I sprinted into the stadium 90 minutes before gametime to grab a spot in the second row at the foul line across from the visitor's bench. I donned the jersey that I still identify not with Quinn Cook or Nolan Smith, but with Josh McRoberts—the Blue Devils' No. 2 when I bought it nearly a decade ago. In the game's opening minutes I almost passed out from the heat because in my unbridled excitement to experience K-ville, I forgot that even Cameron Crazies need to eat and drink in the nine hours leading up to a game. As fate would have it, the kid I nearly fell into—standing directly to my right—went on to serve alongside me as sports managing editor for this volume.
Although I can still tell you the date (Nov. 11, 2011), the score (Duke won 77-76) and the key play (Andre Dawkins nailed a huge three in the closing minutes) from that game, my most vivid memory is how awestruck I was as I watched the ball float into the air for the opening tip. After 18 years of watching Duke games, I finally got to be a part of the amorphous blob of royal blue that used to reside in my television screen.
I spent the remainder of my freshman year as a mainstay in Section 17, but by the end of the season Cameron started to feel different to me. It hadn't lost its significance, but it began to feel smaller and more comfortable. Cameron started to feel the way my old high school gym used to feel—I felt at home there, but I had lost the sense of awe when I took in a game.
As I rose through the ranks to the role of sports editor for Volume 109, daily trips to Cameron made it feel more like an office and less like hallowed ground. During that time, I have crossed paths with national champions, All-Americans and Olympic medalists. Being at Duke affords you the opportunity to rub elbows with countless current and future Hall of Fame athletes and coaches—whether it is working with the likes of Mike Krzyzewski and David Cutcliffe on campus or getting to see Peyton Manning, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on brief visits.
People ask me all the time whether I feel starstruck around these giants, and the answer is always no. Just as college basketball's most historic venue grew to feel small, so did the larger-than-life figures with whom I worked.
That isn't to say that I fail recognize the accomplishments of the great men and women I've covered. Just as sports is the business of building idols, sports writing teaches you to take a step back from your biases and affiliations. But there were times when this job forced me to become numb to the many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities I've received during the past three years.
This came full circle for me as I took my usual seat on press row for the Duke-North Carolina game at Cameron. As the teams warmed up, I began to think about how many 21-year-old kids had the opportunity to sit in that seat—smack dab in the middle of a century-old rivalry that could be the greatest in sports. Watching two shades of blue that couldn't have been more similar and different at the same time float around the court brought back the memories of watching them through my television screen.
Slowly but surely, the feeling of awe crept back up my spine. Luckily, I wasn't going to pass out this time—I had learned any good day in Cameron starts with a good pregame meal.
Closing the book on Volume 109 has forced me to face my own mortality as a college student—I only have one year left at Duke before the best four years of my life are behind me. Like Cameron, Duke can become a comfortable place pretty quickly. And whether or not you've realized it, Duke, too, can start to feel a bit small after a while.
Passing off something as ordinary doesn't mean you're taking it for granted—but you might be missing an opportunity to acknowledge something truly special.
It's ok to let yourself be awestruck by the things you do and the people you meet at Duke. Don't forget how incredible this place is and that every experience you have here is probably once-in-a-lifetime.
Daniel Carp is a Trinity junior. He served as sports editor for The Chronicle's 109th volume. He would like to thank his family and friends for their undying support and the Chronicle's entire staff—past and present—for taking this journey with him.