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Basketball diaries

A peculiar incident occurred a couple weeks ago, one that you may or may not be familiar with. A somber fall from grace for some and a rare pleasure for others, it may be cited as one of the most uncompromising examples of the world's insanity for years to come. It was particularly jarring for me due to the severe emotional link with which I relate to the event, not to mention the self-inflicted injury I caused/suffered amidst the anguish.

I speak, sadly and with the least ambiguity, of the scarcely reported loss of a certain Duke University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Old news, you say? That cuts to my core. It is as new as the tear trailing down my cheek.

Maybe this isn't as significant to you. No guilt necessary. Why care about a measly word in the epic saga of American sports anyway? Well, it's not just any word for me; indeed, it is my "Yahweh," and I can tell you why.

First things first: I attend Duke University, a decision determined as much by 20 years of athletic superiority on the basketball court as academic excellence in the classroom. Who can hold me to a higher benchmark of distinction than Coach K, one of the winningest college basketball coaches in history? Not the eighth best academic program in the nation, and certainly not my parents. I elevate my standards further than that, to those of the three-time winner of the greatest measure of worth and practical divinity ever bestowed, the NCAA Championship.

My mentor set quite a precedent during my tenure here. In three years, three No. 1 NCAA Tournament seeds, two ACC tournament championships and a Final Four appearance. The embodiment of brilliance I have become in my four years at Duke is the result of my rise to the occasion.

Witness: I pass tests with the deadly accuracy of a three-pointer, write papers with the dogged persistence of man-to-man defense and manage my time with the steady pacing of sharp perimeter passing. Inasmuch as a man can say of himself, I am a limitless machine.

But who can say what precincts will be imposed upon me tomorrow. A shadow darkens my future and taints my ambition. There is no greater foreboding perversion than knowing the certainty of your doom. I hitched my wagon to the brightest star in the galaxy, and in the fourth year of its tutelage over me, the star lost to 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. I feel it below, pulling me down, down, down.. Our bond is so absolute that I can look forward to nothing greater than premature demise in the fourth quarter of my innocent life.

And the afterlife? Sure, there is always next year, but not when you are dead (or graduated). Religious worship of the Blue Devils is an instrument of the living, and as an alumnus, I will have about as much fan vitality as a corpse.

Four years together.

I am excellent no more.

Was it a good run?

I assume this form of empathetic connection to a basketball team is foreign to all of you, and I only ask you to leave me to my tragedy in peace. Save your ridicule for closed doors and your pretentious charity for a rainy day. This is no cancer that you can just cure away. You can laugh at the gut-wrenching pain I suffer on seeing Duke lose, but know that manifestation is a medical condition. The pain is real.

I apologize for spreading gloom, but it's about when the journey is ending when you start thinking about the philosophy of it. Nothing causes melancholy and a search for redemption like a first round loss to an 11th seed, and I'm sad to say that is almost exactly what happened here.

Ashwin Bhirud is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Friday.


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