As someone who has spent way too much of his dwindling mental capacity over the years obsessing over Duke basketball, our version of Skull and Bones that everyone gets to join, I can’t tell you how uplifting it is to find Yale, of all teams, as our opponent in Saturday’s game.
Here we were all ready to play Baylor, a team from a town best known for David Koresh and the Branch Davidian siege, and instead we get to play the only team in the tournament where players with names, faces and G.P.A.s like Marshall Plumlee and Grayson Allen’s would be right at home.
No, we weren’t founded in 1701, but we have a fair amount in common. Duke’s president, Richard H. Brodhead, has three degrees from Yale and for more than a decade was the dean of Yale College. New Haven and Durham, N.C., once widely known as dumps, have remerged as somehow cool, to the astonishment of alumni (I graduated when dinosaurs still walked in 1971) who knew them then. Like us, you know what it’s like to share a state with a big, public university that has an excellent basketball program. We would advise you on what it’s like to be overshadowed by that other program, except that we don’t know.
It’s true that playing Yale is a somewhat ambiguous draw. Yes, on paper, a 12th seed from the Ivy League is more promising than a No. 5 from the mighty Big 12 (which has only 10 teams, an indication that no one there went to Yale). But if we lose — definitely not impossible! Really! We’re incredibly thin, and Yale is legit — it would join our legendary tournament disasters at the hands of Lehigh and Mercer in the Duke Haters Hall of Fame. If we’re going to lose, much better to lose to Baylor.
On the other hand, how cool to play a team from a university perceived as more privileged, full of itself, entitled, snooty (and white) than we are. The game is already being viewed as basketball’s version of the Iran-Iraq War. Seriously, it’s part of our brand, but being hated as your default position gets really old really fast. Welcome to our world, and many thanks for taking some of the incoming fire.
Yale, it turns out, has had its hoops moments. Who could forget 1957 when John J. Lee Jr. out of Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn led Yale to the tournament? And Chris Dudley, bless his heart, played for 16 years in the N.B.A.
That said, we know that it has been a while, 54 years, in fact, since Yale has been in the tournament and that this year was the first time it had ever won an N.C.A.A. tournament game. And Yale’s Payne Whitney Gymnasium is so far from the main campus that many students have never even ventured inside it, so we know that many Yalies don’t entirely get this basketball thing. With that in mind, we humbly submit some guidance for proper behavior and salubrious spectating at the Check Your Privilege Invitational Saturday. And good luck. But not too much good luck. This matters more to us than it does to you.
1. Basketball is just like squash, crew, lacrosse and hockey, sports you’re more familiar with, except that it’s played mostly by really tall people who run back and forth along a 94-foot-long “court” and try to throw an orange round ball through a hoop. (The “court” is not the same as the one in Washington that politicians argue about placing Yale Law grads on.)
2. We know you’re new at this, but as in war, you don’t want to make yourself an obvious target. So that guy shown on TV during the Baylor game wearing the retro canary yellow sweater with the big Y on it? We don’t care how clever and meta you think it is, please don’t go there. And the girl wearing the cap disparaging Harvard? We know you’re better than the rest of us, but unless you’re playing Harvard or it’s the day of the Game, which no one else in the world gives a sliver of a rat’s behind about, just give it a rest, O.K.?
3. Screen-and-roll is not any of that stuff they talk about at the Yale School of Drama.
4. March Madness refers to this tournament you’ve deigned to be a part of, not to Brutus’ stabbing of Caesar, but we’ll assume you know that.
5. No, it’s not P.C., but your coach, players and bench are allowed to berate the refs in only one language.
6. When they call a charge, there’s no acute accent over the “e.”
7. A proper pregame meal is pulled pork barbecue, not caviar and morels.
8. You might see exuberant young men taking a pair of scissors to the basketball net after a game. Fear not, this is not mere vandalism. To put it in terms you might appreciate, think of it as a modern echo of the stolen tress in Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock,” or of Theseus cutting his own hair at Delphi — a trivial act as metaphor for something greater. Or better yet, just get over it.
9. It’s Krzyzewski. Thirty-six years later, we can’t spell it either.
10. Sure, do your obnoxious “Safety School” chant if it makes you feel better.