Posted: 10:49 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013
Like a lot of Duke fans perhaps, we run hot and cold on John Feinstein. We have enjoyed some of his books quite a bit and he’s as thoroughly readable now as he was at the Chronicle. Yet at some point, he really seemed to sour on Duke and to a lesser extent, the ACC. Some theorize that this is because of Duke’s decision not to hire the late Tom Mickle, a close friend of Feinstein’s, when the A.D. position opened (Duke opted instead for Joe Alleva. Feinstein may have had a point here).
Whether that’s the cause or not, Feinstein has habitually derided Duke since then, including a legendary outburst during the 2005 Duke-Navy football game while working with the Navy broadcast crew (Feinstein offered his resignation after cursing the officials on-air).
The ACC stuff is more recent and generally (we think) relates to expansion. You may also remember that in 2000, he published The Last Amateurs, a book about the Patriot League, which had, he argued, a purer approach to athletics than the corrupt big conferences.
Still, for some odd reason, the Washington Post seems to prefer him to write about the larger conferences, hence his most recent swipe at ACC football. Parts of it can’t be argued: the ACC is not the SEC and is not likely to be any time soon. But with the ACC rather improved, the argument has shifted.
Previously he argued that ACC football was pretty much irrelevant and pointless and that Duke was a joke.
Now he concedes that FSU is a championship-caliber team and that the top four teams are competitive with the SEC, and also promotes Duke from irrelevant to one of the dwarves, which is one of the nicer things he’s said about Duke football. Not too long ago, if we recall correctly, he suggested that Duke drop the sport because it could never again be competitive.
It’s not the first time he’s been wrong about something Duke-related. He also argued that Coach K’s Olympic role would really hurt Duke basketball.
The point? It’s not that Feinstein shouldn’t criticize the ACC or Duke; if he thinks he should then he should. It’s just that consistency and fairness would be nice. Changing the argument when the ACC improves is kind of second rate, just as sneering at Duke’s improvement in football when the program proves him wrong (Duke has achieved competitiveness and there’s no inherent reason why Duke can’t do what Notre Dame, Stanford and Northwestern have done in the sport) is pretty weak. He’s way smarter than that. And while the rest of us may not be Feinstein smart, we’re smart enough to get that.