Aside from national championships, has there been a better weekend for Duke sports? First basketball gets a remarkable pair of commitments from a remarkable pair of players in Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones. Then the football team pulls off a huge win over Miami - but does so in a matter-of-fact, workmanlike manner - to take over first place in the ACC's Coastal Division.
This is a team which was picked dead last. We thought that seemed a bit low, but whatever. You have to earn respect, which Duke has certainly done this season.
Like all Duke fans, we're assuming, we're both impressed and pleased. David Cutcliffe has done things the right way and with a great deal of integrity. We're really happy to see his hard work pay off, and of course most of all for the players. We worked with a Duke football player several years ago, or former player we should say. His attitude about the team was appalling, and it wasn't just him, either. There was no expectation of success or anything, really. It just paid for school and kept him in shape. That was all.
So seeing the guys who bought into Cutcliffe's vision, who fought through the skepticism and disillusionment, seeing those guys succeed - and the right way - is really wonderful. So we salute them, especially the seniors. You guys have been on an amazing journey and it's not done yet.
There are some other people who should be recognized as well.
On the basketball side, when people lost faith in Duke in the '70s, there was a very small group who kept the faith, who showed up game after game, and who never lost their passion for the team and sport. Those people may be forgiven for being a bit short with everyone who arrived when success did.
In football, that group is a lot smaller. Duke went through some truly dreadful times, winless seasons, with a program starved for resources. Good men came and went, unable to compete. Even within the athletic department, people sneered at and demeaned the football program. Expectations weren't low; there were none. John Feinstein called repeatedly to give the sport up, arguing that Duke simply could not compete anymore.
Yet in spite of all of this, in the most difficult situation imaginable for a fan, there was always a core group who stuck with the team through thin and thinner.
With the newfound success of the team, these fans will find a lot of bandwagoneers showing up. This happened at Arizona in a big way after Lute Olson's first Final Four: a group of people showed in McKale Center with a roster and a snootful and started asking questions like "which one is Sean Elliot? Who's the baseball player?" And so forth.
It's part of succeeding, more people want to be part of it, and really it's a good thing. But even as the fan base grows, you have to remember your core. And the core are those people who sat their butts in the bleachers for dozens of Saturdays without the slightest hope of anything other than a flukey win.
We're just going to name a few here at the risk of offending some we may know and not list: Buddy Womble, Jersey Mike, Lizz Wall, Mike Rosen and Mr. and Mrs. Jim Robins.
But these fans are the best. Duke should in some way acknowledge their remarkable devotion to what often seemed like a pointless cause.