I was actually on the Duke campus once, when I was maybe 12 years old. It was hot and empty and I didn’t get a good vibe from it (although they did let me run around in Cameron Indoor Arena), but I was 12 and it was August, which is a terrible time to be outdoors in North Carolina. The school itself, despite that visit, has never quite seemed real to me.

It’s in my nature not to like any program so relentlessly praised for its classiness and “wild and crazy” fans — who just look like doofy frat kids in blue afro wigs from where I’m sitting — and the presence of loathsome pitch-man, corporate motivator and (um) “leadership ethicist” Coach K certainly hasn’t helped. But while I generally don’t like Duke’s basketball team very much, I can’t say I had much recollection of Reggie Love, a way-undersized power forward who backed up Carlos Boozer on Duke’s 2001 National Championship team (and had tryouts as a receiver with the Packers and Cowboys). This is all a long way of saying that I see no reason why he’s not qualified to be “body man” for Senator Barack Obama. The Charlotte News-Observer‘s Sean Mussenden describes Love’s new gig.

In 2006, [Love] was considering entering a training program for a Wall Street investment bank, when a friend alerted him to an opening in Obama’s Senate office in Washington. He got the job, and when Obama decided to run for president, moved on with him. Mentally, he said, the past 15 months on the campaign trail have been like playing four straight seasons of college sports. Physically, he’s feeling better than he did during the bruising NFL training camps…

At a campaign rally in Charlotte, Love’s hometown, the weekend before the North Carolina primary, Obama coaxed a reluctant Love onto the stage, calling him “one of the staffers I love the most. He is there, day in, day out, never complains, has always got a cheerful attitude,” Obama told the crowd. “He is going to be going places.”

Basketball rivalries in North Carolina are fierce, and hatred of Duke is intense in many pockets. But Love said he didn’t meet a single person who said they would not vote for Obama because of his decision to bring a Blue Devil on staff. “Even though the Duke-Carolina rivalry is fierce, there’s some civility to it. Much more so than with the (University of) Maryland fans,” he said.

…The job is both exhausting and frequently repetitive, and includes lots of menial jobs. At a restaurant in Greensboro on the eve of the North Carolina primary, Love held Obama’s box of hot wings while the candidate worked the crowd. Love carries his suit jacket when Obama gets warm.

The pressure is intense. He and other staff members are surrounded by hundreds of press members, so the fear of accidentally saying something to damage the campaign is real. Even seemingly trivial things get reported. For example, earlier this month Obama, Love and other staff members went to the back of the campaign plane to challenge members of the press to a game of Taboo, a word-association game. Players offer clues to teammates to get them to guess words. One of Love’s clues, “where gay people buy clothes” was reported by dozens of news outlets. Obama guessed Abercrombie & Fitch. The answer was The Gap.

It’s odd to see Love citing the relative “civility” of the UNC/Duke rivalry, considering that the first result on a Google search of his name is this, a post from the anti-Duke website “The Truth About Duke” that features photos of Love…having some things done to him while passed out drunk in the basement of a UNC frat house. I didn’t click through to the NSFW photos, but the post’s concluding sentence — “Hopefully we’ll hear chants of ‘Teabag’ throughout arenas this winter” — convinced me that that was a wise decision. While being photographed with some guy’s nuts on you seems like a pretty uncivil thing to me, Love’s right that it will no doubt seem relatively mild in comparison to whatever those swift boat f-cakes have in store for Barry O.