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Boswell's Syracuse Soliloquy!

Boswell traveled up to the Carrier Dome to see the Blue Devils, dashed off his thoughts on a gloomy Saturday morning, and zapped them in to the DBR Mother Ship on his way back. Here's his take!

So here I sit in a dingy hotel room in downtown Syracuse (BluBones can vouch for the adjective "dingy") on a cloudy, damp Saturday morning, a day on which, for the first time in a number of months, I won't be thinking about how Duke matches up with its next opponent. How do I feel? Actually pretty good.

I remember last year, how miserable I felt after we lost to UConn in the national championship game. This year we didn't even get that far; instead we were knocked out in the Sweet Sixteen. So why don't I feel bad now?

I'm not exactly sure, but I think it's because this year's team - and even last year's - has taught me something. Last year, I was so caught up in the race for the national championship that it overwhelmed everything else that the team accomplished. Add to that the post-season defections, and like many Duke fans, I left that season with a pretty bad taste in my mouth in many respects.

This year, though, taught me to enjoy, appreciate, and even cherish the season as a whole and not get so caught up that the outcome of a final game determines my feelings on the entire season. Was I disappointed last night? Absolutely. I was cheering as loud as I could for the team and desperately wanted them to win. But, you know, although the game could have been better for Duke, the season could not have been.

From the trauma and turmoil of last April and the dire predictions of the collapse at Duke, look at what this team has accomplished. And I'm not just talking about the ACC regular season and tournament championships or the top ranking at the end of the regular season. I'm talking about the intense bonds of affection that developed not just among the players but also between the team and the fans.

The season was filled with individual scenes that, collectively, gelled into a beautiful portrait. I'll remember things like Nick Horvath's bank shot to win the DePaul game in overtime, Mike Dunleavy's "how'd he do that???" move at Georgia Tech, Andre Buckner coming into the Clemson game wide-eyed to hit crucial free throws, Nate James' shot-clock beating, ballistic three-pointer as he fell out of bounds against North Carolina, Shane Battier speaking of hurricanes and poems, Coach K stomping the floor and looking ten years younger after his hip surgery, and so many more.

Sadly, we'll lose a man who provided us with so many of those special moments - Chris Carrawell. Who can forget Chris' defensive prowess, unique post-game comments, or the moment on Senior Day when, with the lights dimmed at Cameron for the first time in years, he enjoyed a thunderous standing ovation in the glare of a solitary spotlight and brought his mom out onto the court? And who would have thought that the freshmen with shoulders repeatedly popping out of their sockets and that awkward, penguin-like dribble could possibly end up as the ACC Player of the Year?

When Chris first learned that he was accepted at Duke, he broke down and cried. On Friday night, as Coach K signaled the ref to stop the game so Chris could leave the court for the final time in a Duke uniform, he cried again. The span of tears of that tough, street-smart kid from St. Louis completely transcends any spoken or written words in teaching us that, as Duke fans, we've been part of something incredibly special.

Credit has to be given to Coach K for his amazing ability to recruit a diverse collection of high school kids and mold them into mature young men with a shared mission. His coaching this year, not merely the X's and O's but more importantly the development of a magnificent, goosebump-inspiring chemistry, was simply astonishing. One scene I won't soon forget is when the Florida game ended, the Duke players lingered on the court for a while to congratulate the Florida players, give them hugs, and exchange goodwill. No one ran off to the locker room in a fit. It was a lot like the end of the Duke/Kansas game when the Jayhawk and Blue Devil players stayed on the court to talk to each other. As Duke won with dignity, they also lost with dignity.

That attitude did not escape others. After the game, we went to a sports bar to grab a bite to eat and watch the Seton Hall game. We were joined by a group of Florida fans and offered them our congratulations and wished them well on Sunday. One of them remarked, "I love your players and program. We all want to be like Duke."

So, we bid farewell to the 1999-2000 season. It's been a helluva ride. I imagine it will live fondly in the hearts of most Duke fans much like the fabled '77-'78 and '90-'91 teams. I know Coach K has the attitude of "Next Play" and of always looking to the future, but sorry, Coach, I'm going to let this one linger for a long time to come.

P.S. A great part of this season was traveling around and finally getting to meet a number of DBR readers and bulletin board regulars, people like Watzone at the pickup games, Elliot B. and the Grahams at Madison Square Garden, SoCal Duke Fan and the Rangers at Arrowhead, TieGuy and Cat in Krzyzewskiville, McGrupp, Henry Hirose (from Japan), and Rob Mac K. (love the Two Dukies!) at the ACC Tournament, Forrest and OldSchool up at the Carrier Dome, the Blue Poups everywhere, and all those who saw the DBR sweatshirt (thanks, Stray!) and gave an appreciative word or nod. The best part of the DBR, hands down, is making so many wonderful friendships. Didn't a popular fellow once say, "It's not about wins and losses; it's about relationships."? He sure as hell had that right. Also, special thanks to BluBones who let me send my first wireless e-mail from his Palm Pilot at halftime from the Carrier Dome. Way too cool!