyzweski's handling of it, of course - his thinly veiled reverse racism and calls for some kind of white NAACP to protect J.J. Redick is rather offensive. I've long been troubled by the fact that five of the eight Duke players I most dislike are white. But Christian Laettner and J.J. Redick's behavior was uniquely detestable among college players, the former for thuggish play and the latter a incredibly irritating mixture of attitude and persecution complex. Toss in Wojciechowski's irritating floor slapping, and I'm confident that most of my dislike is solely based on behavior that transcends any skin color.

There's also the elephant in the room Krzyzewski never talks about, the Cameron Crazies. You can't tacitly endorse low personal attacks of opposing players and then bemoan that nobody likes your school. Duke fans spent decades plunging new lows in college basketball decorum and Krzyzewski both fed and revelled in it. Life may have been easier for him when he was playing upstart to Dean Smith, but he's the established figure in the ACC now, and he can't try to reclaim that underdog status by playing the persecution card now.