I knew that the end would come, but so soon? I suffered from the dreaded lack of height and athleticism, effectively truncating my career in high school. Devastated, I vowed I would live vicariously through my favorite teams, and prove my athletic worth as the best “6th Man” ever!
I possess the most important attribute a fan can; loyalty. In good times (1991, 1992 & 2001) and bad (1994-1995) my fidelity remains indelible. This is most evident in my support of the Duke University Blue Devils men’s basketball team.
Since 1989, much to the chagrin of family members, employers, and girlfriends alike, I have watched almost every single game possible. I have also had the fortune of attending a couple of games in person, most notably the recent 2009 East Regional Semi-final in Boston, MA. I mention this not to revisit what amounted to the worst shooting performance by any Coach K team in my 29 years on earth, but rather to discuss the paltry nature of Duke Fans outside of “our house,” Cameron Indoor Stadium.
While the veracity of the “Cameron Crazies” is known throughout the landscape of college basketball and beyond, what remains unreported is the lack of enthusiasm displayed by fans at neutral sites. I'm reminded of the glory days of the 1990-1991 season, when Duke was as much America’s teams as any other. Following the worst loss in NCAA Championship game history, the energy and enthusiasm in support of Duke across the country was palpable through my television. I remember the ACC/Big East Challenge game against Georgetown at the Capitol Center, a virtual home game for the Hoyas, where a team with Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo beat Duke. Despite the loss, it almost seemed like a neutral site game. As expectations of Duke’s successes have grown over the years, support outside of Cameron has decreased inversely.
Having spent a small fortune in the midst of a recession to travel to Boston for the game, I’ve got a bone to pick with Duke fans. I was in what most would consider the “nose bleed” section. The arena was packed with ‘Nova fans, who like most Philly fans are as obnoxious as they come (they literally boo’d the Duke and Pitt cheerleaders and bands every single time they performed!). During what could generously be termed an a$$-whooping that ‘Nova put on Duke (REMINDER: I paid a small fortune to witness Duke’s worst shooting performance since I’ve been alive!), while I was up near the roof screaming my lungs out, most of the privileged Duke “fans” much closer to the court sat in stunned silence. Might I remind everyone that Duke came back to close out the first half and made it a game (‘Nova led 26-23 at the half). It wasn’t until midway through the second half that the game was over. With more vocal support, similar to the Crazies, who knows what might have happened.
I say all this to illustrate that Duke fans can never take winning for granted. We should appreciate the efforts of each new team each year. While the Crazies may graduate and dominate the white collar world, when it's game time, they should remember to revisit that Cameron spirit. It is embarrassing to see such a disparity in tangible support. Worse, it’s a slap in the face of fans like myself who are not as fortunate to be close enough to the court for our support to be appreciated by the players who deserve it.