Last Game in Cameron

I’ve never posted about my time as a Cameron Crazie. I’ve been about as die-hard a fan as you can be over the past four years. I’ve never missed a home game while I’ve been on campus. I’ve been a top-10 tent for the Duke-UNC game every year. I’ve been front row, painted and cheering maniacally for almost every ACC game. Duke basketball has been one of the main focal points of my time here and tonight is my final game as a Cameron Crazie. Of course, I will always be one at heart, but my time in the student section is up. Time to pass the baton.

Maybe at some point I’ll reflect on my experience in the Cameron student section. It’s a lot more than cheers, jeers and a sea of blue and white. It’s an intricate process, complete with long schedule-making, rushed pregame painting and cold nights on the sidewalk. Of course, it is well worth it. There’s no better view in college basketball than the one I’ve had the past four years. Every second was worth it. Here’s a picture from right before the Duke-UNC game my freshman year. We spelled out “Kick Us Out Roy” after UNC coach Roy Williams had security remove a fan from a UNC home game after he yelled during a UNC free throw, something that happens everywhere all the time.

Kick Us Out Roy
I’m the awkward “I” in blue hair, second from the left.

It’s also fitting that my penultimate game was possibly the best one I’ve been to. Duke-UNC games have been incredible over the years, but this past weekend’s Duke-Miami showdown was as good as those. It was as loud a crowd as we’ve had in a long time and few players have had as special a night as Ryan Kelly. Add in beating a top-5 team and a close, well-played game and it made it an unbelievable night. I’m glad it was the penultimate. Tonight we play Virginia Tech (the last-placed team in the ACC) and hopefully will win easily. Hopefully Coach K can give big minutes to walk-on senior Todd Zafirovski and take senior stars Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee off to a long standing ovations. They deserve it. If tonight’s game was against Miami or an equally tough opponent, we would be too caught up in the game to thank the seniors. Playing against Virginia Tech provides us that opportunity.

So tune in to ESPNU at 7 tonight and watch the seniors’ final game. I’ll be in the front row painted (weather-permitting, right now not looking good).

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.