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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Cra-zy fans! Cra-zy fans! Cra-zy fans!
The Cameron Crazies make Duke unique in the college basketball world.
By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published November 28, 2006
Whether it's a celebrity resemblance, recent events or other inspirations, the Cameron Crazies do their research before chanting at Duke's opponents.
J.J. Redick had it tough that day against the visiting Butler Bulldogs. The Duke sharpshooter, then just a freshman, had to fight every natural impulse he had.
He just couldn't bust out laughing.
Apparently, the students crammed into Cameron Indoor Stadium for the game, the Cameron Crazies, believed Butler guard Darnell Archey resembled a character from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, as only they can, let him know it. As loud and as often as they could.
"Obviously, they're creative and clever with the cheers," said Redick, now a rookie with the Orlando Magic. "Whatever they cheer, they could just cheer basic stuff. But they're always so enthusiastic, and that's what helps make the atmosphere."
Cameron is like no other college basketball setting. That's due in part to the Blue Devils and their incredible success under coach Mike Krzyzewski and in part to those who root for the home team.
"We pride ourselves on making it very loud," said Mara Schultz, a senior from Boca Raton, "and a very intimidating environment."
But she and her fellow Crazies don't just come up with cheers for their beloved Blue Devils or jeers aimed at their opponents spontaneously, comically free-associating like Robin Williams. There's prep work and organization at play here.
A group of about 30 students form the line-monitor committee, which, in addition to regulating K-ville and the admission of the 1,200 or so students into Cameron, creates a "cheer sheet" for the students that adds an element of choreography.
The page of type highlights the pro-Duke chants - "Our House" and "Go to Hell Carolina, Go to Hell" are timeless, and every regular at a game needs no recitation aid - and the opposing team's roster and a scouting report on certain players culled from Internet reports and sites such as Facebook and Myspace.
"We obviously tease the other players, poke a little fun at them, especially if there's any really good stories about them," Schultz said.
A couple of years ago, Maryland's Nik Caner-Medley was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. He peeled off his shirt and threatened to assault the complainant, screaming, "I'm from Maryland, and nobody can beat me."
Talk about a layup for the Crazies. They ripped material from the headlines, and every time Caner-Medley went to the free-throw line, he was serenaded by his own words.
When Washington star Detlef Schrempf would shoot free throws in a 1985 game, he got a dose of "air ball" with a Duke twist. They gave it to him in his native tongue, German.
Over the years, countless players and coaches have found themselves, like Archey, on the receiving end for nothing more than their appearance. Diminutive Wake Forest guard Muggsy Bogues was called "Webster," a reference to the vertically challenged lead actor in a sitcom.
Florida State had a center a few years back, Nigel Dixon, who was generously listed at 350 pounds. He was greeted by chants of "Mo-by Dix-on" and "Please don't eat me."
North Carolina's Rick Fox would hear incessantly that he had, well, a large backside.
"I guess he did have a big ol' butt," said Grant Hill, a former Duke star and another current Magic player. "That was pretty funny."
With Indiana in town tonight, might the Crazies have a cheer for new coach Kelvin Sampson, who was sanctioned by the NCAA after he left Oklahoma in the spring for making too many telephone calls to prospects?
"Hey, Coach, can you hear me now?"
"We'd have to be very careful," Schultz said. "There is no outline, what we are and are not allowed to say. ... We pride ourselves on creativity, not vulgarity."
Civility wasn't always the word.
Back in the day, the Duke students tossed pizza boxes onto the court when N.C. State's Lorenzo Charles was introduced. Charles had stolen a pizza. In 1984, Maryland's Herman Veal had been accused, but never charged, with sexual misconduct. Duke students threw panties and inflated condoms at him.
"What they did with Herman Veal was over the line," said Jay Bilas, a former Duke player and assistant coach who's now an ESPN analyst. "For the most part, the Duke kids have been pretty good-natured about the stuff they've done. ... Coach K has been pretty vocal with the students to keep it above the decency line."
Bilas points out that the Cameron Crazies aren't the only students who are inventive and loud. They just get the lion's share of the attention. It helps that their team is perennially a national title contender. And maybe, the talent in the stands has had a role in that.
"It was a great environment to play in," Hill said.
"We definitely felt like we had the homecourt advantage, and that's what college basketball and college athletics is all about; the camaraderie, the school pride. And I think the Duke basketball program epitomizes that."