Looking bummed out of their minds, J.J. Redick and Christian Laettner stand at the post-game cocktail party last night in the ballroom inside Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“Smells like a stink bomb went off in here,” said Redick. “This room is eerily empty.”
Waiters carrying trays offer them fungus-infested salmon, warm beer, and sour caviar.
“I think it’s time we tell the world what it was really like playing for Coach K,” said Laettner. “He was much more like Bobby Knight than people realized. What a control freak. It was all about him and his ego. He made us destroy our bodies diving for loose balls in practice.
“And tonight he blew it. What a catastrophic choke getting blown out by Carolina on his last game at Cameron Indoor. The guy didn’t win the biggest game. Ninety of his former players showed up to anoint him as the second coming of Jesus Christ. But he lost. What a colossal waste of time and money. I’m outta here. Christ didn’t come again.”
Redick and Laettner book out of the hotel and head to Raleigh Durham Airport. They run into the other 88 players already there. Every one of them had planned to be dancing all night at the victory after party but instead wanted no part of hanging around the funeral scene after getting blown out by Carolina. The mood had turned foul.
Grant Hill is one of those angry former players evacuating Durham prematurely because he isn’t into celebrating anything.
“Coach K didn’t win the big one and this will tarnish his legacy for the rest of eternity,” he said. “People have been saying he’s the greatest college basketball coach of all time. After tonight, we can all put that to rest. John Wooden won the last game he coached and won his last game in UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. I’m disgusted with tonight and massively disappointed Coach K didn’t win the big one tonight. And the only reason he won the national title in 1991 and 1992 is because he had three All-Americans and first-round draft picks on his team: me, Laettner, and Hurley. We won those for him. Any coach could have won back-to-back national titles with the three of us on his team.”
Back at Cameron Indoor, caterers load mountains of trays of uneaten food into trucks.
“We’re driving all this food over to Franklin Street in Chapel Hill where 700 million Carolina fans are partying their brains out all night long,” said the head caterer. “They’ll need some nutrients to wash down all the champagne, vodka, and beer they’re throwing down and on each other on the most thrilling night of their lives.”
Across the United States, unscheduled impromptu parties started upright as the final seconds ticked away. And the Cameron Crazies’ tears started to smear the blue paint off their 1600 SAT faces.
From Nebraska to South Dakota to Boston to Missouri to Mississippi to Oregon to Nevada and every other state in the country, Americans celebrated the Emperor being caught with his clothes off. Goliath got his ass whipped. The biggest and meanest lion in the forest had been ganged up on by bears and tigers and destroyed, humiliated, and put out of its misery.
“You know that book Coach K wrote called Leading With the Heart,” said Sammy Sportface. “I read it. Coach K made me feel like because I didn’t go to Duke and live my life the way he coaches his team and demands his players to live, that I wasn’t smart nor enlightened and could never be as successful as him. But after last night, it’s clear K doesn’t have all the answers on how to live a successful life. He choked on the grandest of stages, on Broadway, and I don’t want to follow anything a choker says. Man, I feel better knowing Coach K isn’t as brilliant as he thinks he is.”
These were the prevailing sentiments among all 320 million Americans – even the 90 Duke players who wore Coach K T-shirts to the game and then felt really sheepish leaving the stadium expecting a big party and instead, experiencing a cataclysmic defeat that no one will ever forget even after they die. In the afterlife, everybody will still bring up regularly the night Brady Hoke dropped three-point bombs that exploded Coach K’s arteries.
For Coach K and his Dukies, it all went awry so quickly. This was not supposed to happen. Losing the game was not even considered in any way likely before the opening tip-off. And yet in the final few minutes Carolina annihilated Duke. Even better, they embarrassed Duke.
With all those Duke players watching.
It was as delicious as a Grape Slurpee, as beautiful as Olivia Newton-John in the last dance scene in “Grease.”
Back at Cameron Indoor, Cameron Crazies continued weeping. Not since they got one question on their SAT wrong have they been so despondent and agitated. It was Doomsday in Durham. A night the Crazies died. The night K died. The night the country lived. And felt a weight lifted off their shoulders, the weight of Coach K’s self-righteousness.
These conflicting emotions won’t last just one day. This will last through today and tonight and tomorrow night and for years and decades and eons. Centuries after we’re gone people will always think about this night and feel good and the Dukies will feel so much pain and it will never go away.
After receiving his bench and paintings and giving his last-game-at-Cameron super awkward speech, Coach K and his wife whatever her name is walk away together in silence out of the stadium. This was supposed to be a much different night than it turned out to be.
Mrs. K. has been to 12 Final Fours. Most wives of college basketball coaches have been to exactly none. So it’s impossible to feel sorry for her. She’s enjoyed far too many fun parties in hotels and ballrooms.
I like it when glorious celebrations are spread among more people rather than hoarded in a condescending and holier than thou way like Coach K has. I like it when the head coach talks to the reporter at halftime rather than sends his assistant to do the deed. K feels the half-time wisdom he wants to share with his players is so valuable he doesn’t have time to talk with the little people.
Last night was one of those sports moments that anyone who witnessed it will never forget. Yes, it was that big and that important from a historical perspective. The supposed “God” of basketball lost. God doesn’t often lose. It’s news every time it happens. But God never loses when he’s being raised up to the Heavens with the lights burning bright and all his believers watching in awe as their Savior graces them all with his presence.
This was about religion and competition and love and hatred and vengeance and us vs. them. This was as gigantic a moment as the sports world has seen in quite some time, the end of an era ending in tragedy and despair.
And what a joy it was to watch. What theatre and drama.
A bitter taste and humiliating ending for K and his Dukies. And a serendipitous joyride for the rest of us.
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:
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