I grew up a Stanford fan. I’m used to losing.
And silent crowds.
I watched the Cardinal get trounced on their home floor over and over again along with the student section, the “Sixth Man.” Adeptly named, because there probably were only six people there.
Even with No. 2 Virginia in town Saturday, Cameron Indoor Stadium’s crowd reminded me of Stanford’s at times. Not in size, but in energy. Especially amongst those most visible to the nation on CBS.
Fans around me had to desperately plead to “Crazies” in the front few rows to stand up and cheer when the team came on the court after halftime. And to get loud when Virginia was on offense. And even in the closing minutes of the biggest game in college basketball this season.
Take a look at how still these fans are when Ty Jerome nailed the 3-pointer that essentially sealed Duke’s fate.
It seemed to suck the energy out of the defense at times, stunting what could have been several prolonged defensive stands. Friends who watched on TV told me that it was the weakest they’ve seen the Crazies in such a big game—and they’re not wrong.
Sure, this wasn’t the Carolina game, but people had been tenting for days before this game. They were dedicated to coming to the game, but once they were there, they didn’t show up.
Even when everyone knew coming into Saturday that this was going to be the most consequential game of the season—more important than against a struggling North Carolina team. The wild costumes, the hooplah and the fire just were never there.
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When was the last time a game started like this?
This hasn’t been the Cameron Indoor Stadium I thought I was coming to when I decided to come to Duke a couple years ago, and I know for a fact that the quality of Crazies has declined over the years. Where is this generation’s Speedo Guy?
Certainly, as Duke as a university becomes more selective, there will be more academically-inclined students and fewer who will be interested in basketball. That’s fine, but it ends up being a real problem for the quality of the student section. From what I’ve observed, rowdiness does not necessarily correlate strongly with academic performance.
I’m not saying Duke should make its admissions decisions based upon basketball fanhood potential. But this is a reality that the basketball program may have to live with—the Crazies may just lose their luster going forward.
These “fans” haven’t been responsive to pushes from line monitors to get energetic, a fan told me. Students may still enjoy frequenting Krzyzewskiville for the social aspect, which is not a problem in it of itself—it’s an awesome opportunity to have a blast.
But you don’t have to be a basketball fan to cheer. There are instructions handed out to students in the crowd on dirt sheets on when to cheer, what to yell and specific insults to hurl at opposing players. I think most Duke students are literate.
To my disimpassioned fellow students: The only way Cameron can become great again is if you take it upon yourselves and go crazy. You’ve waited days in the cold and slept on concrete to get into this game.
After all of that, you might as well try to help the team you claim to support for a couple hours.
Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor
A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks.