CLEMSON - You can say this for the Cameron Crazies:
Had they been in charge of the Florida recount, Al Gore likely would have been our next president. Because when they want their voice heard, it comes through in waves.
I know. I found out first hand this week.
Last Sunday I wrote a column for tigernet.com from Durham following Duke's 41-point demolition of the Tigers at Cameron Indoor Stadium. In the column I took a few playful jabs at the Cameron Crazies, aka the Duke student body, centering mostly on how disappointed I was in them.
My reaction to my first trip to Duke, the column said, was that the Crazies were stale and ordinary and, perhaps, a bit complacent. I thought they were mildly amusing, but I had expected them to be more of a factor in the game.
In other words, they weren't as advertised on television. At least that Sunday.
I said they were overrated.
It proved to be an easy column to write, one that met deadline with no problems. All in all, I was pleased with the result.
Except, as it turned out, for one minor detail:
The majority of the student body wasn't at Cameron last Sunday. They were wrapping up the final days of Christmas break.
I discovered this thanks the onslaught of e-mail I received beginning Sunday night and, as of this writing, still filtering in a few at a time. Nearly 200 e-mails in all, from points all across the U.S., all with a singular theme:
Dan, you're an idiot.
The real Cameron Crazies weren't in attendance, they said. Sunday's game is one of the few each season the general public has access to the student tickets because, by and large, the entire population is gone for the holidays.
Classes didn't resume until Wednesday. The dorms didn't open until Monday.
Only about a quarter of the students were at the game.
That's why the band was filled with middle-aged instrumentalists. That's why there were adults standing in the student section. That's why the crowd wasn't as irritating to Clemson as it is to most opponents.
That, Dan, is why you're a jerk.
Now, the only defense I can offer is that in chatting with a couple of writers at Cameron in the moments before tipoff, I was told that the students had only missed the previous game and were back for Clemson.
As they say in this line of work, be sure you can trust your source.
So, after spending the week returning e-mail and having fun with the Dukies on a popular Blue Devils' Internet fan discussion board, here are the words you've all wanted to hear:
I retract the statements previously attributed to me in the Internet column.
Having been issued the challenge of coming back to Cameron this year and seeing the Crazies in action at full strength, I've decided what the hell? If my schedule permits - and I'm still researching it - I'll go back and face the wrath.
Like I've always believed, if you're going to talk the talk, you'd better walk the walk.
So, having been assured by several of the Dukies that my life won't be in any
grave danger (not much, anyway) if I return, I'll give them another chance. If they say they've been misrepresented, then it's my job as a journalist to investigate matters further, even if I have to finance this trip myself.
Then I'll be able to write an accurate representation of the Cameron Crazies.
Call 'em like I re-see 'em, so to speak.
Yet given the fervor of their response this week, I think this is an easy call.
Somehow, regardless of what the press meal may be the night of my return, I have the distinct feeling I'll be dining on crow.