Watching Duke in China

Those of you who have been reading Sycorax Pine for some time, or who know me personally, or who have (ahem) taken any one of my classes during basketball season, must know by now how I feel about Duke. 

I am sure it is a very fine institution in many ways, but it is the arch-rival of my beloved alma mater, the University of North Carolina (go Tar Heels!).  Thus I can't help but characterize it as the embodiment of all that is wicked in this world.  And there is nothing that makes me happier than watching one of the two annual Carolina-Duke games with my Blue Devil friends. 

One of these friends, the estimable Prof. JG, sent me this tremendously entertaining article by a Duke alum about the experience of watching the NCAA Championship in a sports bar in Beijing, where the regulars are great devotees of the sport of basketball, but not yet fully literate in the political and social nuances of college basketball fandom:

With six minutes left in the first, Jon Scheyer hits a three-pointer to put Duke up by four. The Duke fans let out some Cameron-Indoor-style enthusiasm. The Butler fans redouble their efforts to win converts. “You have to hate Duke,” exclaims one. “Coach K looks like a rat.” This critique is difficult to understand since the word for “mouse” and “rat” are the same in Chinese. Additionally, it is the mouse/rat’s cunning that allowed it to become the first animal in the Chinese zodiac. “Yes,” one of Zhang’s companions agrees, “the Team USA coach is very clever and excellent.”
Fans of each side appeal to the widespread Chinese respect for academic achievement, with Duke coming out a bit ahead because of their higher rankings across a variety of fields.  As the game (sigh) winds down to a (grr) Duke victory, the author turns to the man sitting next to him:
     “What did you think of the game?” I ask Zhang, who has been silent and transfixed for the past 20 minutes.
     “It was very interesting. I think the Duke University shall be my favorite team alongside Yao Ming’s Houston Rockets.”
     “Wonderful,” I reply.
     “I know that Michael Jordan is also from the state of North Carolina. Was he a student-athlete at the Duke University?”
     “No, he went to UNC. The University of North Carolina.”
     “I see.”
     Zhang pauses. “Duke will be my second favorite team.”

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