Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked


March 11, 2013

Hating Duke Like It's Their Job

Reed Tucker and Andy Bagwell discuss their unceasing hatred for their college rival.

Michael Gluckstadt

The English language is missing a word for the opposite of fandom. "Hatred" is too broad and "apathy" too bland. We need something that adequately expresses the passion and devotion that its adherents bring to scorning the object of their derision. There's nothing quite like anti-fandom, and no one attracts anti-fans like Duke University.

Dukies, courtesy of <a href=>maxmasnick</a>'s flickr.
"It wasn't just our own personal bias. There really was something going on that made Duke objectively hateable."
- Reed Tucker

Dukies, courtesy of maxmasnick's flickr.

Reed Tucker and Andy Bagwell are Duke anti-fans of the highest order. Graduates and supporters of the University of North Carolina, they have a weekly podcast titled Tar Heel Bred Tar Heel Dead in which they discuss all things related to UNC basketball. But what they really want to talk about is why Duke sucks.

Tucker and Bagwell's disdain for Duke knows no bounds. When asked if any team in college sports might be worth hating more than Duke, Tucker wonders, "Maybe one in North Korea? I don't know. Did Uday Hussein have a pick-up team at the Baghdad Y?" Their biggest gripe isn't with Coach Mike Krzyzewski's smug demeanor or Dick Vitale's full-throated support for the enemy, though they hate those things too. What Tucker and Bagwell and every Duke anti-fan really hates is the very concept of "Duke-iness"—an impossible to pin down mix of entitlement, unearned success, appearance of wealth, inexplicable shooting touch and general cringe-worthiness that is probably woven into J.J. Reddick's DNA. Players who exude Duke-iness represent an entire quarter of Grantland's "Most Hated College Players" bracket.

The two men recognized they had more than enough shared hate to exceed a regular weekly "Why Duke Sucks" segment on their podcast, so they conceived of and wrote Duke Sucks: A Completely Evenhanded, Unbiased Investigation into the Most Evil Team on Planet Earth—an unrelenting catalog of the many, many crimes of their favorite target.

In the following interview, which was conducted over email and has been edited for clarity, Tucker and Bagwell tell Gelf whether they'd rather see a UNC win or a Duke loss, why they think Coach K gets a pass from the media, and which Duke players they can't muster up the hatred for.

Gelf Magazine: Why does Duke suck? And why do they suck so much you decided to write a book about it?

Reed Tucker: Andy and I are both Carolina grads, so hating Duke for us is like breathing. We've had the hatred drummed into us for decades, through Christian Laettner's stomp and Gerald Henderson's elbow and Wojo'sWojoness. We realize we're horribly biased. We acknowledge that fully. The idea for the book, however, came about when we started to really understand that it wasn't just Carolina (or Kentucky) fans who despised Duke. It was everyone, even teams that never play against them. We realized it wasn't just our own personal bias. There really was something going on that made Duke objectively hateable. We wanted to figure out those reasons that Duke was hated and see if they held water by investigating the facts.
As to why everyone loathes them, well, there are a million individual reasons. What they all have in common, we think, boils down to unfairness. There's a sense among basketball fans that Duke gets away with things that other teams don't, whether it be getting calls from refs or Coach K getting a pass from the media on his dickishness. Not to get too political, but it's the same kind of populist rage that was fueling the Occupy movements—though it has nothing to do with money or class, despite what Duke fans will tell you. It's simply about a level playing field.

Gelf Magazine: Is Dick Vitale in the bag for Duke?

Andy Bagwell: Absolutely. And he's never really denied it. He claims it's because Duke "does things the right way" and they win, yet you never hear him question them. His stance is there is nothing to criticize. Hey Dickie, why don't you look into how Chris Duhon's mom got that cush job or how it is that Duke was never punished for playing a player (Corey Magette) that admitted he took money from an AAU coach while in high school? The thing that bothers us the most about Vitale isn't the unabashed gushing from that annoying voice while he is calling a Duke game, it's that he finds ways to bring up the Blue Devils during games in which they're not even involved. Do we really need to know about J.J. Redick's pristine shooting form while watching Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary's?

