The case for the Blue Devil conspiracy

Tom Finnegan

“They’re awesome, baby, with a capital A! The three S’s baby: Super, Scintillating, Sensational! You can’t stop the Dukies baby–they can’t be stopped!”

Turn on ESPN on a Monday or Tuesday night and this is what is polluting the airways. When broadcasting a Duke game, Dick Vitale cannot seem to get the praise for the Blue Devils out of his mouth quick enough. Vitale, along with the rest of the broadcasting community, loves the Blue Devils. Jay Bilas, a Duke alum who graced the Villanova campus, always sings the praise of the vaunted Blue Devils. I won’t ask how Bilas got a broadcasting job, but I will ask this question — why does everyone love Duke? Game officials, NCAA officials, McDonalds and just about everyone else involved in college basketball seems to be biased towards Duke. I think it’s a conspiracy.

Practically every non-conference game that Duke plays is played at home in Coach K Stadium. Here, fans that Duke recruited, the Cameron Crazies, make life a living hell for opposing teams. The fans are like a sixth man that gives the home team an advantage. Duke rarely plays any decent teams away from their home stadium. This year, out of eight non-conference games, six were played at Duke. One tournament game was played at Indianapolis and the other game was played in Greensborough, N.C., which made it practically a home game for Duke.

When was the last time Duke traveled anywhere and played a non-conference game? Basketball analysts talk about the strength of the Blue Devils’ schedule. The only problem is that all of their tough games are played at home.

This year Duke went on the road and played two good teams, Maryland and Virginia, and lost to them both (actually it’s tough to say if Virginia is good — they lost to Virginia Tech). If Duke played a schedule that had some non-conference road games they would not be as highly regarded as they are.

I’m not going to say the referees are throwing the games, but their officiating has been suspect at best while at Coach K Stadium. I can’t blame them, though, because I wouldn’t want those boisterous Cameron Crazies on my back either. This year, in a game against Georgetown, the referees called many suspect fouls on Georgetown’s Mike Sweetney, one of the best players in the country. With Sweetney out of the game, Duke was able to go on a run, come from behind and beat the Hoyas.

Nearly every game that Duke plays is on national television; 16 of its 30 games were nationally televised this year. The Blue Devils also have several games that are on Fox Sports Net, but not everyone has a crazy cable package, so we won’t count those games. This exposure gives their players extra incentive to play well every game because it puts them in the national spotlight, which leads to better rankings and more press.

All of these factors, lead to one thing–players wanting to play at Duke. The recruiting skill of Mike Krzyzewski has nothing to do with Duke landing good players. It’s the opportunity of national exposure and playing in front of the Cameron Crazies that leads a player to go to Duke.

A perfect example is Dahntay Jones. While at Rutgers, he was a decent player, but not nearly as good as people think he is now while playing for Duke. Did he get better or did more people just realize he actually plays basketball? Playing at Duke gave Jones an opportunity to showcase his talents on a national level.

How did Duke get this exposure? There are many possibilities; I’ve even heard rumors that the CIA is involved. However, I believe that the conspiracy starts with the McDonalds Corp. Who else has the power to manipulate high school kids into going to the college that they choose? Ever heard of the McDonald’s All-American game? I thought so. McDonalds simply pays off television stations to broadcast thousands of Duke games, giving Duke and its players the national exposure that any good player desires.

The All-American game is simply a farm system for Duke. Why would McDonalds do all this? Advertising. How many times have you been watching a game on TV and heard the words McDonald’s All-American? It has become practically subliminal. I find myself watching a game and the next thing I know I’m at McDonalds ordering a Big Mac.

OK, maybe I’m taking this whole conspiracy thing too far. I’m not saying I’m right, I’m just saying that there is something out there that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Anyways, there’s a Duke game on ESPN right now, at Cameron, of course, so I’m gonna finish up my Happy Meal and go watch the Dukies.