If you are a sports fan, then you know that you get treated differently based on what team you root for. Orioles fans get a little pity while Yankee fans are either hated by the rest of us or loved by their own kind. But it is especially different if you are a fan of a great team in contrast to a Cinderella team or a team with a dynasty of losing rather than winning. The example we are going to discuss is one that I actually have a great knowledge of since I am a fan of both teams–the Duke Blue Devils Men’s Basketball team and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide Football team.
On the surface both teams appear very similar. They both have great programs with a tradition of winning. Monday night marked the third National Championship in four years and the fourth total for Coach Saban and the Tide and, of course, we have our beloved Bear Bryant who brought our school six titles. In total, there are 15 National Championships that belong in Tuscaloosa for the football team. Coach K (Yes, I can spell his real name but it just takes a lot of room and I don’t want to confuse y’all who don’t know who he is) has the most wins for a coach in the history of college basketball and has brought four National Championships to Durham. So you see, these are great teams. They are great team who have produced great players that have gone on to the NBA and NFL and amazing careers (We will forgo mentioning The Shot Heard Round the World because as great of a shot as it was, it did not exactly mean the player would do great things as a pro). However, being a fan means very different things for these two teams.
If you are a sports fan, then I’m sure you’ve had your share of comments made when you are surrounded by people who hate your team. However, unless you are a Duke fan, I’m sure you’ve probably never had it to the same extent as I have. If there are UNC fans or really ACC team other than Duke fans around you, be prepared to have…oh, a million and one comments made about how much they hate your team and how much they suck and blah blah blah. Yes, Duke sucks even though they are almost always ranked (Once in a blue moon they aren’t), have a win streak against non-conference teams at home that is monumental, and a great tradition of winning. Whatever. I’ve heard it all. Just think of Duke as the Yankees of NCAA Men’s Basketball but without the giant payroll.
On the other hand, are you a Bama fan? No? Let me explain to you how vastly different I am treated during football season. Now, I am not one to hide that I roll with the tide. I wear a Tide t-shirt to the gym literally almost every day. I have multiple pairs of Bama sweats. Very rarely do I wear a hat that is not Bama. One of my favorite songs is “Ala-freakin-bama” by Trace Atkins. It’s that serious (to the point where I’ve said no to a date with Michael so we can stay home and watch the game instead and have recorded games when I work so I don’t miss them). I am that crazy yet never once have I heard negative comments about being a Tide fan. The only people I hear say bad things about Bama are those who are playing us, which let’s be real and say they have every right to if a game is going on, or a fan of another SEC team, who will while being mean admit that the Tide is also good.
The worst part of being a Duke fan is that you have people hating you who don’t even watch basketball. It’s kind of like the Steelers in that sense. Have you ever noticed that there are plenty of girls who don’t know jack about football yet still hate the Steelers or Patriots or whoever is the rival of their home state team? And then they like to pretend they love football but they can’t back any argument they present? That’s how it is with Duke, too. Here in Maryland, there are loads of girls who will hate me just for being a Duke fan but can’t tell you the difference between Zone and Man defense. They probably can’t even tell you the difference between a power forward and a small forward or what happens when a player gets a technical. Let me tell you, it is one of the most infuriating things in the world to have to try to explain why you love a team that is so desperately hated to a person who can’t understand your completely valid argument. I never have to do that with Bama, though. People just look at me a little weird when I think that Roll Tide is a completely acceptable greeting.
The one thing I love about loving my teams though is that it does make me different but the other fans out there who love my teams love to talk to me. I’ve got a few friends from high school who I never speak to until football season. K-Mac, who moved to Tuscaloosa for a while after high school graduation, and I only speak when Bama is playing. We had an excellent conversation about how he loves Yeldon while I am a huge Cooper fan. His ex-girlfriend and I speak a little more because we were friends before they started dating but when it come to Bama, the conversation gets big. It’s good to have friends that you can do that with but with Duke, you can’t walk up and start chanting “Let’s go Duke!” You notice their hat or something and then you mention the last game and then you talk about how you own a J.J. Redick jersey and it keeps going and going and you’ve just made yourself a new best friend…even if you’ve never met the person before and will never see them again.
There is a fine line between Great Dynasty and Evil Empire. The Evil Empires are the ones that you look at and say, “The one and only Yankees are in town tonight and on paper, they are the best team in baseball. But we don’t play this game on paper! Go O’s!” The Great Dynasties are the ones you look at and fully respect for all their accomplishments. You know they worked hard for what they’ve achieved and you won’t take that from them. There’s always going to be a debate about who gets the calls but there’s somethings you can’t argue with like a 42-14 win over the number one team in the nation or a 32-point win over rival UNC. There’s winning with a little luck and then there’s blowouts. The Dynasties do a little of both but the blowouts come when it matters. The Evil Empires always have a little extra help whether it’s from the bajillion dollar payroll or the refs. I guess I’m a fan of both in most people’s eyes but I’m Roll Tide Til I Die and a Blue Devil through and through.