Shades of blue

~~ Originally printed in The Chapel Hill (NC) Weekly, March 2012 ~~

It’s pretty bad when your husband tells you he won’t watch basketball with you anymore because you’re too profane. No, this wasn’t me. It was my mother with the potty mouth.

We take basketball seriously in my family. And it’s a bit trying at times because we’re not all pulling for the same team. My stepfather’s a Carolina fan, and so is my son Caleb. But my dad went to Duke, and he’s hard core. My mom, my daughter, Blake, and I are all Duke fans. My daughter, Bailey, doesn’t understand how someone decides to become a fan of one team or another.

(By the time you read this, the NCAA Tournament will be over. At the time of this writing, Bailey is leading nine others in our family bracket challenge with 91.4%. Yeah, I know.)

I cannot even begin to adequately convey to you how hard it is to be a Duke fan in this town. It’s almost biblical in its effect, like I should pull my cloak up over my mouth and call out, “Blue Devil!” when I approach more socially acceptable types. I feel like such an outcast.

When I was an impressionable young person at Seawell Elementary School, all the other kids would band together and chant, “Duke is puke, Wake is fake, but the team I hate is NC State. Go Heels!” I was like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who weren’t allowed to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. I didn’t really believe the words, but, oh, how I wanted to say them. Because of human nature – and my touch of OCD – I would repeat those forbidden phrases over and over in my head, but one day they came softly out of my mouth. My father was close by. I once fearlessly played “s-h-a-t” against him in Scrabble without reprimand, but this was different. He raised his eyebrows, and my heart stopped. I’d heard about naughty children who had their mouths washed out with soap… But nothing happened.

I did try unsuccessfully as an adult to switch allegiances. Being a Duke fan is as much my birthright as OCD. I also have an honest tendency to yell at the television, especially when my team is playing stupidly and doesn’t seem to give a shit that they are most assuredly going to lose to a 15-seed if they don’t shape up. Sigh.

The children won’t watch basketball with me anymore. They say I get too “angry.” I guess that’s OK. My mom says I can come watch with her anytime.

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