Duke Is So Gay

The "Duke Hate" meme is making its way around the Interwebs. Salon and Newsweek have articles on the subject, both of which nip around the edges of the obvious. As I wrote just before the regional finals, Duke is hated because they're white, they play white, and they win.  

I also noted in passing that simply mentioning the Blue Devils in the wrong bar can evoke "crude accusations of homosexuality"... Well, a Duke grad and staff writer at The New Republic, Seyward Darby, has picked up on this phenomenon and run with it. Indeed, he casts poor little Duke as the victim of -- you guessed it -- homophobia!

Being a good liberal, Darby can't bring himself to disagree with the "Duke = elite" argument, but, alas,

there's one major problem with the neat morality play that left-leaning Duke haters have constructed for themselves: the jarring and disproportionate level of homophobia that routinely gets directed at the basketball players.

He continues,

Exhibit A, however, is the cascade of homophobia directed at superstar three-point shooter J.J. Redick during his years in Durham. In 2004, N.C. State guard Scooter Sherrill said publicly that, after Redick shot threes, he had "his hand up like he's gay or something." A quick perusal of Redick's Wikipedia history reveals dozens of now-deleted comments like, "J.J. Redick is a confirmed homo sexual" with whom it's rumored "coach K made sexual arrangements." A notorious photo snapped during a game shows a Duke fan with a "JJ is Redickulous" sign standing unsuspectingly next to a Maryland supporter who adds "-ly gay" with his own poster.

The New York Times wrote about the cheers of "Brokeback Mountain" often shouted at him during games, and you can still find photos on Tarheeltimes.com that show Redick's face superimposed on images from the movie.

Redick graduated in 2006, but anti-Duke homophobes have found no shortage of targets in the years since. (As far as I know, no Blue Devil has ever admitted to being gay--not that it should matter.) A YouTube video titled "dook's (duke's) Kyle Singler caresses Jon Scheyer's face"--which slows down on-court footage of Singler brushing something off his teammate's cheek--has drawn comments from users like bradley23unc, who wrote, "kyle was just lettin jon know that those lips were his later on that night. ... jon gave kyle a blowjob in tha locker room after tha game." And, just last week, when the website canigetaverdict2.com asked, "Who's The Most Annoying Duke Basketball Player of Alltime," one user declared Christian Laettner, who played for Duke in the early '90s, "annoying, overrated, homosexual, and white."

Before continuing, I want to note that, while I went to Duke and still cheer for the team, I'm not a super fan. I attended only four games in Cameron Indoor Stadium, and I didn't sleep in a cold, muddy tent for weeks to see the big game against UNC. In addition, I'm well aware that homophobia is all too common in the world of sports--and hardly the exclusive province of Duke haters.

Why has this happened? The answer, I think, has something to do with race and class. Disparagers of Duke typically frame their opposition to the school, and its basketball team, in terms of anti-elitism: Duke, according to this view, is a private school plopped in the Carolina Piedmont, where it caters to wealthy, mostly white elites who have zero regard for the local community--in Will Blythe's words, "those obnoxious students and that out-of-state arrogance."

That's a defensible sentiment, as far as it goes, even a liberal one in many respects. But, in the world of sports, being white as well as wealthy often translates into a perceived softness. (And Duke's white players seem to attract the lion's share of the homophobia directed at the team.) For many Duke bashers, expressing anti-gay sentiment seems to be just one more way of delivering the message that Duke players are whiny, wimpy, pampered products of privilege.

To be clear, I am not alleging that the majority of anti-Duke types are homophobes. And, while I will be rooting for the Blue Devils proudly today, I will be the first to concede that there are good reasons to criticize them. But, if liberal Duke haters are going to continue insisting that their contempt for my alma mater's team carries some kind of political virtue, they may want to at least grapple with the fact that there is a nasty strain of bigotry emanating from their ranks.

Funny though, I never heard of anyone calling Sheldon Williams gay... 

Regardless, the whole starting point for Darby's essay is "redickulous." No Carolin fan actually thinks Jon Sheyer is queer ... he's just "wimpy," "preppy," "clean cut," you know, too damn white!