What it means to raise your children as Duke fans and pass off the qualities to the next generation.
“Look! It’s Michael Jordan.”
It’s 1992 and I am an excited 11-year old waiting to meet one of his heroes in a sea of people after a Duke pre-season game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. In a moment of self-effacing humor, Grant Hill jokingly references one of only a hand full of people that might actually distract this adoring crowd. Before the crowd of royal blue-clad fans can finish chuckling he has already launched into autograph signing and posing for pictures.
It is one thing to watch your favorite sports teams on a glowing screen but it is an entirely different experience to see them in person and marvel at the feats of strength, athleticism, and power. There was no doubt before this moment that I loved the Duke teams of 1990-92 but this moment of standing in the hallowed hall of Cameron Indoor for the first time and hearing the screech of sneakers on the court solidified that I would be a Duke Basketball fan for life.
I grew up an hour from Durham but now live outside of Atlanta, Georgia. This past week I was able to take my daughter to her first Duke game as Georgia Tech hosted Duke in our new hometown. As expected, we were not alone in our love for the Blue Devils as the Duke contingency was well represented throughout the stadium.
As the team came out of the tunnel my daughter exclaimed, “There they are…like right there.” And finally, the moment that every lifelong Duke fan waits for…the GOAT comes out of the tunnel and Duke fans stand in reverence. My daughter is speechless as Coach K walks to the bench and on to his customary handshake with the opposing coaches. The game was up and down, as the Tech crowd seemed to smell blood and was hungry for a huge upset. But behind the steady hand of Tre Jones and the clutch spectacular play of Cassius Stanley, Duke pulls away and finishes the job they came to do.
As we begin to walk out my daughter looks at me and says, “Dad, I love being a Duke fan because they respect each other. Every time I made eye contact with another fan they smiled and nodded at me.”
I would love to tell her that is was definitely a “Duke thing” but the truth is that this is what we love about sports. We invest hours and even years into the teams, players and coaches that we love. We feel connected to the stories and long to find ways to get into the arenas where they compete for glory. And if we are lucky we get the chance to grab a few people that we love and bring them along for the ride.