I was a Cameron Crazy
Feb 1, 2000
Review by brim
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Cameron Indoor Stadium, strong Duke tradition of excellence, Coach K, great ACC competition
Cons:tickets are impossible to get if you're not a current student or a sickeningly-rich alum
If not for its academics, Duke is most famous for its men's basketball team. The Duke Blue Devils won the National Championship in '91 and '92, becoming the first team to accomplish back-to-back titles since John Wooden's legendary reign at UCLA during the 60s and 70s. The Blue Devils continue their domination today; they are currently ranked #3 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. Just a year ago (1999), they played in the national championship game, losing in a heartbreaker to the University of Connecticut Huskies. And the year before that, the Devils played a superb season, reaching the #1 ranking, only losing to eventual champion Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
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The current Duke coach is Mike Krzyzewski (Sha-shef-sky), also known as "Coach K." A point guard at West Point, Krzyzewski was under the tutelage of Bobby Knight, who is the successful head coach of Indiana University's men's basketball team. Coach K later went on to coach at his alma mater, where he rebuilt his school's failed basketball program. He also gained a job as an assistant at Indiana under Bobby Knight, and he coached the USA Pan American team, winning the gold.
With all his successes, Coach K was destined to achieve bigger and better things. With a recommendation by Bobby Knight, Coach K attracted the attention of the athletic director at Duke University, Tom Butters. Butters hired Coach K in 1980 to replace Bill Foster as coach. This time, instead of no-pressure job of rebuilding an already failed program, Coach K had the much more difficult task of continuing the tradition of excellence at a school whose motto is jokingly mutated from "Eruditio et Religio" to "Eruditio et Basketballio."
Since taking over in 1980, Coach K has led the Duke Blue Devils to a 400-189 record (.679), including 13 NCAA Tournament bids, eight Final Fours, six Title Games, and two National Championships. In fact, Duke has been so successful in the NCAA Tournament that the Final Four is often called "The Duke Invitational." In the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Duke has won the tournament championship three times under Coach K and has won five regular season titles. Mike Krzyzewski has the highest NCAA Tournament winning percentage (40-11 or .784) of any active coach, or 6th highest all-time. He has been recognized for his accomplishments with 4 ACC Coach of the Year awards and 5 NCAA Coach of the Year awards.
Coach K is a good role model, something he obviously didn't acquire from his mentor. Never has a Duke athlete gotten in trouble with the law, which is something to be said considering all the stories you hear about college athletes these days. Coach K is active in the community and helps with various charities, particularly the Jimmy V Foundation for cancer research (named in honor of the late Jimmy Valvano, who coached North Carolina State to a national championship in 1983).
I have heard Coach K speak on several occasions, and it may surprise you, but he is a really talented orator. At pep rallies, he astonishes his audience with his excellent story telling ability and sharp sense of humor. With his penchant for public speaking and his fame from coaching, Coach K is in a position to be a great ambassador for college basketball. At Duke, he is the second most powerful authority, ranking behind Duke's president Nannerl Keohane. He lobbies for the rights of collegiate athletes and uses his authority to help see that the Duke excellence continues into the next century.
"OUR HOUSE" -- CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM
The Duke University Blue Devils play at home in Cameron Indoor Stadium, in Durham, North Carolina. This is one of the all-time greatest arenas for college basketball. On the outside, it has the same gothic architecture and stone as the rest of Duke's West Campus. Inside, the styling has a traditional, classy feel, with wood paneling and brass railings. As you enter Cameron from the street and you step into the ticket lobby, you first notice the glass display cases which house Duke's championship trophies and other awards. However, the trophies will later be moved into the new Cameron Annex which will serve as a place for the public to learn about the history of Duke Basketball.
What makes Cameron special is the fans, especially the students. Duke fans are known for being rowdy, loud, and obnoxious, and they have earned the nickname "The Cameron Crazies." Quite small by modern standards, Cameron holds only 9,314 fans. The students are packed in bleachers surrounding the perimeter of the court. Regular undergraduate students are on the long ends of the court; the band section is behind one basket and the graduate students are on bleachers behind the other basket. This arrangement, with the students packed in right on the edge of the court, gives them an advantage when it comes to being loud and obnoxious; they can do it right in the opponents' faces!
