Dear Greivis Vasquez,
I hate to see you go. I know this might be a startling admission from the mouth of a Duke student, but I’ll miss your annual visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
You scored a quiet 17 points Saturday as Maryland lost to Duke for the sixth straight time and third straight in Durham. Although you’ve always put up good performances against the Blue Devils, your game has rarely matched your mouth during your four years with the Terps.
After all, it’s not hard to understand why Duke fans have classified you as a persona non grata. From your first game (and only win at Duke) as a freshman in 2007, you did everything in your power to make a lasting impression and get under the skin of the Cameron Crazies. After finishing just one rebound shy of a triple-double in that game, you told the Washington Post that despite Duke fans’ taunts about your native Venezuela, “I love when the crowd is on me…. I’ve got three more years, and it’s going to be fun. They might be worried about me now.”
But in those next three years, your luck against Duke in Durham has proven slim. Ratcheting up the rhetoric last season, you infamously claimed that Cameron Indoor Stadium was “your house” because you so thoroughly loved playing there. But the result—an 85-44 Blue Devil beatdown that was the Terrapins’ worst-ever performance against Duke—was nothing to write home about.
Duke fans aren’t the only ones who dislike you. You drew the ire of fans at N.C. State during your junior year after sinking a meaningless 3-pointer with one second left to draw the lead to double digits. In your next visit there, the Wolfpack fans prodded you about your immigration status and crudely asked you where your green card was. Students at Florida State, who may hold the title as the vilest fans in the ACC, topped the State supporters by unleashing a “Deport Vasquez” sign during your visit to Tallahassee Feb. 4.
But you’ve had run-ins even with your own fans. Down early in the first half at home against Georgia Tech last January, you responded to the boos of your own student section by placing a finger to your lips and shouting an audible F-bomb as you told them to zip it.
It’s safe to say that you’re probably the most hated player in the ACC since J.J. Redick was setting conference scoring records in the face of jeers attacking everything from his unconventional game to his penchant for writing poetry.
But despite all of that, I’ll miss you, Greivis Vasquez, because your bombast, coupled with your above-average ability on the court, added some spice to a Duke-Maryland series that—while not a “rivalry”—still carries hotly contested bragging rights in the ACC. Remember that due to the conference’s unbalanced scheduling, Duke is only guaranteed home-and-home series with two league teams. Naturally, one is North Carolina, but the other team is your Maryland Terrapins.
It might have seemed like ages ago, but Maryland is the only ACC team other than Duke and North Carolina to win a national title within the last decade. High-profile matchups between Duke and Maryland produced a score of Instant Classics—perhaps none more memorable for Duke fans than the “Miracle Minute” comeback against the Terps in 2001—and led ESPN’s Jay Bilas to describe the Marlyand-Duke series as “one of the most venomous battles—both on the court and in the stands —in sports.”
As Maryland’s overall talent level has declined over the past five years or so, there might be an expectation that this “rivalry” has waned, but your trash-talking has helped provide meaning to games that otherwise may have become just another conference matchup. Because for as much as Duke fans argue that the Terrapins are “not our rivals”, there’s no doubt that Duke fans have relished seeing Maryland lose over the past four years—in large part to see you silenced.
You’ve matured, too, and after Saturday’s 77-56 loss you didn’t try to cop out for a sluggish performance by making any comments about the Cameron Crazies or playing Duke. You simply said that your team couldn’t make excuses before adding that there would be one more shot to take down the Blue Devils when they travel up to College Park March 3. Duke fans don’t have to ever like you—and they probably won’t in any case—but they should pay some small level of respect to what you’ve done to liven up the matchups between Duke and Maryland in recent years. And if the trend of the past three years holds up, it’s hard not to look forward to a third straight season sweep of the Terrapins in a couple of weeks.
After all, some things never change.
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