EDITOR'S NOTE: The following story appeared in the Dec. 15, 2002 edition of The Post-Journal. With the NCAA men's basketball tournament in full throttle, we thought it appropriate to revisit one of the most famous hoops venues in the world.
By Scott Kindberg
From the outside, it looks like any other building on the Duke University campus.
Stately. Gothic. Beautiful.
In fact, if you didn't know any better, you might think you were heading to a history or economics class rather than one of the most revered sports venues in the world. There was no one hawking programs, there were no parking lot attendants, vendors or ticket scalpers. There was no concession to big money. No corporate logos were splashed on the building. The only giveaway that I was even in the same area code as the basketball arena was a sign that read simply: Cameron Indoor Stadium.
I looked to my left and saw two rather large tents occupying space in the lawn adjacent to the building. The sign nearby told me that I'd reached Krzyzewskiville, a place named in honor of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski that you won't find on any road map in Durham, N.C. Nevertheless, it's a place that is the tent city for the Dukies' wild and rabid students in the days leading up to a Blue Devils' home game. You see, if you want a seat in he student section, you better be prepared to camp out. Sometimes, that means weeks.
About an hour before tip-off, I made my way around to the front of Cameron where I found my friends, John and Audrey Jachym, transplanted Chautauqua County residents, who were the reason I was in North Carolina in the first place. Thanks to their generosity and kindness, I was their guest in Raleigh-Durham for the weekend. An NHL game on Friday night and the Duke-Michigan basketball game on Saturday.
See HEAVEN, Page B2
From Page B1
For me, Christmas had come three weeks early.
John handed me my ticket, told me that it would get me close to the students, known throughout college basketball as the ''Cameron Crazies.'' I stammered a barely coherent thank-you and headed inside. I was numb. The feeling was much the same as when I visited Yankee Stadium for the first time. I almost couldn't believe I was finally going to see my beloved Blue Devils on their homecourt.
An usher directed me to my seat in Section 7. I was 11 rows behind the students, even with the foul line in front of one of the baskets. Hanging from the ceiling to my right were Duke's three national championship banners. To my left were the retired jerseys of former Blue Devil greats, including Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and Shane Battier. I had seen all of this on television countless times before, but now that I was inside, staring at Coach K's Court, everything looked so much smaller. I'd always known that Cameron was an intimidating place to play, but, in person, it seemed 10 times more intimidating. There was no room anywhere - baseline, sideline or in the stands. By comparison, the Reilly Center at St. Bonaventure, which seats 6,000 fans, seems much more spacious than Cameron, which seats 9,314.
After soaking in the atmosphere for a few minutes, I got up and headed to the souvenir stand where I purchased a sweatshirt and T-shirt, a program, a Coke and a bucket of popcorn. When I returned to my seat, the Crazies, many painted in blue, some wearing cut-out basketballs on their heads, were rocking to the Duke pep band, which was playing a tune from the Blues Brothers.
I wasn't able to wipe the smile off my face. As Marv Levy used to say moments before kickoff: ''Where would you rather be than right here, right now?''
The game itself went as expected. The Crazies were, well, crazy, as usual, and the Blue Devils, were, well, the Blue Devils. After jumping out to an early 7-3 lead, Michigan, coached by former Duke All-American and associate head coach, Tommy Amaker, couldn't match Duke's defensive intensity. And, although extremely young, the Blue Devils had the size, depth, skill and the greatest home-court advantage in all of hoopdom that overwhelmed the winless Wolverines, 81-59.
When the game was over, I didn't want to leave.
I walked the concourse, examining the glass case with the retired jerseys of Laettner, Hurley, Hill and Battier inside. I took another quick look at the souvenir stand, resisting the temptation (barely) to purchase another keepsake. Realizing that I had to get on the road - the Jachyms had left at halftime in order to return to their Charlottesville, Va., home by a reasonable time that evening - I shuffled toward the exit.
Then, for some reason, I looked over my shoulder just as I was about to head into the dark night. I did an about-face and walked briskly toward the door that led to the court. I half expected a security guard to tell me to get lost, that Coach K's Court was off-limits to unauthorized personnel. But, much to my surprise and amazement, there was no one at the door and I breezed through. I gingerly stepped on the court and then looked around. I was in hopes that there would be a basketball somewhere so that I could take a shot from beyond the arc like Battier used to do, or drive to the hoop a la Jay Williams or try a half-court bomb like the one Jeff Capel hit a few years ago against North Carolina.
After the day I had, I think I would have made the Cameron Crazies proud.