Dear Cameron Crazies,
I mean, honestly. Let’s just be rational. You get back early from vacation to go spend $133.84 (plus tax) at Wal-Mart for the Eureka! Nine-Person, Three-Room Getaway Tent. You ditch your dorm room—inevitably smothered with posters of J.J. Redick, who’s just a friggin’ 19-year-old with a good shot, for God’s sake—and head to a lawn. Not a campsite in the mountains with a vista you could write home about.
Rather, it’s a strip of grass, where you call Donald Wine your god..
You create your own website for Tent No. 6, with a minute-by-minute schedule so that you don’t get booted to the waitlist by Donald and his nerd battalion, donning those LINE MONITOR windbreakers that you would just kill for. You’d even trade it for your parka, which you’re going to need tonight in that muddy pit in the middle of campus because you’d rather go to the Student Health Center for mild pneumonia when your shift’s over in the morning than miss your chance to get a super cool orange wrist band for the UVa game.
When it really gets down to the wire, you rush to fit as many CAMERON CRAZIES/YOU PLAY, YOU LOSE, YOU GO HOME-clad “super fans” into those three polyester-bound rooms, just in time to be there all night long, just as some of the saner undergraduates walk past you on their way out of the gym. This is exciting for you—this bitter cold, this taking the bus over at 2 a.m. with your sleeping bag, this waiting in line to play a game of XBox right outside the first tent, the tent you wish was yours. But nothing’s as exciting as when (gasp!) you get a personal visit from Shelden Williams, a 6-foot-9 kid your age who can barely fit in your little contraption anyway. He leaves, and then you freeze some more.
You do this for two months. You do this for…three hours of basketball. Kewl!
Now some of you aren’t totally insane. Some of you just walk up and wait for an hour to see some good ball, and you’re not a Cameron Crazie at all. Trust me, you don’t want to be. But some of you don’t tent and still revel in your spectatorship, and more still just wait for the “White Registration” or the “Secondary Line,” or follow some other statute from your bible, the Undergraduate Admissions Policy for the 2003-2004 Men’s Basketball Season, which you’ve already memorized more of than the equally dense Tolstoy reading you’re doing by flashlight, just waiting for Shelden to slump by and suit up for the walk-up game. You know you want it.
Your buddy comes by after class, a plastic bag in his hand from the Duck Shop on Ninth Street. He didn’t have time to grab dinner on the way over; the blue and white body paints were far more important. Yes, whether this is the Valpo game or the Georgia Tech game just hours away from UNC, you streak by Donald, flashing your DukeCard and start jumping up and down, so you can maybe, just maybe, get on ESPN2 for three seconds at the TV timeout in the second half. Do you do this because you love the team, or because you simply have nothing better to do with your time? I’m afraid it’s the latter, and, frankly, it’s pathetic.
I went to a small prep school in New York City, where high school basketball is king, no matter how many wins you get. We got rowdy—that real, nasty kind of rowdy—and no one wanted to play in our house because of it. But we got that way for the thrill of sport, not for the sensation of being a fan. You dress up in capes and take your shirts off to be a Cameron Crazie because you care about being at the game and being part of this scene, not watching it and being witness to the best college sports program there is. You cheer to be part of your big, dorky club, one that’s lost any pure root, root, root for the Blue Devils in the name of just being another dyed-blue skull in the mass.
And now, apparently, you’re not even living up to your reputation—one that gives you a lot more credit than you’re worth, one that’s probably perpetuated by a media that needs a cutaway shot and an administration that needs some nice photos for the admissions book. Now, evidently, your supreme god, who’s earned the respect to yell at you and shut your lame selves up when he wants to, can’t even put up with your being pathetic. “I can tell you what,” Mike Krzyzewski said Sunday night, “the last two places we played in were a heck of a lot louder than our place tonight because they wanted to beat us badly. When we’re here we need to want to beat somebody. We need to create that atmosphere. We’re the team that is in first place.”
Damn straight they’re in first place, and it has nothing to do with you. You don’t want to beat anybody; you just want to be a part of No. 1, and if Duke loses, you just whine and head back to your tent, spending more time pondering what name you can call D.J. Strawberry or Roy Williams a month from now than you do pondering what the hell you’ve been doing in this puddle of mud for a month already.
Sunday night, I had a good look at you from across the court, in the first row past that gold bar that divides the basketball fans from the real whine and cheese crowd in front of them. Sure, you had a better seat than me-—by a little bit at least. But I jumped up and pumped my fists when Luol Deng threw down that first big dunk in the second half, appreciating this 6-foot-8 talent before he leaves for the NBA.
But when I glanced over to you guys, poor Body Paint Crazie didn't know what had just happened. He had been too busy looking around at the rest of you for which uncreative chant to sputter out next, and he flat-out missed Shelden’s steal and pass (and after he had made all that effort to stop by the tent!).
Two ticks of the clock later, though, Body Paint Crazie was right back up again, Lets Go Duke-ing and Ohhhhh-Boing-Boing-Pass-ing and Yeah Luol-ing, savoring that god of a freshman no older than he who Body Paint Crazies is just going to hate when he declares for the draft this spring.
What a phony, little nerd.
Matt Sullivan is a Trinity sophomore and is the sports features editor for The Chronicle. His column appears tri-weekly.