AS A CHRISTIAN IT IS MY DUTY to aid the afflicted, to comfort those suffering hardship and to extend loving care to those in pain. So, in this season of need, I am thinking, this would have to be Duke fans.
My Tar Heels and I have not been doing a good job of that lately.
And I have an awkward habit of making friends with those who bleed dark blue -- which this past week would be pretty close to literally true for every fan of the Blue Devils.
Sandra and I were in the Dean Dome to see the Lady Tar Heels play their Blue Devil counterparts a week ago Monday. We were sitting right behind the Duke bench and right in front of the Duke visitors section. A couple of days after the game, I played doubles with my regular Thursday night tennis group, the Choir Boys (so called because in the original foursome one of the players could only play on Thursday night since that was his wife's night for choir practice).
One of the Choir Boy regulars, "Doc" I’ll call him, who is a Duke graduate, Duke employee and Duke men's and women's basketball season ticket holder, asked me if those were our regular seats. Unbeknownst to us, he and his wife had been sitting behind us.
The next while consisted of me rummaging through my mind, asking what I might have said or done they might have observed. "I wonder if they heard me yell, 'Abby, shoot, you're open!'," I mused. (Duke guard Abby Waner was about one for ten at the time, and has an odd habit of shooting from farther and farther away from the basket the worse she is shooting.)
I am also pretty sure that they couldn't hear me when I asked some Tar Heel fans sitting behind us -- after the Devils had lost their halftime lead and their fans their volume: "What happened to the Devil fans? Did they all suddenly get laryngitis?" (After trailing by two at the half, the Lady Heels won by 15 points.)
Then, a week ago Wednesday, I made a tactical error, going to a 7:10 pm movie in downtown Durham on the night of The Game. And in doing so, I ended up observing the Gentlemen Tar Heels against the Devils from Durham in the second worst place on planet earth (including Tierra del Fuego), Satisfaction, the bar in Brightleaf Square where Coach K holds his weekly radio show.
I tried to be inconspicuous, but in that den of dark and dismal blue, my movie-viewing friend Terry and I were pretty obvious as we wore a more pleasant shade of blue. So I made small talk with an apparent Duke fan next to us; and I tried not to hop up and down too much when the Heels scored.
I told my erstwhile Duke fan friend at halftime, I thought that the Heels would lead before the game was over, even though they trailed by eight. I also found out why he seemed so civil: he was a Navy guy on a fellowship at Duke, not really of the Devil, just visiting.
Before the game was over the few, maybe 10, Carolina blue fans ended up in a little cluster. Among us was a twenty-something woman wearing a replica of Tyler Hansbrough's jersey. I later told her, "I soon as I saw you, I knew I was in love." (Don't worry. My wife understands this is purely play-tonic.)
After the game was over with the Tar Heels scoring 101 points and winning by 14, the light blue crew sang "Hark the Sound," led by a Carolina-grad son who was there with his life-long-Duke-fan father.
At that point a Duke clad twenty-something woman came over to tell us all how she had watched Duke-Carolina games in Chapel Hill and had "never acted like you are doing" -- then added she was “embarrassed by our behavior.”
As best I could observe, "our behavior" consisted of cheering (and singing) for our team. At the time I said nothing to her, remembering the words of the Air Force chaplain who was the guest speaker at our church a few weeks ago: "Don't criticize someone else until you've walked a mile in their shoes -- because then you'll be a mile away -- and they won't have any shoes."
Now safely back in Orange County, I realize that if she had the chance to lecture the Cameron Crazies on fan decorum -- or spelling – she surely would have pointed out to them that "D-U-I" is not a really the best serenade for M-V-P candidate Ty Lawson -- unless they really want him to demonstrate his driving skills.
Gary D. Gaddy attended grad school at UNC from just before Al Wood's senior season until just after Michael Jordan's sophomore year.
A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald Thursday February 19, 2009.
Copyright 2009 Gary D. Gaddy