Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 16 - Proud to be a Duke Blue Devil Fan

The rivalry is alive and well on Tobacco Road.  So to all you UNC Tarheel fans, yeah yeah I know I've heard it all before. Duke makes you want to puke and The Dookies (another word for dog poop).  And the healthy rivalry goes on.  For ten years as a basketball official I couldn't really route for any one team.  I surely couldn't bet on any one team although I have seen and still continue to see many officials do so whether it be the ESPN dream teams or at the local race tracks. (One official I knew actually was wearing his NCAA shirt while playing poker at the race track.)  The only events that NCAA officials or anyone associated with the NCAA is allowed to place financial wagers on is Poker and Horse Racing.  The logic goes that we can only bet on games the NCAA doesn't have.

One year into my NCAA officiating career I couldn't wait to do my normal March Madness bracket predictions and show all the guys in the pool that I actually did know what I was talking about when it came to basketball.  After the first round of 32 games, I had only missed 2, not bad.  Going into the championship game I was poised to win if Duke won.  I was so excited that Duke had won that I really didn't care if I won the pool or not.  The next morning at work, the Pool Overseer called and told me I had won.  I now without realizing it was in a position I had never found myself in before.  If I accepted the $220 this would be a clear violation of my morals and obligations to the NCAA.  I hadn't really thought about winning before it really was just for sport to "show the guys" at work they weren't the only ones who knew a thing or two about basketball.

The first devil in me said, "Nobody will know if you won a little work pool of March Madness so it's not a big deal. Take the money." But the Blue Devil in me knew that ultimately I had to face myself in the mirror so doing the right thing I told the Pool Overseer to contact San Jose Catholic Middle School and donate it to the Maddie Clifton Scholarship Fund.  He was shocked!  "Wow," was all he said. I trust to this day, that is what he did.  My reward came in the form of having sanctimonious bragging rights.  I couldn't quite admit, due to my NCAA obligations that my team had won!

For those of you who don't know who Maddie Clifton is, she is the 12 year old girl who trusted her 15 year old friend and neighbor Joshua Phillips enough to go to his house after playing softball with him on a Sunday night.  She disappeared and many of my friends looked for her in dumpsters, backyards, and  back alleys to no avail.  Finally they found her body beaten, rolled up in a rug under Joshua's mattress of his waterbed. Joshua still has given no reason for his heinous crime.  How does a teenager turn from innocent child to a devil of monstrous proportions? I imagine slowly.

For me being a "Blue" Devil is the complete opposite of this portrait of a boy taken over by a "Real" devil.  I have followed Coach K and read his books on leadership.  I admire and just plain love the guy and his philosophy. Don't get me wrong, I've read what Coach K thinks about officials.  In his words, when we put on our black and white striped shirt, he expects us to be perfect.  (realistic?  hell NO!) I was blessed enough to fulfill one of my life long dreams and referee as the first female basketball official at the Bob Gibbons Tournament held at Duke, UNC and NC State every year.  I officiated the best high school boys basketball athletes in America on Coach K's court. This is where Bob Gibbons chooses his McDonalds All Americans.  Although I was always approached when entering the gym with my officials bag and told that the spectators sat some other place, it was rewarding to tell them, "I know" and walk right by them as they stared at me while I put on my uniform.  Shock and awe!

I remember driving home after the tournament and having to pull off the road on my nine-hour journey home.  I was so overcome with emotion that a dream had been fulfilled that I needed a moment to gather myself.  No one was there to witness it.  I didn't have it on video tape. (Although some parent of the losing team does and insists that the female referee didn't know what she was doing and cost their son's team the game.)  I had spent my Memorial Day Weekend volunteering to officiate this tournament, spent over $300 for food, lodging and gas, and yet being a fan of basketball first and Coach K second this meant a great deal to me.

I remembered the 12 year old boy from Arkansas who had never been inside Cameron Stadium before asked me if he could shoot a shot from half court?  He was afraid to go out on the court.  I assured him that as long as I was there he could go give it a try and nobody would say a word.  If they did, I would take care of them.  Somehow this twelve year old boy trusted me. He was so excited he ran out on Coach K's court and shot a shot from half court.  He MADE it.  I can't even make a half-court shot. It was hard to believe what I just saw. He ran over to his Dad who gave him a big hug.  As I rebounded his ball, his dad came over to me and said, "Thank you, you made his day it was his birthday and he just wanted to say that he  had been on Coach K's court."  He didn't have to say a word,  I knew how he felt.

So to all those Tarheel fans, I'll just wish you a great season.  

If we were to disrespect our competition, we would be disrespecting ourselves. 
- Coach Kryzewski, Leading with the Heart

To find out more about Maddie Clifton click on the link below:

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