Duke students make all kinds of noise during the game. To disrupt the opponents offense, the Cameron Crazies constantly moan "OHHHHHHH!" The noise level in Cameron approaches deafening levels. On TV, you can't really appreciate how loud it really gets in there. Besides the normal "DE-FENSE" and "Let's go Duke", the Crazies have all sorts of idiosyncratic cheers and gestures:
* When an opposing player fouls out, all the fans wave their hands while chanting "Ahhhhhh.." then they all yell out "SEE YA" when the fouled out player sits down on the bench. You'll notice that the experienced seniors will try to fake out the students by pretending to sit down then getting right back up, making us all yell out see ya too soon. It becomes a bit of a game.
* Another cheer is the "Boink , Boink". When an opponent is dribbling, we yell out "Boink" every time the ball hits the floor. When he picks up the ball to pass, we'll chant "Ahhhhhh", then "PASS!" right as he passes. As you might guess, we'll also yell out "Shoot!" or "Miss!" or "Turnover", whatever happens. It's pretty annoying.
* When an opponent turns over the ball either for traveling or making an errant pass, we'll do the "Frankenstein." This is kinda hard to describe, but basically we extend our arms out in front of us and bob them up and down alternately. I never knew that it had a name, but I heard some radio announcer say "...and they're all doing that Frankenstein thing." Supposedly, it originated to make fun of Eric Montross, or a similarly goony North Carolina player.
* Duke students are the ones who invented the "Air Ball" chant. Or so I hear. We also went one step further one year when the German Detlef Schremf (formerly of the Sonics, not sure who he plays for now) threw up an air ball and we all chanted "Aer Wulfe" [German for "Air Ball"]... (not sure if I spelled that right. In fact, I'm pretty d4mn sure I *didn't* spell it right!)
* And of course we do all sorts of distracting things when an opposing player is trying to shoot a free-throw. One is for all the students in the band or graduate school section (behind the basket) to lean to their right, then shift to their left right as the guy starts to shoot. Another is to jump up and down wildly, all the while yelling at the top of our lungs. One tactic that seems to work very well (I haven't yet run a chi squared test to see if it's statistically significant or not) is for everyone to "Shh!" and get really quiet, so quiet that you can hear a pin drop. Then all of the sudden as he begins to shoot, yell out "RAAAH!!!"
* Speaking of free throws, one year there was this little incident with a laser pointer but I won't even begin to talk about that.
* Many of our cheers are directed against legal transgressions made by specific players on the other team. One year, a visiting player got in trouble for auto theft, so everybody took out their car keys and rattled them at him. Another time, a player was accused of date rape, so students threw condoms and panties at him. We might make fun of their physical flaws. So we might chant "Webster" to a particularly diminutive North Carolina State guard, or make Frankenstein gestures for Eric Montross (vide supra), or pretend like we're snuffing out our cigarette butts on the ash-colored light spot on the back of Rasheed Wallace's head.
Besides our chants, the Cameron Crazies have all sorts of traditions:
* During the opposing player introductions, we all wave and say "Hi, <insert name here>".
* Some people have slightly modified that to "Hi, <insert name here>, YOU SUCK!". But that's not very nice. It also seems to work against us (chi squared test pending).
* In the moments preceding the tipoff, all of the students jump up and down rhythmically (or we try to... but Duke students are overwhelmingly Caucasian), yelling "WOOP!" with every jump. The jumping is controlled by a drum beat by somebody in the band. The beats start off slow, every few seconds, then grow faster and faster, until all of the sudden we're all jumping around chaotically right as the ball is about to be tipped.
* When a Duke player goes to the line to shoot a free throw, we all raise our hands above our heads. If it goes it, we pump our fists downward and yell out "Whoosh!" and clap. If it doesn't go in, we clap anyway.
* Only band geeks know the real words to the fight song. The rest of the people think the fight song goes "Go to Hell, Carolina, Go to Hell. EAT SH*T!"
* No matter whom we're playing, we always find an excuse to chant "GO TO HELL, CAROLINA".
[for readers naive to Duke basketball tradition, Carolina is not some poor girl we all despise. Rather, Carolina refers to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, our biggest rival.]
Okay, enough about traditons and stuff. More about Cameron itself.
