I’m not one for theatrics. I live with a former theater major and spent my early evening yesterday listening to her call potential company members about some theme park production called “Celebrity Fiesta” or something equally stupid. So I retreated to my computer (which I know sounds no less lame) to tune her out. What I found wasn’t much better.
Being a Duke fan ever since I was running around in my samba classics, I’ve developed calluses against the onslaught of anti-dukedom. So I spent most of my surfing time reading up on reactions to Thursday’s lone upset with a grain of salt. And then I came across Mike Freeman’s column on sportsline.com. His reverence for this VCU team is only ever so slightly outweighed by his disdain for Duke, easily noted when he finished with this: “Duke is no longer Duke. The old Duke is dead. The new Duke is just another team."
Honestly, I don’t mean to pick out Freeman since, you know, he’s the one with the paid writing gig (Mike, call me!), but come on. Dramatic, much? I’m all for relishing in the demise of a rival - it’s what fleshes out the sports experience – but, please people, let us keep some perspective.
VCU was aggressive and took more chances as most teams do in their position: they’ve got nothing to lose. Eric Maynor, no doubt, was playing the game of his career and held it together to sink the game winner with 1.8 seconds left. That is an experience that will never be lived down. But other than his “flair for dramatics in big games,” as Freeman points out (I had no idea he so up on his CAC games), I didn’t see any extra finesse from Virginia Commonwealth.
On the other side Duke’s play was sad, and that’s being nice. They missed 12 free throws (12! Their fourth loss of the season directly related to their inability to hit from the line. The others: Home against V-Tech they lost by 2, missed 10; home against Florida State they lost by 1, missed 7; and at Virginia lost by 2, missed 8). Add 17 turnovers and consider the decision to keep Jon Scheyer on Eric Maynor in the closing seconds instead of putting, say, DeMarcus Nelson on him (!!!!!), and all-in-all it was a bad end to a mediocre season. Every team has them.
Yes, it was the team’s worst season in a decade, but after that 1996 first round loss, the Blue Devil’s spent nine years in - at least - the Sweet 16. Dead? Really? I feel like I’m watching a baseball game with my mother who thinks the it’s all over after one outside pitch. Honestly, people, one shitty year does not a dynasty end. Save the dramatics.
Meanwhile, the Rams have yet to even shadow the impact that George Mason had last year, so please forgive me if I ask everyone to hold their applause until they earn a win against Pitt. The first round was so lame that everyone’s jumping on the one bandwagon available. Let’s all hope for a more exciting weekend, for everyone's sake.