Recently, there has been a lot of discussion in the local and national media about the state of undergraduate student attendance in Cameron Indoor Stadium for Duke Men's Basketball games. (Not so much media attention on attendance at Women's Basketball gamesâ¦ go figure.) This has lead to considerable gnashing of teeth not only over attendance, but also over the perceived cleverness, creativeness and intensity of the Cameron Craziesâ¦ the most feared student section in all the landâ¦ or at least that's the reputation. I've asked the site owners here at DBR to allow me to write a little something regarding this topic for the front page, and they've kindly obliged. Full disclosure, I am a DBR bulletin board moderator, which doesn't make me qualified to write this commentary. However, my history in Cameron does. (Feel free to use the Google if you need verification). With that saidâ¦ away we goâ¦
It seems that nearly every year there is some conversation online, in the media, or inside Cameron that revolves around a number of alums or Duke fans criticizing the current state of the Cameron Crazies. "They aren't loud enough." "The chants are too fast." "The chants are uncoordinated." "There's no creativity." Heckâ¦ we were hearing about the lack of creativity AFTER we assisted the original (and only true) Speedo Guy in his efforts against UNC! This sort of general disgruntled-ness with the Crazies isn't new. It's merely seems louder due to the increased use of the internet and social networking sites that keep us all constantly connected to streams of "news", but I suppose that's true of nearly everything these days.
What is new is the vitriol that seems to be aimed at the undergrads at Duke. They are lazy, they don't have their priorities straight, they don't have pride in their university, or they are spoiled. I want to look at these consternations one at a time and maybe shed a little light on what it's like to be a die-hard fan and leader inside Cameron. First, though, I'd like to offer a couple of thoughts on what's going on with our beloved Cameron Indoor now.
The basic tenet goes like this, "When I was in Cameron, we were loud and intimidating and threw things on the court." I've heard these missives many a time. Let me offer my own.
When I was in Cameron we were loud, because there were small groups of students that happened to be huge basketball fans. These groups were able to coordinate with each other and get other Crazies to pick up on clever cheers and routine chants easier. I was part of one of these groups on the graduated student end (Section 20) whose core was made up of me and famous DBR alums Throatybeard and DURFCProp98, the latter of whom is better known to ESPN viewers and Bryan Center McDonald's aficionados as The Viking Guy. The three of us had a special dynamic. Throaty was the guy who knew everything about ACC basketball from the history of the Big 4 tourneys to the names of the officials at each game, Viking was the public face/media darling of the group, and I was the vociferous, for lack of a better term, yell leader. We were loud and enthusiastic and prioritized going to basketball games in Cameron (often over things that we shouldn't have) and we sat front row at every game for years during my tenure. We followed other grad student leaders, and other grad student leaders followed us, so don't think that I'm slighting anyone, but I'm going to speak specifically about my time in the crowd. Our general absurdity was matched by a small group of undergrads who essentially sat in the same place in Section 17 right near half court, and were lead by a crazy guy in a referee's shirt and blue cape (who shall remain nameless to protect his privacy). Additionally, the Undergrad Line Monitors, including DBR stalwart blazindw (Head Line Monitor 03-04) were in the habit of coming over to us and discussing cheer and taunt ideas before the game. What this led to was a simple coordination between the grads and undergrads that helped spread the zaniness faster, and allowed for the passing of cheers from one end of Cameron to the other, overcoming the terrible acoustics on the floor (trust meâ¦ the acoustics are really bad down there.) This led to some incredible noise levels in those years. We were always told, "That was good, but it was louder whenâ¦" Right now, there are no identifiable leaders in any of the sections inside Cameron, but these things are cyclical. Someone will step up and lead the groups. It's not hard, and there are undergrads and grads on the case and attempting to improve the communication between the different sections. Let them give it a shot before vilifying them for failing. Communication helps volume. Its getting betterâ¦ relax.
We were intimidating. Yep, we sure were. And you know when we did a lot of getting into the opposing teams' heads? Pre game. I once asked Rashad McCants if he needed hugs for about 15 minutes before a UNC game while he was shooting FTs during warm ups. It upset him. He wouldn't be able to hear me now. You know what happens during the pregame now? Canned music and videos on the scoreboard. This is not the fault of the students. This is an initiative by sports marketing and PR to upgrade Cameron a bit and give it a little modern edge both for increased revenue streams and to look more flashy and attractive to today's recruits. I really can see what they are trying to do, and I would argue that many Duke fans, while clamoring the status quo to remain in Cameron, aren't fully aware of the helpful nature of the changes which have been instituted. Nor would these fans be happy with the loss of the effects that these changes have had on recruiting, the program in general or the game day experience. I don't necessarily know what the answer is, but blaming the students for the current pregame set up isn't beneficial to anyone.
