Fixing “Countdown to Craziness”

Here at Duke, tonight marks the official beginning of basketball season with “Countdown to Craziness.” Fans pack into Cameron Indoor Stadium to hear the team introduced, see a split-squad scrimmage and a slam dunk contest afterwards. Sounds thrilling, right? Wrong.

I’m about as big a Cameron Crazy as they come. I’ve tented all four years and never been worse than tent #8. I’ve been to every Duke basketball game that I’ve been in Durham for. My friends can attest to my Cameron Craziness.

But even I don’t get excited for Countdown to Craziness. It’s become such an absurd event and is actually really awkward. During the scrimmages, fans have no idea to cheer for. There’s obviously no taunting, “air ball-ing,” or other defensive chants. You cheer each time a team scores and that’s about it. It’s fun to see the players red shirting who we won’t get to see the rest of the year (Rodney Hood this year and Andre Dawkins – though I’m not sure if he’s playing tonight). But it’s really just strange.

The introductions are cool, though a bit over done. Certainly, Nolan Smith’s entrance in my freshman year (0:52 second mark) to Jay Z’s “Public Service Announcement” was pretty great. But most entrances are just too over-the-top.

And then there’s the dunk contest. In my three years at Duke, I haven’t seen a dunk in the contest yet that has wowed me. There have been some good ones but nothing great and there have also been a lot of not-very-good ones. Of course, most dunk contests in recent years at any level haven’t been great (oh how I long for the days of Vinsanity).

But the worst part is the event has lost it’s true meaning. “Countdown to Craziness” used to occur at midnight when NCAA rules first allowed the team to practice. At midnight the team would come out and have its first practice, with fans cheering them on. Now, that’s cool.  That rush of the clock striking midnight and the team coming out, ready to practice as soon as possible means something.That’s what Countdown to Craziness should be.

Duke began practicing last week though and already have taken a trip to Fort Bragg. It’s not the beginning of the season. It’s just an awkward event to show off the team and impress recruits (a number of important ones will be in attendance tonight). Normally, Countdown to Craziness is on the first day the team is allowed to practice. That does make it better. I’m not sure why it’s pushed back a week this year – most teams had their “Midnight Madness” last Friday. But even then, it’s still not at midnight.

Nevertheless, it’s still a chance to see the team up close and have some fun. And wit that, I’m off to go get in line.