09 April 2010

Sympathy for the Devils

I must first disclaim that I am a Duke graduate student.  I was a bit excited about this past Monday’s victory.  

I enjoy the buzz.  The excitement.  The idea that I am, in some small way part of something big, special, victorious.

I didn’t grow up a Duke fan, but was sort of grafted in, if you will.  I didn’t go to Indy for the game.  I didn’t even go to Cameron to watch with the blue huddled masses.  I watched at my house, with some friends.  These friends, by and large, were (temporary) Butler supporters (aka Carolina fans).

How quickly have I forgotten my black and white Floridian upbringing: Seminoles=Good, Gators=BAD.  

Now, in a new place, with new people I couldn’t understand the static between these two Triangle rivals.  My thinking went, “Well, UNC’s out, might as well ‘root for the home team/ACC team/etc’?!”  I forgot how absurd this is for ardent sports fans, myself included, how rooting for one team necessarily excludes the other.  But also how great it feels when your rival complements you or roots you on, despite your history.

But I’ve seen exceptions to the hard-and-fast fandom: a through-and-through Tarheel admitting some respect for Coach K when he pulled the starters early in a blowout.  Even Mark recognizes the intensity, coaching, and teamwork of an under-talented champion. I have no illusions that Carolina will stop referring to my school as Dook, or that Duke will put away their GTHC cheers.  But, I have seen a bit of civility, a bit of reason.  Perhaps even a bit of identification, sympathy, and admiration.

Perhaps, it’s a bit of a stretch, but these are the makings of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5).  Getting your boast under control and having our opinions about others crucified and resurrected.  Then been free to start afresh, to unmask the silly divisions.  Admitting that someone else has done a good job, that they’re worthy, that your former frustration might have been a bit of jealousy, but now can be channeled into sincere, positive words.  This kind of interaction causes us to look at our selves, at the other person/team/group…, and back at ourselves.  When that happens we end up a bit disoriented, a bit confused at why we were so convinced at our difference in the first place.

Sure Duke’s team may be filled with obnoxious little scrappers and Carolina might be a bunch of NBA-bound thoroughbreds, none of that will change anytime soon.  But each side is fooling itself if they think they’re all that different.  They are both excellent.  They each have their strong suits and weaknesses (this year the scales were a bit tilted).  Even in UNC’s down-year, Duke can learn some things from that program: particularly how to win, then not meet up to high expectations, and then how to rebound (I’m sure Harrison Barnes will be helpful at writing this chapter).  And perhaps even in the midst of their worst recent season, Carolina can admire, learn from, or at least respect Duke’s program and season.

Who have you convinced yourself is unlikeable, too different to even bother having your mind changed?  

What weaknesses in yourself cause you to resent others?  

What strengths in others are you jealous of?  

When have you been surprised at someone else’s joy at your joy?

What boasts do you hold onto, even when they are dying or dead?

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