The Persecution of the Cameron Crazies

Streeter Lecka

Today was a typical slow news day, so a small portion of the internet spent it discussing this little tidbit from last night's N.C. State-Duke game. Early in the second half, a State fan in attendance tweeted that Tyler Lewis, starting for the injured Lorenzo Brown, was greeted at the foul line by Duke fans chanting, "How's your grandma?" Lewis's grandmother had died the previous week; after Julius Hodge spread the the word to his followers, well, State fans were justifiably upset.

It probably would have just laid there — a standard Duke Students Annoy Many story — except most of the reporters on press row (right in front of the Crazies) maintained that Duke fans were instead chanting "Past your bedtime," giving everyone with a little time on their hands today the opportunity to scour a YouTube clip like it was the Zapruder film. The general consensus now stands that while most of the fans were chanting lighthearted jabs about the fact that Lewis is basically prepubescent, there were some bringing up his dead grandmother. This, in turn, lead to the rousing defense that we can't castigate the Crazies for a few bad apples, as well as this long post about how we as a nation are too quick to blame Duke, because of the lacrosse scandal everyone wanted to be true.

I can sympathize with the feeling that one (or more) fan's tasteless chant should not reflect on a fanbase. After al, it was only a few years ago that a UNC fan yelled a pretty tasteless comment that the TV mikes picked up. (Brian was more lenient about it than I was; it goes without saying that more than a few Duke fans were not as charitable towards Tar Heels fans as they now expect others to treat them.) But I think the protesting defenses coming from Durham are going a little overboard, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, Duke markets the Crazies in a way few other schools do. Aided and abetted by Dick Vitale and ESPN, Duke embraced the fiction that these fans were smarter, more creative and a step above the mouthbreathers cheering on other teams. Duke students buy into it, often boasting that they don't use profanity like Maryland (they do). Ignore that there has always been a tasteless streak in the fans in Cameron Indoor, with both former presidents and yes, the guy with the never-graying hair on the bench taking the group to task. Or that the actions of a single student are often attributed to the Crazies over all, such as when a guy slapped on a Speedo and got a three-minute Sportscenter feature out of it. You can buy Nike-emblazoned Cameron Crazies T-shirts at university stores, for crying out loud. When a university and a fanbase has profited this much from screaming yahoos, you can't suddenly absolve yourself if some of the yahoos yell something inappropriate.

As for why everyone else takes a little more pleasure when Duke fans do something stupid, let's start with the obvious. Duke fans are some of the least self-aware people on the planet. Think back to a couple of weeks ago, when we were all briefly amused by the Duke grad horrified to discover Miami students did not appreciate her presence in their student section. Duke would never treat opposing fans that way, says someone unfamiliar with the Robertson Scholar kerfluffle. They have complete meltdowns every time their reputation slips. Or their team loses. And in spectacularly nerdy ways. Never has a group of fans who have yelled so many wretched things been so easily offended by others.

Now with the second part of the argument, that the internet's recent piling on the poor Duke student body all comes after the lacrosse case polarized the country, I think it overlooks the fact that the internet has also exploded since 2006. Deadspin, probably the best pubication at for getting embarrassing social media evidence into the general consciousness, only launched in late 2005. Heck, social media itself really didn't take off until slightly after that. There hasn't been a microscope focused on Duke since the lacrosse case. There's been an insatiable media focused on nothing, and everything, willing to report on any stupid thing perpetrated anywhere. And Duke students have just happened to have committed more than their fair share of bonehead moves in recent years.

Because there are a subset of students at Duke who are raging assholes. I'm not here to speculate whether there's a high percentage of them than in any other segment of the population, nor am I calling every random Blue Devil who stumbles across this post of assholery. But Duke students need to heed Larry Summers' maxim: "There are idiots. Look around." And if you don't like being lumped in with the idiots? Then shame them Speak against them. Admit that there are people cheering for your favorite team, like those who cheer for every team, who are jerks. Don't try to flip it back on the people mocking the idiots. Don't treat having said idiocy pointed out as a warrantless persecution. Suck it up.

It wasn't long after I stumbled across the internet that I discovered corners were UNC fans supported the Tar Heels in... less than helpful ways. And in the years since I've had to accept idiot professors holding no show classes, an assistant football coach taking a second job as an agent liaison, and a whole host of smaller idiocies, all turned into a morality play for the Atlantic and the New York Times. And I mock the coverage when I think they don't have anything, and I accept the hits when they do. So my advice to you, Duke, is to try to be better. There are idiots. Look around. Then fix it.

(Or we can just get the White House to declare you a terrorist group. Either way.)

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