I can sit here and act like I am okay…. but that would just be a lie. This sucks. This hurts. I feel like someone has just stabbed me in the heart a million times with a dagger. My beloved Duke Blue Devils have just been eliminated in the NCAA tournament by the Kansas Jayhawks and I am officially dead inside. There’s a saying that goes what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger but that doesn’t apply here because I am as weak as a twig during a hurricane. Am I hurting so much because the game was so close and needed to be decided in OT? I don’t think so. I mean yeah, I am going to have night terrors about Grayson Allen’s shot that went in and out to end regulation for months but a loss is a loss. I invest so much time and effort into the teams that I love, teams that I would literally take a bullet for, that it makes it that much more painful when they lose. Do I cry? Fuck yeah and I’m not afraid to admit it, I’m a beta.
There’s a picture of me as a baby and I’m talking fresh out the womb all bundled up and my father is holding me wearing his famous Duke sweatshirt that he still wears today. Now since I was born in November it was the start of the season and we were probably blowing out some cupcake, but I was still as attentive as ever. Ever since that day, I have been embodied into one of the best fan bases in America. I have experienced my share of ups like experiencing 3 national championships in my lifetime but have certainly had my fair share of lows. I remember when we lost to Lehigh in the first round of the tournament in 2012. We came into the tournament as a 2 seed and boy was our team talented. I’m not gonna lie I was not nervous at all about Lehigh. I knew they had a really good player in CJ McCollum but thought that one guy could not beat us alone. I was wrong. I remember after losing the game laying on my living room floor sobbing hysterically because the realization had hit that our season was over and in devastating fashion.
Fast forward two years. Duke is back in the tournament, but this time as a three seed. In the first round they would be matched up against the Mercer Bears. WHO? Before that game the only Mercer I knew was the community college in my home town. It was my freshman year of high school. The game was during the day and after a failed attempt to try to stay home from school with a “cold” I was stuck watching the game in my math class on the small screen that is my phone. I remember my teacher Mr. Muller yelling at me throughout the afternoon to pay attention and to put my phone away, but this was March baby, he would just have to understand. Then something went terribly wrong. Mercer caught absolute fire from beyond the arch, and pulled off the upset. The buzzer rang and it seemed like the school bell was right behind it. I remember walking in the halls and just getting absolutely harassed. I can still hear “Hey Pete, how bout them Dukies?” in my head every once in a while. It usually took me about a half hour to walk home from school but on that gloomy March day it took me almost 2 hours. I was walking at a snail’s pace and was acting like an anchor was in my book bag. Those are two dark days I will never forget and tonight is just one to add to the list.
Now being that I have been through so much pain as a Duke fan you would think I would get used to it and the losses would become seemingly easier. Not even close. Every loss hurts the exact same and tournament losses whether it is the Elite 8 or the round of 64, are absolutely heartbreaking. Would I want it any other way? Of course not. I love Duke and that will never changed. Yeah this sucks. I fell in love with a team this year. I fell in love with a group of players that battled their hearts out night in and night out and the reality is that next year, they will all be gone. But that is okay. I will fall in love with a new team and a new group of guys. To the 2017-2018 team however, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for one hell of a season filled with memories of excitement. I also want to say thank you to Grayson Allen for four amazing years. Gray, I remember when you were just a freshman. You barely got any minutes but when you got your chance, you made the most of it. I always admired how gritty and determined you were, and that admiration started the second you stepped on the court your Freshman year. Through the next three years you developed from a boy to a man. A role player to a leader and I could not be more proud of you. Did you make mistakes along the way, of course you did, but you learned from them and grew and the future is only up from here. You might be gone from the team, but you will never be forgotten and will be part of the Duke family as long as you live. I can’t wait to see what next year’s team has in store and all though I’m hurting right now, I know in just a short time from now, I will be rooting for the team I love, harder than ever, we are and forever will be, DUKE!