Gelf Magazine: Aren't there other college programs more worthy of hate, and coaches more worthy of scorn, than Duke and Coach K? Hasn't hating Duke become a cliché?

Reed Tucker: Um, I can't think of any. Maybe one in North Korea? I don't know. Did Uday Hussein have a pick-up team at the Baghdad Y?
As for hating Duke becoming a cliché, I might agree, except for the fact that the team and university do horribly Duke-ish things literally every week to keep reinforcing everyone's poor opinion of them. Andy and I do a regular Carolina-focused podcast called Tar Heel Bred, Tar Heel Dead, and we end each episode with that week's reason why Duke sucks. We are never short of material. Ever. It's an embarrassment of riches. Just in the last few months, we've seen the Lance Thomas scandal, where it was discovered he mysteriously was able to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry as a senior, or we've seen Coach K whining about how UVA students, who stormed the court after the Blue Devils loss, might be able to get close enough to cuss him out, even though he was seen cursing a blue streak at the Virginia fans from the tunnel. That part didn't really get reported.

Gelf Magazine: Do you think if you'd been born into Duke fandom, you would have eventually seen the light? How glad are you that wasn't the case?

Reed Tucker: I can remember liking Duke back in high school when I didn't know too much about the university beyond that it was a good school. I only began really hating Duke once I got to UNC and my eyes were opened. Had I been born into Duke fandom, I like to think I would have seen the light eventually. I had a few friends who went to Duke, and I visited them reasonably often. I can remember meeting other Duke students and spending time on the campus and getting this vaguely uneasy feeling that this just wasn't the place for me. It felt too stiff, too wealthy, too elite, too entitled. Not every Duke student is like that, of course, but enough are to give the place a certain personality.

Gelf Magazine: Have there been any Duke players who have made you hesitate in your hate or do they all suck equally?

Reed Tucker: They definitely don't all suck equally. Some have more Duke-iness than others, and those are the players that get the most scorn. J.J. Redick, Laettner, Matt Christensen, a meathead bench player who nearly punched an official during a game a few years back. He was later given an award from the team for best personifying what Duke basketball is all about.
But there are other players who are hard to hate. Grant Hill seems like a genuinely nice guy and Kyrie Irving is actually a really, really good pro player and not overrated in the least—something rare for a Blue Devil.

Gelf Magazine: Who are the equivalents of Duke in college football, MLB, NFL, and the NBA?

Reed Tucker: I don't think Duke has equivalents in other sports. Yes, a lot of people hate the Cowboys and Notre Dame and the Yankees, but it doesn't seem to rise to a national past-time like hating Duke does.

Gelf Magazine: What do you enjoy more: a Duke loss or a win by your favorite team?

Reed Tucker: Definitely a win by our team. I probably watch three Duke games a year that aren't against UNC. That said, there are degrees. The amount of enjoyment I get from, say, Duke losing by 30 and getting completely humiliated by Miami is equal to or slightly greater than the joy I take from watching Carolina beat some cupcake Division II school in November.

Gelf Magazine: What do you say to these defenses of Duke?

Andy Bagwell: We could go line by line through just about any defense of Duke and point out inconsistencies, arrogance, omissions and places where they are just plain wrong. Most of them, though, follow the same theme: "Hey, we do have this one guy on our team that isn't the complete incarnation of evil. That's good, right?" Another popular theme is: "If you don't like the way we do things, that's just Duke. Get over it." We'll admit, every program has its quirks and every program, even Duke, has its share of solid guys. We've actually grown to like Jay Bilas. The problem with Duke is that the negatives far outweigh the positives. And it isn't even close.

Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.

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Article by Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.

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