Buzzer Beaters and Close Calls Better for Duke’s Record than My Heart

There really are few things more exciting in sports than a basketball buzzer beater, or a come from behind victory, especially this time of year.

You have the fate of a game, a season, a rivalry all dependent upon one shot or one run in a game. Lately Duke has been the beneficiary of two such games that just so happened to be against two fierce rivals. The results were certainly good for Duke’s record but I can’t say the same thing about the status of my coronary health.

In fact, I am contemplating sending future medical bills that involve a cardiologist to the Duke University athletics department for reimbursement. Why shouldn’t I, it is their fault.

There are few things that get my blood pumping more than a Duke Basketball game, especially one that involves arch rival North Carolina. It is the years of strong dislike that have made that game more valuable each year than seemingly any.

Watching it and remaining calm is the greatest example of an exercise in futility. If you care about either team you can’t watch that game without hand wringing, potential swearing and the occasional thrown pillow. Such was the case in this most recent Duke-North Carolina game. I tried but failed miserably to stay calm.

The only point in the game when I was beginning to calm down was when the Heel went up big. Once the lead got to about 15 or so about I was resigned to a tough loss. But then Duke started coming back. Part because North Carolina wasn’t playing well and part because Duke was.

Before I knew it, I had to get emotionally invested again in the game. But I wasn’t expecting a comeback victory.  A comeback to make the game close sure but I wasn’t expecting a victory. But with just over 11 second left and Austin Rivers with ball in hand I was beginning to feel my heart race. Granted this was 11 o’clock or so at night and I had work the next day; not a great combination.

When Rivers shot the ball I was not all that confident it would go in but quickly I realized that his shot was true and a celebration was to ensue. The problem is my wife was in bed and I knew a loud scream wasn’t feasible. I believe my arms flayed up throwing my remote control down sending my cat scurrying. I put my scream on mute and gesticulated emphatically for a good one minute straight.

All that did was rev up my heart even more and I knew that my 5:00 start would be rough one. But I told myself this doesn’t happen that often my heart is good for a game like that once a year, maybe.

But then Thursday night I found myself at it again. Sitting late at night watching Duke face a significant debt with about half of a half remaining against another rival, this time NC State. I had no hope of a comeback given how bad they had played. but then as time ticked away slowly, almost too slowly, the Blue Devils chipped away at a 20 point lead.

With just over two minutes left to go Duke took the lead for the first time all game. I had some hope they’d get the win but at the same time I wasn’t hopeful. I’d seen these comebacks that came up short before, even early this season against Miami. But Duke played with a determination late that I hadn’t seen them play most of the season.

Defensively they were applying great pressure and offensively they were getting more aggressive and it helped they were hitting shots.

Once the win was in hand, my heart start racing again and again it was past 11 o’clock I thought to myself, “I can’t take too much of this.” I’m only 32 but my heart can’t take this kind of stress.

I’ve been realistic all season. I haven’t felt this was a national title contender or necessarily a team that would win the ACC, but here Duke is again, in position to possibly do at least that and with those expectations come stress. Not casual watching. Duke isn’t good enough to simply show up and blow out teams even at home.

That means more close games. And while they certainly have shown the ability to mount those comebacks, and the guts to pull out the last second wins, how much longer will they go before their luck runs out.

The wins keep adding up and the expectations keep rising and with that so does the stress of every fan who watches the game. Yeah these games may be fun for the casual fan to watch but for the Duke fans they end up being just a few plays away from heartache or hear attack.

I guess it could be worse, the team could be awful and not competitive and that might be less stressful, but heart problems or no it is much more fun to win no matter how it happens.


  1. Hence why I go light on tweating during tight Duke games. I can't control what I might do or say. I think it beckons back to my high school days. Being one of the few Duke fans in Tar Heel Country, every game meant  either a good day at school or constant harassment. 

    • I have found that tweeting during the Duke games helps me but keeping me a little preoccupied on something other than punching a wall or throwing something at my very new very expensive television.

  2. Usually something expensive is attached to whatever I'm tweating on. I'm sure my parents have some amusing stories on my past behavior. 

    • I've been kicked out of the house on more than one occassion when my behavior was, shall we say less than exemplary during a Duke game. And I've nearly spent a night or two on the couch, not even in the guest room after a particularly bad performance in my adult years.