The roar of Senior Night introductions in 2006 reverberated through the plaza outside Schwartz-Butters. Through the doors of Cameron I could see the blue faces waving their hands at the hated opposition players. Thirty yards in front of me lay the entrance to the Duke-North Carolina game. And it looked as if that's as close as I was going to get to the action.
After spending 50 hours in the walk-up line for the UNC game-including one miserable night sleeping on a folding chair on the sidewalk-each passing minute that brought us closer to the 9 p.m. tip-off accelerated the sinking feeling in my stomach that I was going to have to watch the game on TV.
My partner and I were group 96. The line monitors had just run groups 82-87 into Cameron Indoor while the fire marshal was in the bathroom. The next five groups, they said, would probably be the last ones admitted to the game.
Taking stock of the situation, I decided that it was time for desperate measures.
Leaving my friend behind, I slowly crept up alongside a temporary metal police barrier that had been erected around the ESPN College Gameday set and wiggled my way until I was right next to the bespectacled line monitor who held the clipboard with everyone's names.
As the line monitor strained in the low light to read off the lucky 10 names that would be the last people into the stadium, I sucked in my stomach and snuck behind him, paying careful attention not to graze the back of his blue windbreaker.
Once around him, I quickly inserted myself into the group of people that were walking toward the Cameron breezeway. Expecting to be grabbed and spun around at any moment, I quickened my pace until I reached the doorway.
No one came after me. I was in. Or at least I thought.
As the 11 of us turned to go into the student section, the fire marshal came out of nowhere and unleashed a string of harsh language at the line monitors who had let us in. He said they had intentionally disobeyed him, that the student section was closed and that we would have to leave. And with that, I found myself out in the breezeway with the doors of the stadium shut in my face.
Unsure of what to do, I turned around and saw the rest of the line monitors and several DUPD officers restraining the rest of the walk-up crowd that was trying to surge toward the stadium. Trapped in the breezeway between the wooden doors and the near-riot that was building, I stood and hoped for a miracle.
Suddenly, the door to the stadium creaked back open again. An older woman ushered us in, and pulled a string of tickets from her pocket. She told us they were for the obstructed-view seats upstairs. The ones where the big metal supports prevent you from seeing half the court if you're sitting in your chair. But it didn't matter.
Feeling bad about ditching my partner, I decided to press my luck a bit. I explained to her that the police had prevented her from crossing the line when things began to get out of control, and that if I could have a second ticket to show the police officer, they would let her into the game too.
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She paused after hearing my request. I thought I had blown it. She began handing out tickets to everyone else who was around me, until it was just the two of us. Then she handed me the last two tickets she had.
I ran back outside and began screaming my friend's name. About 10 people yelled back pretending to be her, raising their hands and jumping up and down. I searched the crowd frantically. Finally, her figure emerged from the mass of limbs, and I showed a police officer the two tickets and told him that she was with me.
As we walked toward the stadium, my friend looked at me in disbelief. "Did that just happen?" she asked. I wasn't so sure myself.
We re-entered the stadium, and the same lady tore our tickets. The door closed behind us. We were the last people into Cameron.