My parents’ first date was watching a Duke basketball game.
My dad had planned an elaborate evening for my mom, yet she insisted on staying in to see the Blue Devils take on Seton Hall in the 1989 Final Four. Despite having been rejected from Duke after applying early decision in 1982, my mom still was a devoted Crazie. Actually, being rejected from Duke early decision was a trend in my family, as my mom’s mother had been denied admission as well.
But Mom-Mom still rooted for the Blue Devils, and she must have passed that down. When asked why she liked the team, my Virginia-born grandmother said she liked how Duke’s roster was filled with “talented young men at a southern school who are also smart, y’all” (her exact words). My mom’s devotion, on the other hand, was due in part to an enormous crush on Christian Laettner. Her infatuation probably made for an interesting first date with my dad, since she was most likely swooning at the TV screen for the entire duration of the game.
But she must have impressed him, because two years later, my parents were married on May 5th, 1991—less than two months after Duke’s first national championship. Three year later, I was born, also with Duke-blue blood in my veins.
Although my childhood was filled with many Duke-related moments, my most memorable so far was watching the 2010 national championship with my dad. We sat at the bar at our favorite restaurant and intently watched the Blue Devils take on Butler. We were surrounded by no Duke fans, or even real Butler fans, but a legion of anti-Duke fans who kept heckling the Blue Devils through the TV screen. But as we watched Gordon Heyward’s midcourt shot deflect off the rim, my dad and I jumped up, screamed and embraced for minutes, drowning out the others' groans.
More so than any other activity, sports, specifically the Blue Devils, have been a common link that has connected my family together. And I’d be lying if I said that as a freshman in high school only a year away from the start of college process, witnessing the 2010 national championship—and the ensuing euphoria with my dad—didn’t influence where I ended up applying to school.
I’m a tour guide at Duke, and I usually finish my tours with the reasons why I chose to come here. I’m sure President Brodhead would prefer me to talk about Duke’s interdisciplinarity or DukeEngage, and I do mention those things. But many of our peer schools boast a multifaceted curriculum and strong study abroad programs. What truly set Duke apart for me during the admissions process was its combination of academics, extracurricular opportunities and athletics.
But I don’t mean that I came to Duke solely to witness magical moments in Cameron (although they certainly don’t hurt). I chose Duke because I knew that immediately, I would have at least one thing in common with 6,484 students—a really good basketball team.
There are many different kinds of sports fans at Duke, and I’d like to use my current roommates to exhibit three different types. One of my roommates is an avid Duke fan, raised in a similar Blue Devil-centric environment to me. Her dad went to Duke Law, and her family now owns basketball season tickets. If the Blue Devils are playing at home, you can always find her at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Section 9.
Another one of my roommates is a casual fan. She gets excited about Duke basketball and attended a few big games last year, including Ohio State and North Carolina.
And my third roommate knows close to nothing about basketball. A friend of mine once asked me how many touchdowns Mason Plumlee scored—that was her.
Despite their different levels of fandom, basketball has served as a common connection between the four of us. My Duke-obsessed roommate took me to Cameron last year with her tickets, including my first-ever regular-season basketball game. My second roommate sat with me in the GA common room last year as we watched the Blue Devils’ heartbreaking loss to Louisville in the Elite Eight.
But it was what my third roommate did for me that hold an especially significant place in my heart. She waited in line with me for parent’s weekend basketball tickets until the early morning—and mind you, it was raining, we had both come directly from Shooters and most of all, she had absolutely no interest in the tickets for herself.
Sports was reason enough for a friend to sit with me in the freezing cold for hours, in one of the most unconditional, sincere displays of friendship I’ve witnessed since I’ve come to Duke.
And, significantly, the tickets she gave me allowed me to bring my family into Cameron for the first time, and have my mom and dad’s Duke basketball journey come full circle.
Watching that game with my family was arguably more magical than witnessing my first Duke-North Carolina game. Getting my family to Cameron Indoor made me realize everything that is so special about Blue Devil athletics. As my mom cheered, she didn’t care that she got rejected from here years ago; as my dad took in the stadium, he wasn’t thinking about the anti-Duke fans who tried to ruin our national championship celebration; and as I sat with my family, I was eternally grateful to all of my friends who have helped in making my basketball experience so unforgettable.
Duke is an unbelievably special place in that it possesses a voracious sports culture that transcends so many boundaries to bring people together—and that’s what sets our school apart.