Karma chamelion, college sports and cards: A short, trivial morality tale

June 5, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 5, 2015

Five years ago, mighty mighty Alabama came to Durham to play Duke’s not-all-that-impressive football team.

I had tickets to the game, and I wanted to make clear that I was not rooting for the overdog Crimson Tide. So I made my first and so far only purchase of Duke paraphernalia as an adult: A navy T-shirt with plain white letters spelling out DUKE arrayed on the front.

That sunny September 2010 afternoon may have been the only time I wore that T-shirt — until this week.

Before I get to the events of this week, a quick review of relevant history:

• Duke, a private university in Durham, is the archrival of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the state’s flagship public university campus, which is located literally in the next town.

• Both schools have powerhouse men’s basketball teams. Over the 14-year period from 1988 through 2001, the men’s Final Four featured either Duke or Carolina 13 times. The two teams both competed in the 1991 event, in which the Blue Devils captured their first national championship in basketball. Neither were present in 1996.

• The UNC-Duke rivalry is widely considered to be the best in college basketball.

• UNC’s legendary coach, Dean Smith, died in February.

• In April, Duke had a thrilling come-from-behind national championship game win against the University of Wisconsin. The victory gave the Blue Devils five NCAA men’s basketball titles, exactly the same number that UNC has had ever since its 2009 championship.

• Duke has won basketball titles twice in the last five years — 2010 and 2015.

• For the past several years, UNC has been in a heap of trouble with the NCAA, the organization that oversees most major college sporting competition, for a variety of rules violations.

Which brings us to this week…

On Thursday, UNC released a notice of allegations in which the NCAA accused the university and some key staffers of several serious misdeeds, many of them related to numerous instances of academic fraud.

Typically on Thursdays, I compete in a card tournament where the director, Jim, hands out small bonuses for people who sport any kind of college gear. Jim is a dyed-in-the-wool UNC fan who, like many other Tar Heels, loathes Duke.

I wore my Duke T-shirt on Thursday, just to tweak Jim. It didn’t seem to bother him very much.

But he did knock me out of the second tournament.


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