PIKE’S PEEK: Winter sets mood for basketball season

Daniel Pike

Since joining the Herald staff in January, I’ve planted myself in the post and boxed out my sports-writing past.

The urges have been great, and I’ve had to throw a few elbows to keep sports references out of my columns. More often than not, I’ve been successful.

Until today.

I’m about to type words that amount to treason in these parts. I am a lifelong, royal blue-blood, holier-than-thou, obnoxious-as-hell fan of the Duke Blue Devils.

A handful of college basketball games have already been played this year. But the season truly begins Saturday night, when the Devils tip off against Detroit.

Right around this time, my mood changes. I begin to scowl and brood. I blame the condition on the freezing grayness and bare trees, but it’s actually just my game face.

I get it from my father. As a child growing up in North Carolina, Dad aligned himself with Duke in the days when shorts were really short, before there was a three-point line. He passed the fanaticism to my brother, David, and me, just like most fathers around here pass down the love of hunting or Kentucky basketball.

But David and I have taken his influence to extremes. We’re the sort of dorks who sit around and discuss the careers of long-since-graduated and forgotten players such as Christian Ast, Kenny Blakeney, Carmen Wallace, Ron Burt and Erik Meek. And as kids, we could spell K-R-Z-Y-Z-E-W-S-K-I before we could spell the name of our elementary school.

As a trio, my father, brother and I perfectly complement each other. I am the optimistic one. David is the pessimistic one. And Dad is the narcoleptic one, having no qualms about snoring loudly even amid the late-game tension of a barn-burner against hated North Carolina.

We band together as outcasts in hostile territory. Since the legendary Christian Laettner jumper in 1992, I’ve split time between watching my back and actively antagonizing Kentucky fans.

As a general rule, I openly despise Kentucky fans, many of whom are pea-brained, hillbilly buffoons with only a marginal understanding of basketball. But I temper that sentiment by harboring no ill feelings toward the Wildcats themselves. In fact, I’m a big fan of head coach Tubby Smith.

But never mind that. In two days, the Pike boys will huddle in the cave-like darkness of my parents’ basement, celebrating the onset of another Blue Devils season.

And behind my scowl will be a big old grin.

Daniel Pike is the features editor for the Herald. His column appears on Thursdays. Reach him at [email protected]