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Blue and white noise

Maybe I'm the only one, but I'm starting to get pretty sick of hearing about Duke lovers, Duke haters, why the Blue Devils shouldn't have won Saturday, why they won't win Thursday, how they can't make the Final Four, how they most definitely will make the Final Four, how they are a long shot to win it all and how they couldn't possibly win it all if Dick Vitale were a Bracket God filling in teams with his Digger-Phelps-style highlighter.

Seriously, even my Duke-sized brain hurts just re-reading that.

With all the noise, the fine line between being impassioned and indifferent is starting to get even finer.

It's this totally bizarre feeling I couldn't quite understand at first, particularly given how this is the first time I've seen Duke advance to the Sweet 16 since I was a bright-eyed freshman-and I'm now a cynical senior.

But then I thought of a recent column penned by outgoing ESPN ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber, "ESPN's excess root of fan frustration." The basic gist of Schreiber's final piece critiquing the sports media conglomerate is that although many cite arrogance as their top grievance with ESPN, it is, in fact, excess at the core of viewer discontent.

"Excess is not the word my correspondents used most frequently, but it is the root of all the 'too much' mail I received-as in too much Manny, T.O. and A-Rod; too much Yankees, Red Sox, Cowboys and Patriots; too much Joba, Kobe and Brady (both Tom and Quinn); too much Hansbrough, Tebow and Duke; and way too much Favre," Schreiber wrote. "The predictable day-after-day dominance on ESPN of certain marquee teams and players is making a lot of fans both heartsick and cynical."

Perhaps this is a heretical question to ask on this campus the day before the Blue Devils' Sweet 16 matchup against Villanova, but is it possible there is such a thing as too much Duke Basketball?

Can I just take the word "ESPN" from the excerpt above, replace it with "Duke" and have it resonate? Can I switch out the names of A-Rod, Manny and T.O. for Kyle, Jon and Gerald and be similarly indicting?

Before you come after me with pitchforks and G-sharp-elbows, let me say this: you'd be hard-pressed to find a kid on this campus who possesses a deeper and older love of basketball than I do. I was born March 25 and the first thing I ever watched on TV was the 1987 national title game when Indiana's Keith Smart nailed a baseline buzzer-beater to bury Syracuse. Not like I remember this or anything, but I have a picture of my dad and me to prove it.

Maybe in my insane and rambling way, though, I have stumbled ever-so-luckily on the point.

It's not that there is too much basketball. It's that there's too much basketball analysis.

Sure, I hope you enjoy reading my columns, but I hope (and almost certainly know) you enjoy watching actual games more. For as much as March Madness is about the analysis that goes into making a bracket, it's more about being able to harass your friends after you own their sad and sorry behinds in strokes of random luck or clock-beating jumpers.

I could've written to you today about how I think the ball should go through Gerald Henderson's hands on every play as the clock winds down. I could've ranted about how Duke's bench should be utilized more, particularly in the first half, so that the starters have fresher legs to finish in the second. I could have expressed concern that the Blue Devils went 11-for-24 from the paint Saturday night against the Longhorns, or that Villanova's drive-and-kick offense could prove problematic against a Duke team lacking an intimidating inside presence.

But just like Schreiber, I am convinced I have a savvy core audience. There is nothing I could tell you at this point that you haven't already thought about or don't already know. With the exception of the emergence of a few new actors, this team's storyline hasn't really changed since its first game in November.

So in lieu of the noise and excess, I instead leave you with this: Enjoy Thursday night's game, because it should be a good one.

And don't let people like me-the know-it-all types constantly yelling in your ear-ruin the year's greatest three weeks of sport.


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