Duke basketball: Cameron Crazies owe Blue Devils an apology

Duke basketball's Cameron Crazies (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball's Cameron Crazies (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Why is it that those Duke basketball faithful who would die to attend just one ACC game in Durham now often have to blast the volume on their TVs just to hear the home crowd?

The nation’s longest home sellout streak belongs to Duke basketball. But the 30-year stretch is misleading. So too is the program blindly stamping the attendance as 9,314 for every game inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Although Duke does not “sell” tickets to its students, if any freebies go unclaimed, then the sports information director should 1) claim the sellout streak has ended and 2) subtract from the 9,314 the estimated number of unfilled bleacher seats in the undergraduate section.

In other words, Tuesday’s 89-59 home win over Miami, moving the No. 8 Blue Devils to 16-3 overall and 6-2 in ACC play, sure didn’t feel like a sellout and seemed to have well under 9,000 folks in attendance, primarily due to the uninspired student support (even worse, with minutes left in the game, seemingly half of the lower-level seats had emptied).

As a result, a giant cavity toward the end of the bleachers now mars the replay of the oh-so-delightful inbounds alley-oop from Duke basketball sophomore point guard Tre Jones to freshman shooting guard Cassius Stanley in the first half (not to mention the fact that the noise level was not as high as it would have been had all the bookworms done their duty as Dukies by filling those seats).

ALSO READ: Better Duke decathlete, Zion Williamson or Cassius Stanley?

Just listen to the crickets in the seconds leading up to the high-flying flush:

In harsher words, the Cameron Crazies are becoming the Cameron Calmies.

Not only do they not all show up — freezing temperatures and 9 p.m. tip times suddenly became common excuses about the time that coddled children of helicopter parents began enrolling at the school — but the decibel level and creativity aren’t even in the same ballpark to when the Cameron Crazies were in their heyday.

I’d like to think that heyday was back in my day, around the turn of the century, but I know better. No, in my mind, the legendary antics from the early 1980s, which led to the widespread use of the “Cameron Crazies” moniker, will always reign supreme:

  • In 1983, during pregame introductions, Duke students rained the court with empty pizza boxes in order to taunt a now-late N.C. State sophomore, Lorenzo Charles, who had allegedly beaten up a pizza delivery boy for a couple of pies.
  • In 1984, during pregame introductions, Duke students taunted Maryland senior Herman Veal, who had faced accusations of trying to force himself on a female student, by tossing onto the court contraceptives and women’s underwear.
  • One week later, after Duke’s president at the time, the now-late Terry Sanford, had scolded the students for the above incident and countless others, the sly bunch showed up to the game against the Tar Heels wearing halos, greeted now-late former UNC coach Dean Smith with “HI, DEAN,” cheered the refs when they walked on the court, and then used a “WE BEG TO DIFFER” chant following bad calls.

Even a dozen or so years later, though, kids like myself would study hard in high school not to better themselves as human beings, but rather to gain acceptance into Duke University just to have the chance to call ourselves Cameron Crazies.

Back in those days, Nate’s Dogg Pound — bone-waving groupies of former Duke basketball player and current assistant Nate James — led most every chant and would often berate those in attendance who stayed quiet, including the wealthy season-ticket holders upstairs.

“STAND UP,” students yelled in unison to 90-year-olds in wheelchairs above. “TWO TEAMS…NO TEAMS,” we pointed out to the opposing squad whenever five fresh Blue Devils would sub in during a Duke blowout (a fitting chant this season if only the current so-called Cameron Crazies would spend more time studying the work of their Duke basketball ancestors than stressing over some exam).

Hot. Back to school: Duke basketball signee makes a promising decision. light

Better yet, back then, every time Florida State came to town, at least one student would hold a fishing pole with a chicken leg as bait whenever the 7-foot, 320-pound Nigel “Big Jelly” Dixon was at the charity stripe. Meanwhile, we would all chant, “PLEASE DON’T EAT ME.”

We were masters at getting into the heads of opposing players.

A few years before my arrival as a “student” — granted, my excessive Duke basketball fandom partially contributed to my dropping out of the school during my sophomore year — I was lucky enough to attend a game against UCLA where the Blue Devil mascot ran around the court inside a cardboard cutout of an SUV with “Baron Davis Mobile” in permanent marker on the side (prior to signing with the Bruins, Baron Davis had accepted a used Chevy Blazer from his sister, who just so happened to also be a UCLA employee).

Also, due to rumors at the time about Davis having smoked an illegal substance, the Crazies creatively came up with several different chants for the star guard’s trips to the foul line: “PUFF, PUFF, GIVE” and “HOOKED ON CHRONIC” come to memory.

Look, I understand that political correctness nowadays strictly prohibits the good times of the 1980s. Heck, even the fun from the 1990s and 2000s probably wouldn’t fly in America’s current sensitive culture. In fact, years ago, Duke basketball’s Mike Krzyzewski began to take measures to ensure the curtailing of inconsiderate taunts (therefore, I suppose the coaching legend is part of the problem, but I admit the crybaby times we live in required his admonishments).

What I don’t understand, however, is why the current Duke undergraduates can’t even fill the bleachers for a late-January home ACC game. Equally dumbfounding — and 100 percent disappointing — is how those who did attend on Tuesday night were almost as inaudible and uncreative as their Dean Dome counterparts eight miles down the road.

In fairness, against Miami, the 100 or so legit Cameron Crazies near midcourt were at least belting out the standard chants. Plus, I tip my cap to the dude at midcourt who dresses every game as Cookie Monster, as well as to a few others. That said, this season, the bulk of those surrounding the truly engaged fans have primarily stood there, rarely jumping up and down, as if they’d rather sit down and read a book.

Was the poor showing at the Miami game due to the fact that the Blue Devils had suffered two consecutive losses and subsequently fell outside the top five in the AP Poll? Was it due to the weather and time? Was it because Zion Williamson is no longer around? Or is being a Duke basketball fanatic no longer in style on campus?

ALSO READ: The 100 greatest Blue Devils under Coach K

Whatever the reason, the low turnout was inexcusable. Understandably, it caused those fans on Twitter who have never had the opportunity to attend a Duke home game to express outrage every single time ESPN’s broadcast included a shot of the unclaimed seats.

So what should happen now?

First, the students should apologize to the team, pronto. And if they are unable to amp up their support in future games, then the program should start distributing those free seats to the multitude of poor Duke basketball fans who would no doubt travel from far and wide to earn every letter of the “Cameron Crazies” nickname (and, in the process, likely prevent the Blue Devils from suffering a third home loss this season).

Duke students, it’s time to grow up, get your priorities straight, and get your money’s worth as a student by taking advantage of your unique privilege. Show up at every Duke basketball home game, even those following a loss. Stay loud. Don’t be afraid to be creative, even if doing so comes across as crass.

Please, bring back the CRAZIES.

Trending. Strong opinions on three future Duke basketball players. light

Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more updates, analyses, and opinions regarding all things Duke basketball — past, present, future, and in the NBA.