A photo from DukeBluePlanet of Michelle Picon and her friends at the Miami game captioned "Found brave Duke fans in the Miami student section."
A photo from DukeBluePlanet of Michelle Picon and her friends at the Miami game captioned "Found brave Duke fans in the Miami student section."

The following is a guest column written by Michelle Picon, Trinity ’11, about her experience attending last Wednesday’s Duke-Miami men’s basketball game that the Hurricanes won 90-63.

During the Miami game last Wednesday, DukeBluePlanet posted a photo of my friends and me captioned “Found brave Duke fans in the Miami student section.” There are thousands of us, scattered around the countries by new jobs or graduate programs, who continue to be dedicated Duke fans despite new institutional affiliations. Our group of six—five current Miami medical students and one law student—comprised that spot of blue in a sea of orange, the calm and collected eye in the middle of the Hurricanes.

Although we somehow walked away unscathed, our treatment at the hands of the Miami student body, mascot and senior administration was even more disparaging than the whooping our boys received on the court.

The following is our report from the trenches.

First of all, we need to acknowledge that the Canes basketball team played a great game, and we offer them a well-deserved congratulations. They visited the students lining up for the game, and engaged us in conversation despite our Duke gear. They respected our need to represent our alma mater, and after some good-natured heckling, both sides walked away smiling.

Unfortunately, the maturity and good sportsmanship displayed by these men was not reflected by the institution they represent.

My classmates and I had been in line for the game for hours when the Dean of Students first appeared. He expressed his disbelief at our Duke apparel, and continued to express his disapproval even after we explained we were former Duke students excited to watch our team, and had no intention of actively cheering against Miami. He told us condescendingly that he would allow us to remain in the student line, but he assured us that on behalf of President Donna Shalala, they were not going to let us easily into this game to cheer for Duke in the front of the Miami student section. I assumed he was just giving us a hard time. After all, we are tuition-paying Miami students who were waiting near the front of the student line in accordance with all the correct university policies.

Turns out, he was not joking. When the time came for us to enter the stadium, guards literally corralled our tiny group of six and herded us toward the two sour-faced individuals in suits.

Ladies and gentlemen, I f—ing kid you not, the Dean of Students and the Vice President of Student Affairs stood between us and the stadium, allowing dozens of people to pass us in line as they lectured us on our apparently deplorable and wildly unacceptable desire to show support for our home team. Four-plus years as Cameron Crazies, hard-earned Duke degrees and constitutionally protected freedom of speech notwithstanding, senior administrators of the undergraduate campus dared scold us for wearing Duke blue to a basketball game. The catty, disparaging and immature attitude they displayed during this exchange was astounding. The fact that not one, but two top university officials felt the need to bully six graduate students and attempt to punish us for a lack of “school spirit” suggests an unfathomable depth of insecurity.

Needless to say, such spiteful actions would never be used against any graduate students at Duke (or any other self-respecting university), regardless of their previous educational or athletic allegiance. Halfway through the berating, the Dean of Students switched tactics entirely, encouraging us to report any instances of abuse at the hands of the drunken, fratty undergraduate mob. I’m unsure if his intentions were to atone for his embarrassing behavior thus far, or merely to buy more time for students to pass us in line to the stadium. Regardless, he showed only mild surprise when we told him that the fluffy pathetic Hurricane mascot had already picked a piece of pizza up off the ground and thrown it at us, followed shortly by the empty box.

At least our Blue Devil has class.

Unfortunately, the immaturity and spite exhibited by the administration and the mascot was only amplified among the student body. About 1,300 students were in attendance, and I’m sure 1,200 of them had never watched a Miami basketball game in their entire undergraduate careers. Uninspired expletives, homophobic slurs and limp references to genitalia were the only “cheers” I heard from Miami students the entire game. They did not cease during the national anthem, nor during a moment of silence for a deceased member of their own coaching staff. Pause for a second and imagine that scene in Cameron.

That’s OK—we couldn’t either.

But what followed was even harder to imagine: During the game, the majority of the students standing near us would physically turn their backs on their own team in order to comment on the size of our penises. Meanwhile, Miami played the game of their lives unobserved. I leave it up to you to infer what these students are really passionate about.

Hint: It’s not basketball.

I will gladly admit that the Canes played an incredible game and rightly deserved that victory.

But I walked away from that game ashamed and embarrassed to be even remotely associated with the Miami undergraduates. Although Duke played the worst game I have ever seen, I am still proud to call myself a Blue Devil. This experience only served to deepen my appreciation and respect for Cameron Crazies, an exemplary group of boisterous, witty and dedicated supporters—the sixth man, a true fan indeed.