There is not a bad seat in Cameron. While only the dedicated few get to sit front and center on the TV side, the average student (me) can usually find a decent seat in the corner somewhere or on the non-TV side. Even if I come in late, I can usually sit in the front row of the non-TV side, right on the corner of the stadium. It's almost behind the basket, so your perspective is a little warped, but you're SO CLOSE! In Cameron, you can literally see the sweat on the players' bodies.
I've been spoiled by Cameron. I happen to have 8th row season ticket seats to the Houston Rockets games at the Compaq Center, and the view is TERRIBLE compared to any seat I've ever had at Cameron Indoor.
Duke games in Cameron are intense. It's not like NBA games where the fans just sit around and clap every once in a while. In Cameron, the students are on their feet for the entire game, and they're constantly yelling and screaming. Usually your voice is hoarse for a day or two after the game.
It is hot in Cameron. There is no air conditioning there, and the heat of all 9,314 fans packed together really adds up. No matter how cold it is outside, it gets uncomfortably hot inside once the game gets going. By the time the game is over, you're drenched with sweat, even if you dressed lightly in t-shirt and shorts. And you can forget about wearing your shirt again before you wash it -- it gets NASTY.
You can tell that the heat really wears on the players. After just a minute of game time, the players are all visibly sweating. The Duke players are more used to it, but the noise, heat, and game pressure all really fatigue the opponents, both mentally and physically.
The naive of you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Camping out? Is he writing this epinion in the wrong category? Shouldn't this be in Sports & Outdoors?
No, camping out is the small price that Duke undergraduates endure to get the privilege of seeing really exciting basketball! Duke students get free admission to all of the basketball games. Basically, it's first come, first serve. Instead of having to buy tickets, we simply show our Duke student IDs and we're granted admittance to the game.
Usually, the doors to Cameron open up two hours(?) before tipoff. Before that, students line up outside. The earlier you get there in line, the sooner you'll get to enter, and you'll get a better seat. Usually, they have some sort of system in place to keep people from cutting in line for a better spot. This means giving different hand stamps or bracelets according to how early you get in line. It also means physically partitioning the line with barricades. Thus, if you are among the first to get in line, you get a certain color stamp, and get to be in "section one." The next people in line get another stamp, and they are in "section two." You get the idea. The people who oversee this process are called "Line Monitors" and they are selected members of the Duke Student Government. The whole idea is to deter cheaters. It doesn't really work.
Okay, you're wondering, what does this all have to do with camping out? I'm getting to that! You see, for games that not too many people care about, like Duke vs. The Upper-State All-Stars of Former-College- Players-Who-Weren't-Good-Enough-to-Make-It-to-the-Pros-or-even-the-CBA-
or-even-a-European-league, not too many people line up, and you can just go find a seat once the doors open. For bigger games, the line gets longer and you'll have to wait longer accordingly. For some of our conference games, people start lining up 8 hours before the game. So if the game starts at 6pm and you have a 12:50 class, you guessed it. You can forget about that class! Trust me, it happens. Of course I'd never do such a thing. I definitely wouldn't skip my Kaplan MCAT Prep Class to go see Duke vs South Carolina State. But other people might. That's how crazy basketball season is around Duke.
Okay, okay, this camping thing!!! Well for the really big games, people are allowed to camp out in tents to preserve their place in line. For a minor conference game, like Duke vs Clemson, there might be a half dozen or so tents placed three days before the game. But for the BIGGEST GAME OF THE YEAR, Duke vs UNC, people start camping out three weeks before the game, and there will be literally hundreds of tents. For most UNC games, there are so many people camping out that only the people willing the brave the elements in a tent will be allowed admittance to the game.
When you camp out, you're assigned a tent number. The first tent to stake a claim to the frigid soil outside Cameron is Tent Number One. The second is... what, you already know this? Wise guy. Yes, it's Tent Number Two. And so on. The trick is that, in order to keep your place in "line", you have to make the tent checks. The tent checks occur at random, so you have to have someone in the tent at all times, because if you miss a tent check, you're bumped to the back of the line. Juggling classes and tenting at the same time becomes a very tricky deed, indeed. Those classes will just have to suffer! Just kidding. Each tent can house up to ten people, but only one person has to be present for a tent check, so usually you can find someone who doesn't have a class, or doesn't mind skipping.
