(Editor’s note We didn’t have much of a freelance budget, but we managed to find someone to cover Duke’s Sweet 16 game(s) for us … assuming she doesn’t get kicked out for professing her love for Grant Hill)
By Deana Nazworth, special to ACCSports.com
In the early 1980s, there was a series of Folgers Coffee commercials that always ran the same premise: “We’re at (Famous Restaurant), and we’ve secretly replaced this man’s coffee with dark, sparkling Folgers crystals. Let’s see if he can tell the difference.” Of course, through the magic of television, no one ever could.
For three days now, I’ve felt a little like Folgers coffee.
You see, on Sunday evening, as the Duke Blue Devils were getting dressed and boarding the bus, I was being hired to cover their Sweet 16 game in Houston. The how and why of my hire, I presume, rests mainly on the fact that I live in Texas, I am willing to drive 4.5 hours each way, and I will work for a grand total of $0.
You see, I am not a full-time journalist. I am a junior high English teacher. Most days, I don’t report. I corral.
Yet here I sit, readying myself for an adventure I neither planned for nor dreamed of. Because you see, not only am I a teacher, I am a life-long Duke Basketball fan. More importantly, I am a life-long Duke Basketball fan who has never seen a game in person. From Bilas to Tyus, for 29 years, all of my cheering and fretting and cussing has been done from home.
So it only makes sense for my first game to be one where I cannot cheer, fret, or cuss – at least not outwardly.
“We’re here at the Sweet 16, and we’ve switched your knowledgeable, well-respected journalist with a socially unacceptable part-time writer and sports fan. Let’s see if you notice.”
When first offered this gig, I declined. I thought it was ridiculous. I worried there was no way I could pull it off. I am Folgers coffee, for crying out loud. And this time, people would not look at me with bemused indulgence, unequivocally announcing that, why yes, “this IS just as good as before”. Those people got PAID to say that, and we all know it because you’ve tasted Folger’s coffee, right?
Truthfully, I feared finding myself in the stadium on Friday night, surrounded by other reporters as one lifts a finger at me Invasion of the Body Snatchers style, signifying clearly to everyone that I do not belong. Then some NCAA official would appear, snatch my credential, and promptly declare me ineligible for the postseason.
When I mentioned this to the person who hired me, he replied that no one would notice. “When you and your colleagues go to a teacher’s conference, do you automatically assume that someone there is not a teacher?”
Well, no. We know they’re all teachers, but that doesn’t stop us from picking out the terrible ones and sitting far away from them. (We’re not all prairie skirts and school bus button covers, people.)
After much thought and a little coaching from my friends, I decided that when opportunity knocks, you have to open the dang door. Even if you’re deathly afraid of what waits on the other side. To Houston, I would go.