Thursday, April 01, 2010

Confessions of a Duke Alum

It is time for the truth: the reason why Duke is the #1 team in the nation is because we at the Immaculate Inning paid off Ken Pomeroy.

Since 2007, these e-pages have been graced with seemingly logical discussion of the Duke University men's basketball team. We dissect the game from various angles using the statistics-- and those stats, facts based on what happened in each game, come from one website: The obsession was so obvious that one time in 2007 the blog was briefly shut down by Google because they thought it was a spam link generator:

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Over the years, some have wondered how it is that mediocre Duke teams were still ranked near the top of Pomeroy's rankings. All this season, fans dismissed the rankings because "everyone knew" that Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse were the best teams in the land. Yet, for all but a few weeks of 2010, the Duke Blue Devils were ranked #1 on; no ranking so obviously flawed could be trusted! Well, now you know the reason; with our beloved Blue Devils trashed in the national media for being "alarmingly unathletic," and unable to compete because of our racist coach, we wanted to feel like we were the best at something.

Some of you may ask for proof, so here is the little "Christmas Present" I gave to Mr. Pomeroy. His demands were quite specific.

Most of you will not be surprised by this revelation; it is of course common knowledge that Duke receives special treatment from the NCAA, CBS, and the officials (Georgia Tech superfreshman Derick Favors said after the ACC Championship game: "It was very frustrating. We played good defense, and the referees bailed them out.") It's such common knowledge that even after six seasons of "adjustment" by the officials, keeping Duke out of the Final Four, the first explanation for Duke's trip to Indianapolis was that "Duke Gets All the Calls." Of course we do, and there's a very good reason for that too! First, the facts:

It's no secret that referees are corruptible. Tim Donaghy, who was caught wagering on the basketball games he officiated, has claimed that the problem is not an isolated one; he claims that 13 NBA officials are involved in wagering on the game. He further accuses the NBA of "turning a blind eye," because they are more interested in the money than in fairness. The distrust this has created in the casual sports fan has trickled down to mingle with the "Duke Gets All the Calls" meme; no longer is it ridiculous tinfoil hat talk. Real referees are really swayed by real cash.

It's also no secret that Duke alums make a lot of money; in 2009 USA Today ran a "payscale bracket" which picked teams based on median graduate salary. Duke won, and it wasn't close. The Duke Endowment, despite the economic downturn, is still worth nearly $3 billion. The Duke Annual Fund employs banks of undergraduates to call previous donors; this year I made a donation that the university recorded as going to "The Nicholas School of the Environment," and they even made it look good by sending me a thank you letter. All of it was done with a wink, and an understanding.

Truth #2: Every year, Duke alums make a donation to the "Referee Fund," which goes directly to the National Association of College Basketball Referees. Our sizable contribution is made with good faith understanding that it will be paid back with whistles.

We are human, though; we do feel a slight bit of guilt every time we write that check. For six years we had to sit on our hands because the officials said that it would be too obvious to hand Duke a title in 2006, so soon after the officials handed them the 2004 and 2001 Final Four runs. Many alums canceled their contributions after the Duke-UConn game in 2004, and the Duke-LSU game in 2006. It seemed that in those games, the referees were blatantly defying their loyal contributors!

Finally, we have some retribution. Handed the easiest bracket since UNC "won" the 1924 national championship by playing exactly zero postseason games, Duke sailed to the Final Four beating a couple of high school teams and your mother's quilting club. It almost wasn't enough, so the refs did have to step in and prevent Baylor from rebounding any of their (fairly frequent) missed shots. Now, we are two games away from a fourth national championship. But at what cost? We felt it was time to stand up for what was right and come clean.

To the referees in the Final Four: May you call every touch foul and carry on Duke; may every block-charge call go against us. May you clear your conscience and hand West Virginia twice as many free throws. It is your massive control over the game-- more than the coaches, more than the players themselves, you referees always decide the outcome of every game. So, in the name of justice, and as a Duke alum and current student who will be in attendance, please make West Virginia win on Saturday. Only then can we rest in peace.