This tenting thing sounds rough, doesn't it? Well it's not really too bad. With most hardships, there are usually some associated perks. The tenting community around Cameron Indoor Stadium is known as "Krzyzewksiville" or simply "K-Ville." And it's really a party zone. There is a lot of socializing and a lot of drinking... which means a lot of sex. The cold isn't really so bad when you're drunk and horny. If the Bacchanal atmosphere isn't enough to convince you that camping in K-Ville is worth it, there's yet another perk: free pizza. Yes, kids, Coach K usually buys pizza for all the campers.
Duke plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference, or the ACC. This conference is disputably the best basketball conference of all time. Sure, at one time or another, the ACC may be relatively weaker and another conference, like the Big 10 now, might be stronger. But over the years, the ACC just dominates. Look at how many ACC teams go to the NCAA Tournament each year. Look at how many great NBA players are from the ACC.
ACC Teams to win the NCAA Tournament - 1957, 1974, 1982, 1983, 1991, 1992, 1993.
Years that an ACC Team has reached the Final Four since 1981 - 16 times out of 19.
Duke's biggest rivalry is with the UNC Tar Heels. It was voted by Sports Illustrated as being the greatest rivalry, in all sport, of all time. There's no doubt about it. The rivalry is made unique by the fact that the two schools are so close, being separated by only 12 miles of highway. Yet the schools really despise each other. The biggest rivalry is in men's basketball. Duke and UNC are two of the most storied programs even in college basketball, with two great coaches in Coach K and Dean Smith, 5 national championships shared between the schools, and many great players including Grant Hill, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, and Vince Carter.
THE BEST BASKETBALL GAME I've ever had the pleasure of watching, was the Duke-UNC game of 1995. That was the year that Coach K was out with a back injury and Duke suffered its first losing season since 1950-something. Carolina, on the other hand, would reach the Final Four that year. Yet when Duke and Carolina play, you can throw out the record books. UNC came out of the starting gates quick, building up a twenty point lead. But Duke methodically chipped away at the deficit, and soon the game was tied, and the teams went back and forth, before finally heading to overtime. In overtime, UNC again outplayed Duke, but Duke again came back, and a last-second 30-footer by Jeff Capel sent the game to an exciting double overtime. In the end, UNC emerged victorious, but the game goes to show how great ANY game between Duke and UNC is.
While basketball has produced the best rivalry, Duke and UNC compete also in football, women's basketball, volleyball, field hockey, soccer, etc. Each and every game between the two is exciting. The teams play at a higher level when they compete against each other.
The other teams in the ACC are also excellent basketball schools. They are Maryland, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Florida State. While some teams go up and down, the ACC teams overall are always very competitive on the court. Like the Duke-UNC games, you can usually disregard the record book when it comes to an ACC game.
How Duke Basketball Has Changed My Life
Before going to Duke, I was not a sports fan in the slightest bit. I didn't watch sports on TV and I didn't attend any high school sporting events. I didn't memorize stats or care who was ranked in the latest AP poll. I hadn't even watched the great Duke teams of the past, although I was vaguely aware that Duke had a good basketball team.
I choose to go to Duke because it was a good school academically. And like college is supposed to do, it changed my life. But Duke did so in more ways than giving me a great education. Duke allowed me to discover a new passion: Duke basketball. I'm so glad I got to attend Duke and discover something I'd been missing all my life. I went to all the games and cheered for Duke with every little bit of energy I had. Now that I'm an alumnus, I watch all of the games on TV, and the ones that I can't watch I try to listen to over the internet. I read the Duke Chronicle online and the internet sites www.goduke.com and www.dukebasketballreport.com... just so I can "stay in touch."
There really is nothing like being able to experience a game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Al McGuire called it "a zoo." Dick Vitale, with his amphetamine-like excited emotion, has said that Cameron Indoor Stadium is the best place for college basketball in America. Both of them are right. I have gone to all the home games during my years at game, and I have the fondest memories of all the exciting times watching Duke basketball. It's a shame that not too many people will ever get to have that experience since tickets to games in Cameron are so hard to come by. If you ever get a chance to go to a Duke game, DO IT! Your life will be forever changed.
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