clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Guest Column: Aaron Dinin On Duke Football

Aaron went to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and sent us his thoughts on the game and on Duke football.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Winning at Duke is no longer a stretch
Winning at Duke is no longer a stretch
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Dinin went to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and sent us this report. Thanks Aaron!

Yes, the Devils did go down to Georgia…

A I scanned the Georgia Dome crowd on New Year’s Eve, I spotted a girl holding a poster that read: "The Devils went down to Georgia to beat Texas A&M." Those of you who know the Charlie Daniels song referenced in the poster should be able to see the irony. No one wants to be the Devil. The Devil loses!

Normally, when I see a "Devils went down to Georgia" sign at a major Duke sporting event in Atlanta, I shrug off its silliness mostly because I’m watching a basketball game and we’re not likely to lose. We, as Duke fans, are so confident in our basketball team that we always show up expecting to win. Not this time. This time I was watching Duke Football in the Georgia Dome in a New Year’s Eve bowl game, we were 13 point underdogs, and not only had the girl excitedly waiving her poster not realized the Devil goes down to Georgia and loses, he loses to a once-in-a-lifetime fiddling talent named Johnny. Uh-oh…

Even if you don’t know the Charlie Daniels song, if you’re reading DBR, you know how the Chick-fil-a Bowl ended. The song basically follows the same script. The feisty Devil is down in Georgia where he challenges Johnny to a fiddling competition. The prize is the Devil’s golden fiddle versus Johnny’s soul. The Devil throws the proverbial first punch – quite the haymaker – but Johnny counters with a dazzling display of skill and execution. In the end, the Devil succumbs to Johnny’s superior performance, acknowledging his greatness by laying his golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet.

It was an entertaining storyline to witness in real-life… if you were an Aggie fan rooting for Johnny Manziel. For Devil fans, the first 30 minutes were thrilling, the next 20 were nerve-wracking, and the final 10 were depressing. At least, that’s probably the series of emotions you had if you were watching on TV.

Because the Devil from the song goes down to Georgia and loses to Johnny, it’s easy to forget that the Devil isn’t bad. The Devil is so good, in fact, that he’s willing to wager his prize fiddle. Johnny just happens to be good, too. And not just above-average good. Johnny is like the Heisman-trophy-winner of fiddle players. There’s no shame in losing to the Heisman trophy winner of fiddle playing, just like there’s no shame in losing to an actual Heisman trophy winner. Oh, and by the way, the Texas A&M game was the second straight Duke loss to a Heisman Trophy winner.

Would I have rather entered 2014 celebrating a Duke football victory in the Georgia Dome stands alongside thousands of other cheering Duke fans instead of in the Georgia Dome parking lot toasting a handful of die-hard tailgaters? Obviously. But, when one of the best college football players alive needs a second half performance for the ages just to barely beat you, the final score doesn’t tell the whole story. The people in the stands do.

If you weren’t at the game, what you probably don’t know is that the girl holding her "Devils went down to Georgia" sign was surrounded by a sea of Duke Blue. Using the admittedly unreliable eye test, nearly half the 67,000-ish people at the Chick-fil-a Bowl were cheering for Duke football. They were cheering just as loudly and just as passionately as their Texas A&M counterparts – a group of football fans famous for their passion and dedication. And the Duke fans carried themselves with a swagger and energy that said, "We belong here. We’d be willing to bet a fiddle of gold because we think we’re better than you."

Leading up to the game, a lot of people didn’t agree. The Texas A&M fans sitting near me were so shocked by Duke’s early dominance that they couldn’t stop raving about Duke’s execution. They weren't watching the perennial losers they’d come expecting to see. They were watching a really good football team go toe-to-toe with their school – a school from a state and conference that eats, sleeps, and breathes football.

So yes, the Blue Devils went down to Georgia. Yes, they challenged Johnny Football. And yes, unfortunately, they lost. Sometimes you come across a once-in-a-lifetime player – be him a fiddle player or a football player – and you ultimately have to lay your golden fiddle down at his feet. But the difference between losing when you think you’re going to lose versus losing when you believe you’re going to win is an important one, and it’s one Duke football fans haven’t experienced against eating-sleeping-breathing football schools in a long time.

For the fans in the Georgia Dome on New Year’s Eve, the difference was unmistakable. Yes, Duke may have lost the game, but, for the first time in a very long time, every Duke player and fan in that stadium felt confident enough facing an eating-sleeping-breathing "football school" to bet the proverbial golden fiddle. Even though we lost the bet, I’m excited to root for a team in 2014 with the confidence, swagger, pride, and skill to confidently challenge the best football schools in the country. And next time, we’ll win. You can bet on it.

Aaron Dinin is a 2005 graduate of Duke University and author of The Krzyzewskiville Tales. Buy his book on (, read more from him at, or send him a message @AaronDinin.

Celebrate Duke's magnificent football season with a new shirt!