The Death of the Cameron Crazie

February 21, 2012

I have been a Duke fan for my entire life.  Some of my earliest memories are of watching Duke games at home, clapping along and doing all the hand motions along with the student section.  From early on I knew I wanted to go to Duke and sit front and center in Cameron, paint my chest, and go nuts.  As I got older and started to go to a few games a year my opinion stayed the same.  I would always be the guy up in the seats that did all the cheers with the students, getting more than a few dirty looks in the process.  Being in the student section seemed like the most fun you could possibly have.  It’s exciting to sit that close to the court in any stadium but at Duke you had a chance to really affect the game.  In middle school, I snuck down there at halftime and just walked in.  I weaseled my way into a decent spot behind one of the baskets and had the time of my life.  I couldn’t wait to get to Duke to go to every game like this.  As embarrassing as it is to admit, the thought of being at all of the basketball games is probably the biggest reason why I came to Duke.  All of my friends had decided on Carolina and it was really tempting to follow them there and have a great time.  Academics played a role of course, as did family connections (both in getting accepted and choosing to come) but without basketball games there is no way I would have made the choice I did.  That is why it truly pains me to have to tell you that Cameron Indoor Stadium is a shell of the place it used to be.  The real Cameron Crazies don’t exist anymore.

During my freshman year at Duke (I am a senior now) I went to every game, lived in a tent for over a month for the UNC game, and generally put a lot of effort into being a Cameron Crazie.  It was the most disillusioning experience of my entire life.  I had expected a bunch of very serious basketball fans mercilessly heckling the opposing players and loudly supporting their own.  Sadly this could not have been further from the truth.  The vast majority of the people were freshman who hadn’t started supporting Duke until they got in and didn’t start watching games until they got to school.  Even worse the mean edge that made Cameron special was completely gone.  Creative and insulting cheers were met with stony glares from the other students and more than a few verbal admonitions.  “We’re not Maryland,” was a common one, as was “we are better than that.”  By attempting to actually get under the skin of opposing players I alienated myself from the new, softer Cameron Crazies.

I also offended this new and worthless brand of Duke “fan” by having the audacity to drink before the games.  Getting a good seat requires waiting outside for at least three hours.  For me, this requires a couple of beers.  Before the UNC game of that year a senior girl accosted me and said, “I can’t believe you are drinking before this game.  I could never do that.  I take Duke Basketball way too seriously.”  I of course responded by asking her to name the UNC starting five, or every Duke scholarship player.  She couldn’t do it, and I doubt more than half the kids in line could have done it either.  Needless to say, I don’t go to a lot of games anymore.

Being a Cameron Crazie has become more about overt and ridiculous displays of “team spirit” like sleeping outside for months at a time, or painting your entire body than actually having a tangible effect on the game or being knowledgeable about the team.  Fans can affect a game by making noise or by intimidating opposing players and referees.  Duke students used to do both, but all the neutered student section can do now is clap loudly and launch worn out cheers on repeat.

The counter-argument here is that the student section hasn’t changed, but I have.  I see and experience it differently as a 22 year old than as an 11 year old.  There is probably some truth to this, but there has also been a real and negative change in the behavior and attitude of the Cameron Crazies.  If I tried to list all of the funny and offensive chants that either I have heard about or heard myself it would take forever, but I do have a few favorites that should never have died out. “If you can’t go to college go to State” is a great one as is chanting “bullshit” whenever the refs make a bullshit call.  This list compiled by ESPN.com also has a few winners.  My personal favorite was when Florida State player Nigel Dixon, unaffectionately known as “Big Jelly” was struggling with a weight problem in the mid-2000’s.  When he played at Cameron someone always had a fried chicken leg on a fishing rod that they dangled in front of him while he shot free throws.  They also repeatedly chanted “Please don’t eat me.”  He was always so flustered that he never had even an average game in Cameron

In case you still aren’t convinced, I am far from the only person to have noticed this.  The New York Times recently published an article entitled “A Little Less Crazed at Duke,” and even the Duke student newspaper, The Chronicle, has noticed the lack of student attendance and general energy.   More importantly however, the basketball program has noticed it.  Two years ago, members of the basketball coaching staff came and met with at least four fraternities on campus in order to increase attendance among the Greek organizations.  A prominent assistant coach and a graduate assistant came and sat down and had a few beers with the members of my fraternity in our common room.  We discussed the reasons that most of us don’t go to games and what it would take to get us there.  I cannot remember his exact words but they were approximately, “We do not like the make-up of the crowds today.  We want a drunker, angrier crowd.”

