DURHAM, N.C. — The Duke student section has achieved legendary status, thanks
primarily to television.
Specifically, ESPN. Dick Vitale should be on the Blue Devil payroll for all
the fawning he's done over the inhabitants of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
But, at least from the outside, it all seemed warranted. The chants, the
arm-waving, the legendary basketball knowledge. Everything a good fan base
should be, the Dukies already are.
So, on my first-ever trip to Krzyzewskiville Sunday, I was anticipating a
wild, jungle-type atmosphere which made for tenuous circumstances, at best.
Given what I'd seen on television, surely I was in for an education in
college basketball atmosphere.
What I got during the Blue Devils' 115-74 demolition of Clemson, as it turned
out, was disappointment.
Other than cramped working conditions because of press row's proximity to the
bleachers, the atmosphere Sunday was no better or worse than many other
college basketball venues I've seen. The Dukies were mildly entertaining, but
at no time did I get the sense their presence made it difficult on anyone but
themselves (due to the way they sardine themselves into Cameron's tiny
Now, it is possible I caught them on a bad day. Maybe on their first game
back from Christmas break they were rusty. Or maybe a Clemson team that is
less than awe-inspiring at this juncture wasn't enough to get their blood
Or — just maybe — they've become complacent.
Maybe winning has spoiled the Dukies. Maybe they've grown so accustomed to
Blue Devil blowouts that they've resorted to turning on and off their
fanaticism at a moment's notice.
Whatever the case, Sunday wasn't vintage Duke. It wasn't ESPN Duke. Dick
Vitale would have been disappointed.
The cheers were stale and ordinary. The taunts were more comical than
hurtful. Even the band was so-so. Maybe it's television's fault, but I
The fans were nowhere near as good as the team they follow.
Duke fans accuse their brethren in Chapel Hill of playing in a "country club"
atmosphere. Sunday, for one day, anyway, Cameron Indoor Stadium was at the
very least a semiprivate club.
Or, to put it in terms the Dukies might better understand: