If you read The News & Observer this morning, you might have noticed a short Q-and-A with Andy Bagwell, who recently co-authored a book called, simply, “Duke Sucks.” The book’s title makes it easy enough to figure out what it’s about.
A sample chapter title: “Duke students are a bunch of wealthy, elitist punks who you probably wouldn’t want to get stuck talking to at a polo match.”
A sample photo caption: (Below a picture of Cameron Indoor Stadium) “Cameron originally cost $400,000 to build – lunch money for current students.”
Bagwell, a 1992 graduate of The University of North Carolina, wrote the book along with Reed Tucker, a 1995 graduate of UNC. Bagwell admitted that both are biased, and said he hopes that no Duke fan decides to hurl an egg in his direction. Perhaps, then, it’s unwise to share that Bagwell will be in The Pit on the UNC campus at noon on Wednesday for a book signing.
And, oh yes, Wednesday is also when the Tar Heels will happen to host the Blue Devils at 9 p.m. in the Smith Center. In anticipation of another Duke-UNC meeting, here’s an extended Q-and-A with a man who helped write the book – or at least a book – on hating Duke:
The News & Observer: How did the idea for “Duke Sucks” come about?
Andy Bagwell: We’re both Carolina grads, so absolutely and totally admittedly horribly biased about hating Duke. I think you can actually minor in that at Carolina. But it’s kind of more than that. We started talking about it and we kind of figured out that it really goes beyond Carolina fans hating Duke. This is like a nationwide phenomenon. We would go places and talk to people who have no affiliation whatsoever with UNC and talk about how much they hated Duke. So [this was] just really widespread. The idea of the book was to just try to figure out why.
Why is that MSNBC can take a poll in 2005 of who was the most-hated college basketball team and out of more than 300 teams, Duke garnished 53 percent of the vote? That’s more than just Carolina fans. So we just took a bunch of things together of things that we heard about why people hated Duke over the years and if you look at the book, those chapter titles will tell you what those things are. And then we just basically researched it. Looked into them and tried to figure out is there any validity to any of these things? Or is it just a bunch of crazy Carolina fans or crazy Maryland fans or whatnot. And then set up like a court case, and have a verdict or ruling for each charge that we set them up with. So the overall idea, though, was to just try to figure out why is it? Why is it that everyone hates Duke – not just Carolina fans.
N&O: How much time did you guys spend working on this?
AB: It was a while. I mean, we started the process – we made the original pitch back in I think it was December of 2010. So it was over a year ago. Got the finalized deal I think it was either January or February of 2011. And then worked on it for a good six months after that. We did a lot of interviews, did a lot of research into books that were written, articles, everything that we could dig up out there. We went to some odd-ball places. We talked to a hair-coloring specialist to see if we could determine whether or not Coach K dyes his hair. We interviewed former players, refs, people in media. And just kind of compiled all that together and then started writing after that. So it was a pretty good process.
N&O: So does Coach K dye his hair?
AB: Honestly – you know what? I don’t think he does. And that was one of the most stunning things that came out of writing the book for me. I was convinced that a man that’s over 60 years old could not have jet-black hair. But the person that we talked to, who had written a book on hair coloring, looked at hundreds of photos of him. And his verdict was, you know, I don’t think he does. Also – the other big thing that kind of lends into it is his Polish descent – so apparently that’s a hereditary trait within people of Polish descent, that some of them don’t go gray at all. And there was some other evidence in there. But that was honestly stunning to me. And we reluctantly admitted in the book that we are now convinced he does not dye his hair.
N&O: So how did you and your co-author, Reed Tucker, come together to write this?
AB: So Reed and I are both Carolina grads. Reed was the class of ’95, I was the class of ’92. I was very good friends with Reed’s brother, Brian. Brian and I were in a comedy group together in Chapel Hill in school and after school, called Selected Hilarity. So I knew Reed first through Brian but then also got to know him on my own. So we’ve known each other for a long time. But he lives in New York. He writes for the New York Post and his brother, Brian, actually, is a writer for Saturday Night Live now. So he has comedy writing in the blood.
N&O: What are some other things you learned you might not have known?
AB: I’m a class of ’92 grad, so my frame of reference is very much late 80’s on in terms of what I know about Duke and why I don’t like Duke. But digging back into the past was really surprising. I had heard some things in passing about Art Heyman and Larry Brown got into a fight in the ‘60’s. I didn’t know the details behind that. And for something to be that heated 40 years ago, or 50 years ago now – I didn’t realize how that was even before Krzyzewski arrived.
And then we even found things back from the 1930’s that were going on, where Duke players were practicing throwing the basketball at the head of the Carolina players – this was laid out in the one of the books about Duke basketball. So the history of it beyond my own frame of reference was a surprise. The other thing that surprised was when we got the idea for the book and we kind of settled on the title – and we wrote a whole chapter about this – we said, well, this could be fun. Let’s go out and get a web domain for this – let’s go secure DukeSucks.com so we could put the book on there, that would be the homepage. Well, we looked at it and we found out that it was taken. And you see in the book, you know who owns it? Duke University. So we were surprised at that, and a little shocked, that someone somewhere along the way had a meeting at Duke to secure funds to secure the domain name DukeSucks.com. That was pretty surprising to me.
N&O: How has the book been received so far?
AB: It’s been pretty interesting. I’m hearing from a lot of different people. I think it’s funny to watch the folks at St. Martin’s. The guys who published the book have been really great. But I think they’re also, you know, they’re sitting up in the Flatiron building in New York and I don’t know that they have a really good window on college basketball. And I think they’ve been a little shocked at how quickly it sold. We actually had to do some sort of a rush reprint on Thursday, two days after the book came out, because it kind of flew off the shelves. But we certainly heard from a lot of people. Carolina fans are the easy audience, of course, so they’ve been lapping it up like thirsty dogs. And we do have maybe one or two Duke friends left that find it amusing … it’s been great feedback so far, interesting. I hope that no Duke fans track me down and throw eggs at me or anything like that.
N&O: Will you be at the game on Wednesday night?
AB: I’ll be spending the day Wednesday in Chapel Hill begging for a ticket. So if fate goes well for me, yes. I don’t have a ticket right now but I’ll be watching it somewhere and hopefully will find my way to the a ticket somehow, some way on Wednesday.
N&O: So why do people enjoy hating Duke so much?
AB: We kind of tried to sum it up in the book and I think the overall arching theme of the things that we talked about and the things that we researched and found is … that the perception is that Duke gets away with something. We actually liken it to the whole occupy one percent, 99 percent Wall Street movement. That there is this sense that there’s lots of little things to hate about Duke, but overall, people feel like they’re getting away with something that’s un-American. That Duke is the one percent and all the rest of us are saying pull back the veil and see [the Blue Devils] for what they really are and maybe they won’t be so revered by some folks. I don’t know … and also, people just don’t like it when J.J. Redick flops.
Thanks to Andy for his time.