Nothing’s more amusing than watching a stranger’s face as you explain to him or her that you currently live in a tent. Many of these strangers are from far off lands and often stay in herds as they explore an unknown territory with the help of a “tour guide.” These people are probably relieved that the safety of the herd protects them from an unpredictable and often hostile species, the Crazies.
If you are like one of those strangers, then the next item on my graduation bucket list is for you: learn what it means to be a Crazie.
When considering the characteristics of a Crazie, knowledge of a century of basketball trivia and intense survival instincts may spring to mind, but these only touch the surface of the authentic Crazie. The true Crazie holds a skill that very few possess, a skill that, I believe, is essential to learn before leaving the safe walls of the Gothic Wonderland—the ability to forget oneself and feel complete unity with others.
My philosophy professor calls this phenomenon a “Dionysian” experience, a feeling of unity with nature that the Greeks discovered to be the essence of art and tragedy. Centuries later, the German philosopher Nietzsche would revive this early knowledge and cite the Dionysian experience as the key to reviving German culture.
Many associate Dionysian revelry with an intense state of intoxication. But for those who do not enjoy intense headaches and dehydration, I suggest that you attend a Duke basketball game instead. Not because the team needs any more fans or because you feel you would be shunned if you left Duke without attending at least one (which undoubtedly, you will), but because it is one of the best ways to feel united with others on campus.
Like you, I was skeptical of the Crazie phenomenon when I first came to Duke. As a Miami native I thought tenting was a crime against humanity and suspected that the painted fans were undergoing some sort of smurf-phase. I didn’t understand until the last 3.6 seconds of the 2010 NCAA championship game, as I stood in Cameron with hundreds of others and watched Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot bounce lightly off the backboard and barely miss the rim. As the crowd in Cameron erupted, I stopped and took a good look around.
That year was a hard one for me. As a freshman, there are moments when you question whether you will ever find your place in college and days when you miss home so much that you wonder what could possibly be worth leaving it. I questioned my choice often, and there were times when I thought I’d simply transfer to a college closer to home.
But in the moments after we won the championship, I forgot about my worries and myself. All I thought about was my school, my pride and my part in a bigger movement.
And then we burned some benches, and I knew this was home.
We all have our reasons for taking the Crazie path. For some it is part of our upbringing: We learn addition, then subtraction, then who made the amazing last-second shot in the 1992 NCAA East regional final against Kentucky. For others, it begins as one of the first social experiences at Duke. At the core of these different reasons, however, is a feeling of primordial unity with others that no individual accomplishment can give you. There is a sort of selflessness in the pride that comes from seeing a championship win that cannot be compared to the pride of having a research paper published or winning a prestigious award.
Becoming a Crazie transformed how I see Duke; it also transformed the sort of fulfillment that I will strive to bring to others when I leave. A year ago, when student turnout in Cameron was abysmally low, I wrote a column about our first loss in Cameron after three years of undefeated home games. This year, when record numbers of black tents popped up in K-ville, I am writing about a much stronger and more experienced team.
There are highs and lows of being a Duke fan. They may even reflect the highs and lows of your personal struggles and triumphs. But if you remember that you are not alone in these struggles and that the best sense of fulfillment comes when you share it with others, then I promise that you too can leave here remembering Duke not as “my school” but as “our house.”
And in our house, if you’re not Crazie, you’re just plain crazy.
Sony Rao is a Trinity senior. Her column normally runs every other Wednesday. You can follow Sony on Twitter @sony_rao.