Duke Wins One for the Man
Here are a couple of things I learned about Grayson Allen by perusing his bio on the Duke basketball website: He graduated cum laude (of course he did) from something called the Providence School, a place that defines itself on its own website as not just Christian, but “boldly Christian,” in case you enjoy your Bible study with a side of audaciousness.
Grayson Allen is only a freshman, but I imagine Duke’s 68-63 NCAA championship victory over Wisconsin on Monday night won’t be the last time he annoys the hell out of a national audience, because with a name and a biography like Grayson Allen’s, how can he be anything but the latest in a long line of Duke guards who appear to have been genetically engineered to get under America’s skin?
I already dislike Grayson Allen (a bit player for the Blue Devils all season who put up 16 points last night), and as I write this, I’ve known who he is for about an hour. I already want to see him fail in some publicly humiliating fashion, merely because of the uniform he is wearing. He is every over-entitled, Izod-clad jerk I’ve ever come across in a bar, and I want him to spill his celebratory sparking cider.
Is that overly harsh? Well, screw it. I can’t help it right now, Grayson. I’m caught up in the moment. You may be a perfectly nice kid, but it’s a reflexive thing at this point; I know it’s cliché, but I still feel about Duke the same way I feel about watching dudes wearing Google Glass toast with shots of Fireball. There’s something physically revolting about watching an otherwise brilliant Final Four – populated by a Wisconsin team that proved one of the most charismatic in the recent history of college basketball, and vanquished the mother of dragons we call Calipari – wind up with Duke winning it all. It felt like it violated every rule of fun that Bill Raftery has established over the years, in working toward finally broadcasting his first-ever national championship game (at one point, I swear he worked in a reference to dietitians). It felt like getting to the end of a 700-page novel only to find out that the murderer was the one you presumed it was from page 3.
And there’s something infuriating about watching the officials botch an out-of-bounds call in the final minutes, and then watching that call lead to a crucial Duke 3-pointer that essentially put the game out of reach. Never mind that Duke’s two best big men were in foul trouble for nearly the entire game, and that officiating conspiracies are generally the providence of delusional goofballs; in the moment, I’m feeling a bit delusional myself, and it still always feels like, in the end, the Blue Devils are somehow blessed by some patrician god of caroms.
And can we talk, for a second, about how Duke’s freshmen – including the aforementioned Grayson Allen, who will no doubt be a vice president at Morgan Stanley someday, if he so desires – scored every single point in the second half for the Blue Devils? What does that mean? It means that Duke managed to essentially out-Kentucky Kentucky itself. It means that Duke, too, is massaging the rules in this new and uneasy era of college basketball, as much as Mike Krzyzewski might try to convince us otherwise.
There were, of course, no shortage of nauseating televisual moments in the aftermath of Duke’s victory. One of those came when Quinn Cook, one of only two seniors on the Blue Devil roster, said something like, “Coach K, he just helps everybody, man.” Now, I don’t think this is true. I don’t imagine that Coach K walks little old ladies across campus and pays off custodians’ credit-card debt; I don’t imagine that Coach K is any less self-absorbed than any other college basketball coach, but I will concede that he is now the greatest college basketball coach of all time, and that, given the era he’s coached in, he’s done even more than John Wooden has.
And this is frustrating, too, because there’s now not really an argument against him. He’s just really fucking good at what he does. He finds the Grayson Allens of the world, and he teams them with the Jahlil Okafors and Justise Winslows of the world, and then he wins championships. He doesn’t care that we hate him, because in the end, he knows he’s better than all the rest of us.
All these years we’ve tried so hard to will our hatred onto Duke’s success, and this is what we’ve come away with: They are better than us. They’re not just obnoxious; they’re boldly obnoxious. In the end, there ain’t a damn thing we can do. The Grayson Allens of the world will always win.
Michael Weinreb is the author of Season of Saturdays: A History of College Football in 14 Games. You can find him on Twitter @michaelweinreb
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