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Nobody can be quite certain when the Cameron Crazies, the most famous student body cheering section in the nation, got their name. The building was dedicated in Eddie Cameron's name in 1972, but even before then, the fans could rowdy.
What is certain is that the Crazies have been the most publicized student group for many years, for which a great deal of the credit must go to the constant reminders of television analyst Dick Vitale.
What also is certain is that, as Duke basketball has become dynastic, the Crazies aren't quite as crazy as they once were.
In the early 70's, for example, Maryland had a forward with bright red hair, Jim O'Brien, a dead ringer for Bozo the Clown. In a game at Cameron, several of the Duke students showed up in clown uniforms with floppy shoes and red wigs.
While the Maryland players were doing a layup drill, one of the imitators actually jumped onto the line behind O'Brien, who apparently got a kick out of the attention.
Just a few years later, Maryland sharpshooter Brian Magid had a habit of coming out early to practice. This was before the three-point line, but just about every shot Magid took would have been well beyond the NBA stripe.
One of the Crazies went on the floor, placed a dollar bill on a spot, and indicated to Magid to shoot from there. The player came over, took his jumper, and when he made it, put the money in his pocket.
Other Terps were part of the Crazies' legend. Longtime coach Lefty Driesell, a Duke grad, was mostly bald. One year, Maryland arrived at Cameron with Driesell's foot in a cast. Perhaps he had broken it kicking a chair, as he often did.
A dozen or so students showed up in line, all wearing casts. They also had on skull caps, with empty and full inscribed. For Lefty, the needle was placed on the "E". Asked for his autograph, Drieselll went along with the joke and signed the skull cap with a large X.
What makes the Crazies so unique has been their instantaneous responses to what occurs on the floor. During a 1979 game against North Carolina, coach Dean Smith elected to have his team stall for the entire first half, which ended with Duke ahead 7-0.
Late in the period, the Tar Heels took their first shot of the game. It was a 10-footer from the wing by forward Rich "Chick" Yonaker, and the ball went nine feet. Immediately, the Crazies began the yell "Air ball, air ball." If it wasn't an original cheer, nobody has thus far disputed it.
Six years later, Washington All-American Detlef Schrempf was greeted as he attempted a free throw with "fehlwurf" - German for airball.
The height of the craziness came in the early and mid-80's, as Mike Krzyzewski was in the process of what has now become his own dynasty.
Vitale might show up hours before a game to interact with the students, and he would be willingly hoisted, hand over hand, from the front row to the back of the bleachers.
Jim Valvano, another fun-loving coach, enjoyed the attention from the crowd. Once, the Crazies yelled at Jimmy V to sit down. He did - on the floor. The students promptly yelled, "Roll over, roll over." And Valvano did as commanded with a smile on his face.
After he was let go at State, Valvano showed up at Cameron as a TV analyst along with Brent Musburger, once the play-by-play voice of the Final Four. Seeing the pair doing a preview from courtside, the Crazies interjected, "You both got fired."
There were times in which the students went over the line when abusing a player on the other team. The worst came in 1984 when the Crazies threw condoms and other items on the floor at Maryland's Herman Veal, who the previous season had been accused of making sexual advances and placed on probation.
Veal played well, Maryland won, and Washington Post columnist Ken Denlinger blasted the student body as "several thousand Duke students majoring in smartass." University president Terry Sanford admonished the Crazies in a letter in the Duke Chronicle, asking them to clean up their act. "We can cheer and taunt with stylel; that should be the Duke tradition." He signed the letter, Uncle Terry.
At the next game, against archrival Carolina, when the Crazies protested an official's call, they chanted, "We beg to differ."
There was a banner that read, "We're sorry, Uncle Terry, The devil made us do it." The students wore aluminum halos. They yelled, "Go to heck, Carolina, go to heck." Another sign read, "A hearty welcome to Dean Smith." When the Tar Heels shot free throws, instead of arms waving behind the basket there was a sign that read, "Please miss."
Television - and not just Vitale - added to the Crazies' resume. In 1986, Al McGuire called the scene at Duke a zoo. He showed up for the game wearing a pith hat and carrying a whip. He flicked the whip at the students while play-by-play man Dick Enberg threw peanuts to the crowd.
There is an obvious reason why the Crazies have become such a part of the scene at a Duke home game that Krzyzewski refers to them as the team's "Sixth Man." The students are courtside, in bleachers that were narrowed - three new rows were added - during a mid 90's renovation.
Nobody sits down. Not before, during or after a game. The Crazies, many painted blue and white, stand and yell and point. Press row is immediately in front of them. It doesn't matter. They reach over the heads of the reporters to slap hands with the Blue Devils or to point at an offending official.
Some other schools, seeing the attention that the Crazies merited from the national media, have moved students near the floor, where they can be every bit as obnoxious as the originals.
Student line monitors handle the crowd, which does not require tickets. The are approximately 1,200 numbered seats for the students. Donald Wine, head monitor for the '03-04 season, said the average attendance had been around 1,500, which means that for most games, the bleachers are filled to every nook and cranny.
When they aren't, or then the Crazies aren't in good form, Krzyzewski may comment about it in his postgame media conference. Over the years, he has shaped the student crowd to his liking, which is to primarily cheer for Duke, and never abuse visiting players.
About as strong as it gets towards the opposition now is for the Crazies to mock N.C. State star Julius Hodge with a "Jul-e-us" chant, repeated often as the all-conference player suffered through a seven-point, seven-turnover game in Cameron in 2004.
The students are still noisy and disruptive when opponents shoot free throws, while being quiet as church mice any time a Duke player is at the line. The graduated students sit in the end zone, where a couple of years ago, one fan stood as the opposing player was ready to shoot, rapidly stripped and boogied while clad only in a brief bathing suit. Thus was the legend of Speedo Guy born. Yes, the foul shot missed.
Whenever an opponent fouls out, the Crazies point their arms in the direction of the bench and chant. When the player finally takes a seat, they yell, "See yah!" That has gone on so long that visiting players know what's coming. Sometimes they remain standing by their bench. Others will fake sitting down. Eventually, the Crazies tire of the wait and yell, "You're not worth it."
Coach K may remind the Crazies in advance not to taunt an opposing player who may have gotten in trouble. Before the St. John's game last season, Duke students had been e-mailed by some students of the opponent to yell "Fire Jarvis" at beleaguered coach Mike Jarvis. They did so. Briefly.
Krzyzewski jumped to his feet and screamed at them to stop. Which they did. Immediately. Jarvis, a close friend of Coach K, nevertheless was fired a couple of weeks later.
The Crazies are extraordinarly receptive to their Hall of Fame coach's requests. And they politely applaud when he comes out, just before the game and after halftime, even though it means the passageway to the concession stand is blocked temporarily until Krzyzewski has passed by.
The amazing thing about the Crazies is how traditions get passed down, year after year. Freshman are indoctrinated immediately, and there are seniors every season who claim they never have missed a home game.
Duke usually wins at Cameron, often by a wide margin. But that doesn't halt the perennial enthusiasm. And judging by the Duke boards, on the Internet, once a Crazy, always a crazy.
- from "One Hundred Seasons : Duke Basketball"
              by author BIll Brill and Duke University

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