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Posted on May 1st, 2018

The Geography of My Mind – Old Grudges Die Hard

Some people make lists of the things they’re thankful for. Not me. I make lists of the things I hate. Well, not really, but I would have a long list of things I didn’t care for if I cared for making that sort of a list. In all reality, though, I don’t “hate” much. As I’ve said somewhere in these long-forgotten essays, words like “hate” and “love” are overused and seldom understood. I’m the type of person that comes to a boil quite quickly, but more often than not I cool down just as easily – that is if I allow myself to. Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older, that is the case. Or maybe it is simply that I continue to incrementally remove myself from society bit-by-bit and the reality is that I give myself less opportunities to boil and therefore less need to cool down. But never you fear: I can still get worked up on my own at home alone. It holds true: I can still cool down just as easily when I’m yelling at myself in the mirror. But I digress, as usual…

I think somewhere in these pages I’ve also claimed that I’m a “diplomat” in some fashion, or at least an aspiring one. While I certainly have my opinions on everything, like everyone else in the world, I take great pride in my ability to be “objective” (as much as anyone really can be). In fact, I get an odd sort of enjoyment out of loosening my stranglehold on a particular position. I look at a lot of the things I used to think and believe years ago – sometimes only months or weeks ago – and am amazed at my stance today. Surely all a part of the maturity process, but I do pride myself on my willingness to cede my ground – when I want to. No doubt in certain types of relationships and arguments I remain ever stubborn, mostly with the ladies, and I guess that explains why most of my time is spent yelling at myself and not some woman. You’re welcome, ladies. I’ve taken myself out of the gene pool, apparently…

But there are a few things I do hold onto that still irk me, and they’re so superficial it’s funny, and therefore inconsequential. By the time this hits the stands the NCAA tourney will be over, and at this point I’m glad to say that there are a few specific schools who did not win the crown, as close as some of them came. Every year, and not just in college basketball, but college football, too, I root hard against a few schools for the trespasses they made against me. In football it is Texas, Miami and USC on the big stage, primarily (I’m sure there are others depending on which way the winds blow). This largely comes down to their historical prominence, but also their fan bases. These schools, among others, really have some of the most obnoxious fans. And while all three have dipped in their productivity of late, and therefore are less fun to “hate,” I still harbor disdain for them. But because we’re just wrapping up college basketball season, and months away from football season, let us turn to the schools I “hate” there: Kansas, Indiana, North Carolina and Duke.

As a Big Ten guy, my typical rule of thumb is that I pull for all those teams to do well – except for when they play my squad. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so they say. And I believe it, for better or worse. But Indiana, in basketball, one of those supposedly premiere programs with lots of success – decades ago – rubs me the wrong way. We’re rivals of sorts (see if you can figure out which school is mine), but there have been some contentious recruiting battles and some of our prized pups stolen away from us; this causes the hate to simmer. Maybe not boil, but simmer. They say time heals all wounds, but there are few incidents where I can imagine supporting IU.

But Kansas, man, they’re the worst. What could have been? Some 15 years ago they plucked our coach away (an even easier clue for you) and it’s mostly been downhill ever since. Sure, it was his dream job, I can understand that, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt – still does. I was trying to explain this to a gal who went to KU recently but doesn’t really follow basketball (she also went to Duke for grad school and we were watching the game together and she barely cared at all until overtime). I said, “We were in a relationship for 3 years; I thought it would last forever. He burned me. He told me he loved me and then left me in the poverty of a horrible basketball program.” She didn’t seem to care. Stupid KU fans…

But for KU to get “my” coach, they had to lose theirs, too. And where did that coach go? To North Carolina, the team that beat us on the road to the Promised Land (that’s your last clue and if you can’t figure it out you clearly went to a directional school). So, of course, preventing us from reaching the highest high earns you a great deal of hate – especially when it comes out later that you were cheating the whole time. To add further insult to injury, UNC wasn’t even punished for it. The big bad NCAA, the “nonprofit” organization that loves to make up the rules as they go along, bully everyone into submission, get fat off the student-athlete, and generally behave like a mob, well, they couldn’t find anything to stick on the ole’ Tar Heels. Bluebloods indeed. Just another shiny example of crony capitalism, I guess…

And finally, Duke. Yea, Duke has beat my squad several times, but I’m not sure that is why I don’t like them. In fact, I love their leader – Coach K. What a great guy and a great coach. I admit I’m jealous to not have someone of his ability to walk our sidelines for decades. And therein lies the problem: you sustain greatness for that long, under the same regime, and your fan base becomes authoritarian. Private schools are filled to the brim with snobs as is; get them something overt to confirm their assumptions about themselves and the egos go bonkers. Man, when he retires that program will fall hard – for a little while. And I’ll be there to revel in it…!

In the end my point is this: it sure is easy to hold a grudge, especially if you want to. Do any of these make any sense on the grand scheme of things? Of course not. Not in the slightest. But if these are my biggest grudges in life, that means I’m not taking great offense (see this month’s Remote Senselessness for more on that) from other potentially more heinous affronts to society. Is that a good thing or is that apathetic? As a self-proclaimed diplomat I think it is good. I’ll keep my hate on the sidelines.

Marco Esquandoles
Great Hater

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