We didn't throw things on the court. You know why? We weren't allowed to. I'm really tired of people telling current undergrads that it was awesome when their class threw Twinkies onto the floor at Dennis Scott. They can't do this stuff! Heck, we were told at certain times by Coach K to lay off of this player or that coach. It's a different time now, and these kids have to do things differently. That's no one's fault, it's just the way that it is. I don't think that there's anything wrong with that. It just means that there need to be more clever verbal and visual assaults on the oppositionâ¦ right Fellow Scholars from Maryland?
But let's get back to the vitriol directed at the current crop of undergrads. A lot of the arguments that seem to be out there center around the idea that undergrads at Duke are currently too lazy, and have their priorities out of whack because they don't attend basketball games. Whaaaaa? Look, I prioritized going to basketball games in my time at Duke. It was right for me. That doesn't mean that it's right for everyone. Would I love to see a ton of undergrads at every game who are screaming their heads off until they are hoarse and know that we switched to a match-up zone for a couple of possessions against St. John's last Saturday? Hell yeah! But maybe that didn't happen. Maybe some students don't like basketball as much as I do, or chose to spend the day working on research in a lab, or a on a paper, or actually reading an entire play by Willy Shakespeare instead of just the Cliff's Notes, or maybe they were passed out from a night of binge drinking and promiscuous sexâ¦ I don't know. But it's not my place to judge how current college students allocate their time. I can't judge that because I don't know what its like to be a college student today. Only they knowâ¦ and like it or not, Cameron is theirs now.
Furthermore, the current crop of Duke students are hardworking and show pride in their university by doing a myriad of things outside of Cameron as well as being Crazies. They involve themselves in service activities, personal growth and, gasp, supporting other campus groups and teams! I really don't think gross generalizations about school pride can be made about an entire student body from basketball game attendance for half of a season in Cameron.
But more to the points at hand... some students DO care. Perhaps there are some students who take pride in the state of the Cameron Crazies. Why not give them some time to figure it out instead of constantly berating them for not caring? Were we all perfect in all of our endeavors when we were 18 years old? I know I wasn't. But these kids are concerned about the state of Cameron, and they are making efforts to get back to a louder and more intense atmosphere inside. They are setting goals for themselves just as K would want them to. Maybe they are a work in progress, but they are often a work in progress during the seasonâ¦ just like many incarnations of our basketball team. Like I always say, better to peak during March than during December!
Regardless of perfection, however, the crux of this issue may get to the assertion by many Duke fans and alums that the current crop of Crazies are spoiled. Oh the irony. One of the things that makes Duke, well, Duke, is a common pursuit of excellence. This goes not only for the Men's Basketball team, but all of our teams, organizations, researchers, professorsâ¦ you get the idea. In terms of basketball, every year our team follows our beloved leader into battle as he sets the highest of goals. ACC title, national titles, academic excellence and giving 100% on the floor all the time are just a few of those goals. However, these lofty goals, more often than not, are not reached. And that's fine. If you set attainable goals just to attain them, you don't grow. However, it seems in recent years that Duke fans have come to expect that ACC and national titles are a given. These aren't things that we strive for, they are things that we're entitled to. As horrible as it seems when we end the season with a loss in March and not a win in April, do you see Coach K saying that the year was a failure? That nothing came of it? No. You hear that from fans, but not from people within our program. And that's because the people within the program know that there is more to the season than just the end goal. The entire season is a journey of growth, of overcoming challenges, and of boys becoming young men. Our fans often seem to lack this perspective, and seem to have now turned this mindset on the Crazies. You may think that the Crazies aren't up to the standards of the past, but maybe this current crop is merely going through its own growing pains. Maybe they aren't spoiled and complacent. Maybe they are learning on the job.
Now current Crazies, don't think that I'm giving you a pass here. You can do better. We could have done better. What the expectation should be is that those of you who chose to go, get better every game. That's what K would want you to do. You know how you kow-tow to him every time he walks out onto the court? Make that mean something. When he says to be a part of the game and not just watch it, listen to him. Be loud, and encourage the guys when they're down. Its easy to cheer when things are going your way, but to turn the momentum of the game around when your Duke team needs you the mostâ¦ when that other team is trying to make a runâ¦ and you pick the Blue Devils up with your collective voice and energyâ¦ THAT'S WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT! You can do it. You can get better. That's all Coach K is asking of you. Be a part of the team and work the way they do.
Either way, here's the thingâ¦ and I can say this as someone who took their role in Cameron as part of the team very seriously, and who struggled to allow the next generation to do their own thing without criticizingâ¦ we, as Cameron Crazies are or were, merely a part of the tradition and legacy. Each generation only adds to the tradition and changes the legacy. Yes, it is probably different than when you were a Crazy. It is most certainly different than when I was a crazy, but that's the magic of being on the floor. Each group of students inside Cameron gets to make it what they want. They are the students, and it's their section. Trust them a little bit and give them some support, just as you would the team on the floor. Remember, Coach K says they are part of the teamâ¦ treat them like it. Trust meâ¦ it will be ok.
a.k.a. Mullet Man
Duke University Graduate School '05
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