Bleeding Duke blue-and-white

Published 12:57 pm Saturday, April 10, 2010

I have been a Duke University basketball fan since I was in the sixth grade.

In that time, I’ve seen my beloved Blue Devils win four National Collegiate Athletic Association championships, make 11 trips to the Final Four and claim numerous post-season honors.

I love my Blue Devils. I bleed blue and white and I think Mike Krzyzewski is the best college basketball coach of all-time.

Having said all of that, I’ll admit that I had Baylor winning the National Championship in one of my brackets and Kansas in the other. I thought Duke was better than most of the pundits gave them credit for, but I did not think another title was in the making.

Then a strange thing happened as the NCAA tournament began. Duke started getting better. The Atlantic Coast Conference champions getting better didn’t seem like a likely thing at that point, but they did.

As they went deeper in the tournament, I watched the Blue Devils gain confidence, win when they couldn’t shoot well and become probably the toughest Duke basketball team I’ve ever seen. It was a fun thing to watch.

There have been times when Duke went into the championship game the prohibitive favorite. They’ve won some of those and lost some. Monday night, even though the prognosticators tried to paint them as favorites, I’m not sure they were.

The two teams that took the floor – Duke and Butler University – were pretty evenly matched and I think the game proved that was the case. Both teams worked hard, both teams gave their all and the result was an instant classic.

I was yelling at the television – something I try not to do as much as I did in my younger days – sitting on the edge of my seat and was about to pull my hair out as the game wound down. I was driving Lyndal crazy.

David Friedman – a diehard Tarheel whose column about the title game you can read on page 1B – sent me a text message late in the game. It read, “no matter what, one of the best finals I have ever seen.”

The text message made me proud of my team because I knew he was right. If my favorite team hadn’t been on the floor, I would have loved to sit back and enjoy it. That couldn’t happen for those of us who are Duke fans.

With 13 seconds left, I was on the edge of my chair – quite literally – and didn’t know how it was going to end. When the last shot caromed off the rim, I finally could take a long breath.

Was it the most unlikely championship in Duke’s history? Probably. Was it the best Blue Devil team ever assembled? No. It was, however, a group of young men who took heed to their Hall of Fame coach and learned how to play championship basketball at the right time.

The truth is Duke University and its fans should thank the young men on that team for leading us back to prominence. Duke certainly wasn’t an after-thought, but the time had come for the Blue Devils to win another title if they wanted to continue to be one of the elite programs.

Thankfully, that happened Monday night and this Duke fan is going to enjoy it for the next 12 months.

Go Devils!

Thadd White is Sports Editor and Staff Writer of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached via email at or by telephone at 332-7211.