Duke in the News!
Duke is probably the most despised team in college basketball. And proud Duke haters–like my colleague Jason Zengerle and Will Blythe, author of To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry–have often imbued their dislike of the Blue Devils with a political subtext. To many of its staunchest enemies, Duke is a malevolent Goliath–an elitist, corporate, conservative force out to crush more virtuous, liberal Davids. In the UNC-Duke rivalry, Blythe explains, “[i]ssues of identity–whether you see yourself as a populist or an elitist, as a local or an outsider, as public-minded or individually striving–get played out.” He also notes that UNC’s long-time coach Dean Smith, who retired in 1997, was a vocal Democrat while Duke’s coach Mike Krzyzewski is an active Republican. This has only added to the sense that there is something fundamentally liberal about loathing the Blue Devils.
But there’s one major problem with the neat morality play that left-leaning Duke haters have constructed for themselves: the jarring and disproportionate level of homophobia that routinely gets directed at the basketball players. There’s the classic “This is Why Duke Sucks” YouTube video that has received more than 1.6 million hits–and boasts lyrics about one Duke player being a “bitch” and another having a “dude’s face all on [his] balls.” Or the more recent (and explicit) video, “Greg Paulus–’I Kissed a Boy,’” which mocks Duke’s senior guard for, among other things, enjoying the taste of men’s sweat. Or another video about Paulus (“Tea Bag: A Greg Paulus Tribute”), posted by user TarHeel32Blue, which shows several clips of the guard near or between the legs of other players.
Exhibit A, however, is the cascade of homophobia directed at superstar three-point shooter J.J. Redick during his years in Durham. In 2004, N.C. State guard Scooter Sherrill said publicly that, after Redick shot threes, he had “his hand up like he’s gay or something.” A quick perusal of Redick’s Wikipedia history reveals dozens of now-deleted comments like, “J.J. Redick is a confirmed homo sexual” with whom it’s rumored “coach K made sexual arrangements.” A notorious photo snapped during a game shows a Duke fan with a “JJ is Redickulous” sign standing unsuspectingly next to a Maryland supporter who adds “-ly gay” with his own poster. The New York Times wrote about the cheers of “Brokeback Mountain” often shouted at him during games, and you can still find photos on Tarheeltimes.com that show Redick’s face superimposed on images from the movie.