When I moved to the Triangle area, I was eager to partake in the best that both the University of North Carolina and Duke University had to offer.
Both schools had wonderful campuses, and I enjoyed visiting Duke's magnificent chapel, its Sarah P. Duke Gardens, hospital complex, East Campus and nearby Ninth Street as well as UNC's Dean Smith Center, Bell Tower, student union and libraries. Also, Duke University had just won the NCAA basketball championship for the second year in a row when I moved here. I had been a long-time college basketball fan, and I was eager to visit Cameron Indoor Stadium and see men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski work his magic.
I noticed distinct differences in the way crowds at the two universities treated the visiting sports teams. Fans at UNC, with its spacious Smith Center, showed respect for opposing players. When the teams were announced, UNC fans either applauded or were respectfully silent. During the games, there were few times when I heard abusive language from anyone in the stands.
By contrast, I had a hard time in my own mind justifying the behavior of the people who attended Duke games at Cameron. "Cameron Crazies," as they are called, do not act with respect for anyone other than those in a Blue Devil uniform. They have made specific, purposely hurtful references to players' relatives, grades and even campus incidents such as the late 1998 shooting at N.C. State University.
I began to see in the broader sense that Cameron Crazies have endured because some higher level, be it Krzyzewski, the university administration, provost, university president or Board of Trustees, at least indirectly condoned their behavior. At the start of ACC games, when the announcement comes asking fans to respect the players, coaches and game officials, Duke fans aren't listening.
Does ridiculing the other team show spirit? I doubt it.
Duke Crazies view opposing team players, especially those from Carolina and State, with outright contempt. The antics of the Cameron Crazies are obnoxious. They smack of the elitism that is part and parcel of the Duke campus mentality. Duke prides itself on being a high-class institution and, in many quarters it bills itself as the "Harvard of the South." Yet, go to Harvard, view its institutions and sports and the way their students and fans interact with others, and you'll see they bear no similarity to Duke whatsoever.
After six years in the area, I want nothing to do with Duke. If my daughter, who will be ready for college in a few years, were offered a full scholarship to Duke, I would persuade her to decline. I wouldn't want her to be exposed to the environment called "Duke University."
Chapel Hill, N.C.