Sea of Blue, Puddle of
Burnt Orange

By

Leonard Zwelling

         NRG Reliant Park is no place to watch a basketball game.
Yet, on Friday evening, March 27, there I was with my son Andrew doing exactly
that along with 21,000 of my closest friends. Why?

         In a word—DUKE.

         The nation I joined in 1966 has grown from a regional site
of excellence in North Carolina to a worldwide power of learning,
accomplishment, and basketball. The university’s great leap occurred with the
coming of Terry Sanford as its President in 1969. He remained at the helm of
Duke, despite being a graduate of the University of North Carolina, until 1985.
The growth and development of Duke as a world-class educational institution on
a par with the Ivy League schools was started and solidified under his
leadership.

         Under his Presidency another great Duke trend began. In 1980
a young West Point grad was hired to be the next head basketball coach at Duke.
His name was Mike Krzyzewski and he is now the winningest coach in Division I
men’s basketball history. He has won 4 national championships since coming to
Duke and is gunning for his fifth, although Gonzaga and Kentucky still loom in
the way of his very young team with only 8 scholarship players.

         So on Friday night, while there was some red from the Utah
and Gonzaga fans and some light UCLA blue sprinkled in as well, the
overwhelming color that dominated the sea of humanity that spread across the
seats in NRG Reliant was Duke blue.

We
did everything in our power to reproduce the craziness of the Cameron Indoor
Stadium crowd at Duke. We cheered the unique cheers and sang the unique songs.
We roared as Justise Winslow ignited his teammates in front of his family from
Houston and Duke beat Utah. But that isn’t what mattered. What mattered was for
one brief shining moment, that will be reproduced on Sunday for the Regional
Final against Gonzaga, Houston was Durham and the field of the Texans was the
Duke Indoor Stadium. Houston was Krzyzewskiville. We were Duke 1500 miles from
campus as we all are every day.

         What many at MD Anderson don’t realize is that used to be us
at 1515.

         In 1984 MD Anderson was always The University of Texas’ cancer center. Rather than a silly
red line that lies about the eradication of malignancy, the colors on the
stationery were teal, sliver and burnt orange. A large portion of the operating
budget derived from the people of the state of Texas and Texans who needed the
help of the faculty of Anderson got it—for free. MD Anderson was Texas and we
all knew it and were proud of it.

         Today, one would be hard pressed to recognize the connection
between the University of Texas and MD Anderson unless the Chancellor has to
show up for a pep talk during a remedial faculty town hall meeting. The university-based rules
of shared governance, tenure, research, education and clinical care have been
replaced by those of a billion dollar corporate entity with an ATM in every
clinic, HR in every dispute, and a lawyer on every corner.

         Perhaps it is good that MD Anderson has no sports teams. If
it did, I doubt anyone would show up for a game and there would be no color
that represents the place. Oh perhaps one–green and not with envy. Can you imagine Scrooge as the mascot or perhaps a walking, talking money bag?

         Ron DePinho may turn out to be representative of MD
Anderson’s future to the same extent Terry Sanford was for Duke. Where Governor
Sanford set Duke on the course to greatness, Dr. DePinho followed in the
footsteps of his predecessor to send MD Anderson down a rabbit hole of
mediocrity and money grabbing. How sad.

         At NRG Reliant on Friday there was a sea of Duke blue and every
tee shirt with those four letters across it that one could imagine. In 1984
there might have been a sea of burnt orange at any cancer meeting in the world.
The tee shirts would have said, “Fighting Cancer Now THAT’S a Job.” No
longer.

Today,
the sea of Duke blue is an ocean anywhere the Blue Devils suit up. MD
Anderson’s minions are a puddle and working on becoming a drop in the bucket
and if you think that I am wrong, 17% of your colleagues also think that I am
wrong and that everything is great at MD Anderson. Just ask the Mansfield, Lee
and Durand group of rosy optimists. But then that means 83% don’t! That’s a landslide against DePinho in anyone’s political calculus.

It’s
not even color war any more. MD Anderson has given in to corporate greed and
the mentality of a drug company.

Fortunately,
Duke, despite a truly lack luster President now (the lacrosse scandal, the
Potti scandal and attempting to turn the Duke Chapel into a source for a Muslim
call to prayer), has been able to tap the past excellence of Sanford and the
current greatness of Krzyzewski to stay on track.

MD
Anderson has lost its way. In the pursuit of green it lost its burnt orange
luster and with it its soul.

MD
Anderson needs to get back to the future.

Leonard Zwelling