I'm sick of the arrogance.
There, I said it. All I've heard about for the past month is how great the Cal-Poly Pomona Broncos are. They're ranked #1 in the preseason poll. They won the national title last season by defeating a strong team from Indiana. Coach K is a tactical genius. And on, and on, and on.
Well guess what, world? Duke has a basketball team too. And tonight, we're going to take those west coast fat cats down a notch. Agreeing to an exhibition game on our turf was the last mistake they'll ever make. Oh, sure, they'll come waltzing into Durham with their swagger and their smirks, strutting around like peacocks and expecting everybody to swoon. But I promise you this: there are some gritty, salt-of-the-earth Duke kids ready to flood Cameron Indoor Stadium and unleash 40 minutes of screaming hell. If they expected us to roll over and play dead like everyone else in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, well...they just crawled up the wrong tree.
UPDATE: Cal-Poly Pomona is holding what I can only call a "victory party" tonight in the student center. Do they use that same language? Not specifically. But we all know what happens in that student center: the blue bloods get together to drink scotch, laugh at their inferiors, and celebrate another amusing victory against the lower classes.
I know Cal-Poly Pomona looks down on us. "You don't have a school of hospitality management," they say. "You don't have a college of the extended university." Well, maybe not. But we have something even better: heart.
Nine out of 10 Duke kids come from poor backgrounds, and most of us have had to scrounge out a hardscrabble living on blood, sweat, and tears. Statistically, we were more likely to die by age 18 than go to college. Our fathers are all in jail. Our mothers all had to become prostitutes out of economic necessity at least once. It's a miracle we even know how to read. The fact that we ended up at Duke is a testament to our undying spirit and our tireless work ethic.
But the Cal-Poly Pomona student body? Here's the bio of everyone who attends that school:
Age 0-8: Coddled.
Age 8-14: Surfing.
Age 14-18: Fancy drugs and unprotected sex.
Age 18-22: College and surfing.
It's no wonder that the tip-off ritual in Kellogg Gym involves the students lighting a five dollar bill on fire and chanting "America sucks!" until the first basket is scored. They have no respect for anything, including themselves. Their fathers are all Senators and CEOs, and their mothers wear white outfits and make snide comments at tennis clubs. When Cal-Poly students graduate, they receive seven pounds of gold in a diamond vase. Their diplomas are made from original copies of the U.S. Constitution.
Maybe I'm speaking out of turn here, but to me, that's not what this country is about.
This country is about folks like Kyle Singler, an unheralded senior forward from Oregon. Singler worked in a potato field starting at age 5, and it's likely he'd have never played basketball except for an extraordinary stroke of luck. When he was 12, a local high school coach happened to stop his car on the side of the road. He noticed that a certain young man never missed when he threw his potatoes into the potato barrel. "Son," he said. "You ever played basketball?"
Singler's humble response will never be forgotten. "No," he said, "but my brother just married a sheep."
This country is about folks like Seth Curry, who tried his luck at Liberty University, failed out, and wandered around the south before Coach K gave him a second lease on life. Curry will be playing only his second game ever tonight, and before the opening tip he'll remember the long, cold nights only one year ago when he lived in a barn in rural Kentucky. Whatever he eats before the game, it will doubtless be better than the hay and manure combination that sustained him throughout the winter of '09. Healthier, too.
This country is about folks like Mason Plumlee, an Amish youth who was kicked out of his community for trying to invent a button (he didn't know they already existed). He worked in a steel mill for twenty years before he won a company raffle to play in a local basketball game. There, scouts watched him score 57 points with only his left hand (his right had recently been severely burned in a steel mill accident), and his life changed.
This country is a about folks like Kyrie Irving, a Japanese boy who joined the navy at age 7. By the time he was a teenager, he'd already killed 10 men. But it never came easy; at night, he would lay awake with the terrors, imagining their faces. Finally, while harbored in Havana, he defected. One hair-raising chase later, his raft washed up on the shores of Key West, where the local basketball team was down a man. For his first game, he never even changed out of his Japanese navy uniform. He scored 18 points and dished out 12 assists.
This country is about more than the hotshot celebrities you see on tv. It's about more than Cal-Poly Pomona's record of arrogance and snobbery. It's about community. It's about supporting your brother. It's about resilience in an unfair world. It's about Duke basketball.
Tonight, we show the Broncos the rough side of America. The frontier spirit, the can-do attitude. Tonight, we reject those children of privilege who coast through life on inheritance and connection. We defy the easy path.
Tonight, we are all Devils.