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Random Thoughts While Avoiding Work - Archives
My Pathological Hatred For Fundamentalism
My family is non-religious; my parents decided that it would be wiser if I picked my own code of beliefs as an adult, rather than being indoctrinated into something that I, as a child, would not be able to understand fully. For that, I am very grateful to my parents. When I moved to rural North Carolina from a cosmopolitan and diverse city in north-central Italy, at barely 15 years of age, I was aware of religious fundamentalism in cultures around the world and how pervasive the fundamentalism was (and is) in people's daily lives and interactions.

But when I arrived here, I was completely unaware of the religious fundamentalism that abounds in rural communities throughout the United States and how it is closely intertwined with society. One of the first questions I was asked was where I 'churched' on Sunday. That question threw me back; since when is it an absolute that I go to church? And did it matter? What if instead I went to temple on Saturday?

Simple as it may have been then, this question was just a taste of what was to be a spiritual awakening in me; through my subsequent years living in the U.S. I have developed a deep-seated hatred of religious fundamentalism. I have no problem with religious people, even the fervently religious, as long as they do not try to indoctrinate me. I believe that religion provides lots of good things to the spirits of people and sometimes religions do try to help those less fortunate.

But I do have a problem when one's specific brand of religion is highlighted and held up at the expense of all others and all who do not adhere to this strict dogma are bound for suffering. This whole line of reasoning brings up other theological points: if a higher being does indeed exist, why does he/she/it (or they?) condemn portions of humans to unspeakable pain and torture just for using free will and not believing in the official trade-marked version of the facts?
Totally Classless Sport-related Complaint
I'm a woman and I love spectator sports, especially men's college hoops. So sue me! I'd rather watch a game than shop. All the women's magazines tell me I should be interested in the latest handbag and hairstyle, counting carbs and trying to look like the (airbrushed and retouched) models, but I am much happier wondering if the ACC is really in a down year or if the Big East is overrated.

With the major (and minor) sports, there are those teams and franchises that seem to carry on a winning streak for several years; they may not win the big games all the time, but they are successful unlike their counterparts. While this should be a point of pride, instead the trend is to despise these teams, sometimes with a passion that borders on the obscene. Case in point, the Yankees (note: I can't stand baseball or the Yankees); they are a solid team. Some years they are better than others; some years they aren't. They have players like Derek Jeter and A-Rod, an enormous (or obscene) payroll and an egomaniac George Steinbrenner. But regardless, they are almost universally despised (except by Yankee fans, of course). Why? Because of their success.

The Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys (note: I can't stand American 'football' either) have undergone similar processes. And I know many of my fellow Italians who can't stand Juventus simply because they win 'too much.'

Which brings me to my favorite team. The Duke Blue Devils men's basketball team. Despite popular opinion, they have been a successful program (though not as successful) well before the Coach K era. But with Coach K, they have acquired success that has been met by a very small and elite number of other coaches and teams. Coach K is the winningest active coach out there (percentage-wise). His players are the winners of multiple Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards, among others. They have won three national championships (1991, 1992, 2001) and, despite popular opinion, some players are doing well in the NBA (Elton Brand probably being among the better ones). Some of their players are actually classy and cultured individuals. Grant Hill is a collector of fine African-American art which he exhibits throughout the U.S. Some former players have formed a partnership to renovate the old industrial tobacco warehouses in Durham, NC, to make them into condos and retail space.

Tomorrow, they will be playing LSU for a chance to advance to the regional final game in Atlanta on Saturday and the Final Four in Indianapolis. Duke is currently 32-3 and is the overall number 1 seed. They have the nation's second most difficult schedule and have played with both Memphis (another number 1 seed) and Texas (number 2 seed in Duke's region). They won the ACC regular season and tournament championship.

Their losses: Florida State, UNC-Chapel Hill (that's Carolina, for the unitiated) and Georgetown. Though their team is not anywhere nearly as impressive as the 1992 team, Duke has two great players, two potentially future great players and couple of solid (if somewhat inconsistent) players, as well as an undeveloped bench. One of Duke's great players is considered one of the top two (if not the top) players in the country.

So you would think that this team, with its impressive season (despite its losses, two of which came at the end of the regular season), great coach, solid players, tournament history, etc. would be favored by the so-called experts to win its game against LSU, right? Wrooooongggggggggggggg!

It's trendy to dislike Duke, not for any specific reason but for more 'intangible' ones. Duke is perceived as a school where rich spoiled brats go if they do not get into Harvard or Yale. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the students at Duke chose Duke above others, and many did so because of the basketball team, but also because of the stellar education and the chance to live in an area of the south that is changing rapidly. Indeed, many of Duke's students are not rich nor spoiled; some come from middle-class or lower-class families, the first to go to college, with lots of financial aid and scholarships to boot.

There are plenty of minority students on campus; there is a very active and vibrant GBLT community, a very spirited liberal feel (despite alumni such as Ken Starr, Richard Nixon and Elizabeth Dole) and a beautiful campus, only a few miles away from other great universities such as UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State, as well as a host of other campuses scattered around. So what if their men's basketball team is solid, has no problems with NCAA violations, has a good academic reputation and so on?

Instead, the analysts are picking a team that has played so far below par in the tournament, whose better player is a guy who stole 11 laptops with a friend, got a suspended sentence and was suspended from the team for a brief period in the fall semester where, coincidentally enough, there is little basketball played. Imagine if J.J. Redick had been this player and the lashing Duke would be getting now... Oh well.
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