There are many reasons why the crowds in Cameron have been shrinking in both size and enthusiasm.  Some of these reasons, such as Duke’s increased exposure on television and better TV’s to watch the games on, are outside of our control.  There are many things however that the administration can do to increase and diversify the crowds.  Obviously there are also a lot of things the people who currently go to games can fix, but we will get to those later.  The administration, or the athletic department, or whoever makes basketball decisions (Coach K obvi) needs to find a way to get some fresh blood into Cameron.  Currently the time commitment required to get a decent seat at the games is too much for a large segment of the students at Duke.  Duke is a pretty tough school so most people only have time for two big time commitments.  School work is one of those commitments for everyone so unless you are willing to sacrifice everything else to wait in line for games then you can’t get a decent seat.  I, like many people, choose a social life and a Greek organization.  Many other people choose athletics, both varsity and club, or other campus activities.  There has to be a dedicated effort to allow people to get a decent seat without sleeping outside or waiting in line during the day for 8 hours.  Most people just won’t do it, and without a decent seat it’s much more enjoyable to watch the game at home or in a bar with a huge TV. I am not sure the best way to make this happen but there needs to be a serious effort made or else crowds will continue to dwindle and the people there will continue to be ineffective and soft.

Now on to a problem that I do know how to solve: the behavior of the people who actually go to games. I’ve got a few easy steps for people to follow.

1.  Get Angry

Stop worrying about seeming classy and composed.  You are in a packed mass of college students.  There are no consequences for being a soulless bastard.  Just go to town on opposing players and refs.  Trust me, it’s fun as hell.  And more importantly it actually helps the team.  A proper crowd should emotionally hurt opposing players and actually scare the refs.  I would never advocate physical violence, but I absolutely advocate being loud and angry enough that somewhere deep down the refs think you might jump over press row and rip them limb from limb.

2. Stop Dressing Like a Total Douche

The costumes and gimmicks and absurd paint don’t help the team.  It helps you get on TV.  This transparent attempt to get some airtime might be my least favorite part of the current Cameron Crazies.  If I see one more jabronie wearing a Spiderman suit or Darth Vader mask I am going to snap.  What is the point of spending your life in line to go to a game if your costume is so absurd you can’t see in it?  No one is intimidated by this.

3.  Get Good and Drunk

This one is self-explanatory.

4.  Retire Some of the Lamer Chants

Some of the chants make all Duke students look terrible.  Do we really need the “boink, boink, pass” garbage anymore?  Does anyone think that works?  If you honestly do then you’ve got a problem that I cannot help you with.  Also I never want to hear a “read the rulebook” chant.  That is just sad.

Most importantly, let everyone else around you enjoy the game in their own way.  If you don’t want to get drunk and be angry then that’s a personal problem, but let the rest of us have our fun.  We are all between 18-22.  I have my whole life to sit quietly in the seats and cheer for good plays.  I only have a limited number of games where I can get drunk and try and start “Tom Izzo is a chode” chants.  So next time you get the urge to chastise someone for being a little over the top just remember, I know I don’t go to Maryland and I am absolutely not better than that.

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5 Responses to “The Death of the Cameron Crazie”

  1. wombat said

    see you on 3/3 crowbs

  2. Chelsea said

    I think “read the rulebook” is kinda funny..

  3. Alex said

    Couldn’t agree more. If more Crazies dropped the face paint and picked up a case or two of beer before the games, most of these problems would be solved.

  4. jonny said

    get off your high horse and start a funny chant then

  5. Roar said

    crowbs, i agree with everything you said. I kind of think some of the costumes are funny. quinns cooks are comical, but theres a problem, he’s a walking turnover. see you 3/3 and keep em comin homy

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