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Behind Enemy Lines: A Duke Blue Devil fan in Kentucky

March 28, 1992. That’s the day it happened. We all know what day that is. Greatest game I have ever seen played.  The Shot. That’s the day I caught a ride on the Duke Blue Devil bandwagon and to this day I still have a front row seat on this wagon that I will never relinquish.

How does this happen?  How does one become a fan of the Duke Blue Devils while being a permanent resident in the state of Kentucky?  For me it is pretty simple. My father is from Louisiana and my mother is from Texas.  We moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky when I was three years old and were residents there my whole childhood with the exception of my 14-15 year old years being spent in Statesboro, Georgia.  Other than my immediate family we didn’t have any family in the state of Kentucky so we weren’t a BBN household nor a UL household.  My parents both worked at Western Kentucky University so we were a WKU household as long as the checks kept coming.  Long story short, as a child I was a free agent when it came to team allegiance and for whatever reason I never seemed to care that much about UK or UL.

Why Duke?  Well, there are several reasons I chose the Duke bandwagon but in all honesty I was so happy that they won that game on March 28, 1992 that I felt like they deserved my allegiance.  I’ve always loved all sports but basketball was always my favorite sport.  Growing up in Kentucky the only basketball that mattered was UK basketball and even as a kid that bothered me to my core.  Discussing basketball of any level with some UK fans was maddening because the conversation always seemed to come back to UK.  Talking about a high school player, “he isn’t good enough to play at UK so he must suck.”  Talking about college players, “well, he doesn’t go to UK so he sucks.”  Talking about pro players, “he didn’t go to UK so he sucks.”  The worst part of these conversations is that UK fans for the most part know the game of basketball well enough to have a good discussion about basketball but for whatever reason some would choose not to.  So when Christian Laettner hit that shot and sent this whole state into a deep depression I was as elated as I was when my dad gave me the keys to my first car. Pettiness is something I still struggle with to this day……

I’ll always remember watching the end of that game on the phone with my best friend, Bobby Thomas, as I was cheering for Duke and he was cheering for UK.  When Sean Woods hit his shot to take the lead Bobby screamed, yelled, howled and laughed as loud as he could in my ear from the time Woods’ shot went in until the game finally came back from a commercial break to watch that last 2.1 seconds.  All I kept saying was that 2.1 seconds is still a lot of time and anyone who watched Christian Laettner’s college career knew he was going to get that ball and take yet another clutch shot to try and give Duke another victory.  Bobby and I had plans that night as most teenagers do and after the game he was going to come pick me up and we were going to hang out somewhere in Bowling Green that night.  The game resumes….Grant Hill makes his 3/4 court pass, Laettner catches it, takes a dribble, turns, shoots…….next thing I hear is …….click.  Phone hangs up and I didn’t see Bobby until school on Monday. 

Like UK, Duke has a storied history and I have made the argument many times that in my lifetime(born in 1974) Duke has been the best program in college basketball.  I do believe that UK is the best basketball program of all time and in my opinion it isn’t debatable.  First to 2000 wins, best all time winning percentage, 8 national championships, 17 Final Four appearances, 38 Elite Eight appearances, 33 conference championships, most NCAA tournament appearances, most NCAA tournament wins….I could go on and on about why UK is the best college basketball program of all time.  That doesn’t change what we have all seen since 1974 along with the legacy of Mike Krzyzewski.  If I am not mistaken UK has around 2,290 wins as a program.  Coach K has around 1,130 wins as a coach.  While at Duke he has 5 national titles, 12 Final Four appearances, 15 conference championships, 97 NCAA tournament wins and crazy as it seems has only won National Coach of the Year three times.  Duke has never been in major trouble with the NCAA during his time there and other than the year his back went out Duke is always in the NCAA tournament.  The game of basketball has changed dramatically since 1980 and through it all Coach K has managed to be the best of the best in the college basketball world. 

Living in Kentucky a majority of folks don’t want to hear that mess and I don’t blame you.  I applaud whichever UK fans are sticking around to see the end of this article about Duke on a website that is not only centered around UK athletics but a website that is hosted by a former UK player.  And not just any former player, we’re talking about a former player who played a role in erasing an 18 point Duke lead by hitting the shot that gave UK their first lead of the game in a come-from-behind UK victory in the Elite Eight over my beloved Blue Devils.  The Revenge Game.  March 22, 1998.  One of the greatest UK basketball games ever that I don’t feel gets the historical love that it deserves.  That game catapulted UK to the Final Four en route to their second title in three years.  1995-1998 were some outstanding years for UK fans and while I am not a member of BBN I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy for you guys.  Not to mention, the 1996 championship victory celebration at the corner of Woodland and Euclid was by far the best party I have ever been to in my entire life.  When UK basketball is good like that then college basketball is just a lot of fun.  I think that is something we can all agree upon. 

I can’t lie, I was very hesitant when I received an offer to join the staff here at Cameron Mills Radio dot com.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Duke fan through and through and when I mentioned this offer to my good friend, Todd Carmack, the first thing he said was that he was going to tell everyone that I was a Duke fan every time I wrote a story.  I was definitely concerned that me being a Duke fan would be an issue but it isn’t and it won’t be. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to cover UK athletics in this capacity as well as having the opportunity and platform to be able to write about anything that might move me.  Writing and journalism has always been a passion of mine and I am looking forward to what the future holds as the world of BBN becomes a part of my reality. 

2 Comments

  1. Mitchell Dunn says:

    Great Read Homie!!!

  2. Kevin Terry says:

    Great article and a great hire. Look forward to seeing more of this guy’s work.

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