I sat in my living room watching the 2022 Final Four — what would turn out to be Coach K’s last basketball game with Duke. It was quite the contrast to how I used to watch basketball games when I was a student at Duke: standing underneath the net at Cameron Indoor Stadium with the pep band and screaming my fool head off, shaking the limbs of whatever poor soul stood next to me, and feeling like I belonged to something much bigger than myself. Granted, my friends and I texted each other from all over the place, but it wasn’t the same.
Which is just as well. I don’t think my 51-year-old heart could take that kind of excitement. It could barely take being alone on my sofa. My Fitbit thought I was exercising.
But I still felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. My friends and I all texted pictures of the shirts we were wearing, some new and bright blue, some faded with thirty years of washing. When a Carolina player fouled out, I shook my outstretched hand and said “aaaaaaaahhhhhh” until he sat down, when I pointed my thumb over my shoulder and yelled “See Ya!” I knew for a fact that thousands and thousands of Duke Alum all over the world were doing the exact same thing.
No matter where I am, if I meet someone who went to Duke, we instantly have a number of topics to speak about. We always start with basketball. That’s our thing. Other colleges have other things, and that’s okay. The point is that everyone who has been in that kind of place has a thing like that, a thing that anyone who didn’t experience it won’t ever truly understand.
Generally speaking, I’m not a sports fan. I watched a lot of sports in my day. That was a requirement living in a house with my father. So while I’m not an expert, I’m conversant in baseball, football, and hockey. But I don’t much care about any sport if I don’t care who wins. I don’t generally care who wins. I knew going in that Duke was a basketball school, but because my dad didn’t watch much basketball, I didn’t care one way or another.
Then I got there. Now, I can argue with refs about fouls. (I have to believe they hear me through the tv screen.) I care. Passionately. I like my friends who went to Carolina anyway.
Now that I know, I feel sad for people who don’t have something like that. Neither of my children are going to schools with sports teams to speak of and I worry that they won’t have that common denominator that can give them instant community when they get out. Not because I care about sports, but because I want them to feel like I did – that there’s thousands of people doing the same dumb hand gesture and slightly mean cat call all around the world at the same time, saving me from what would otherwise be a lonely Saturday night on the sofa.
I know I’m lucky to have been a part of something that big. I had the opportunity to be just inches from college basketball greats like Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill. And, of course, the GOAT, Coach K. But the point is that I am part of something. It doesn’t matter what it is.
So my unsolicited advice to you is to find a something. Find a team to root for. I don’t care if it’s the local high school debate team or the next winner of the Super Bowl. Cheer for something outside yourself. You just might find that you get something inside as well.
If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori at her website, www.loriduffwrites.com, on Twitter, or on Facebook. Her newest book, a Foreword INDIES Gold Medal award winner, “If You Did What I Asked In The First Place” is currently available by clicking here.