The Perils of Sporting Your Undergrad Colors in a Hostile Arena

Posted by EMann on January 30th, 2013

Note:  The writer of this piece, Ethan Mann, is an ACC microsite writer and Duke senior who has attended all but one home basketball game in his three-plus years in Durham, as well as being part of the group that organizes the tenting for the UNC game. He can easily spot when people who go to Duke let it get to their heads.

A few Miami graduate students, who happen to be Duke alumnae, decided to attend the Hurricanes’ 90-63 shellacking of the then-#1 Blue Devils last Wednesday. Their experience was not so great, as they wore their Duke colors and were the target of verbal abuse not just from Miami undergrads but apparently also from school administrators. Michelle Picon, one of these Duke undergraduate/Miami medical students, felt so affronted by her experience there that she wrote an op-ed to the Duke Chronicle regarding the mistreatment they endured both before and during the game.

Picon, Right in the Duke Sweatshirt, Probably Wishes She Hadn't Written into the Duke Chronicle At This Point

Picon, On the Right in the Duke Sweatshirt, Probably Wishes She Hadn’t Written into the Duke Chronicle At This Point

Ladies and gentlemen, I f—ing kid you not, the Dean of Students and the Vice President of Student Affairs stood between us and the stadium, allowing dozens of people to pass us in line as they lectured us on our apparently deplorable and wildly unacceptable desire to show support for our home team. Four-plus years as Cameron Crazies, hard-earned Duke degrees and constitutionally protected freedom of speech notwithstanding, senior administrators of the undergraduate campus dared scold us for wearing Duke blue to a basketball game.

Look, I completely understand their anger — you should be allowed to wear your colors to a basketball game anywhere you want. However, by sitting in the Miami student section, it is more or less assumed that you are going to cheer for Miami. This was probably the most high-profile game in the history of Miami basketball so I can understand the administrators’ desire to make the student section look as good as possible (hence, free of Miami students who might be Duke basketball fans from their youth/undergraduate affiliation, etc.) to display school spirit. Also, the claim about freedom of speech is just incredibly erroneous. They were honestly lucky to be let in the game at all wearing the Duke stuff, because at some schools they would not allow entry into the student section unless they put a shirt from the home school on over their Duke attire.

At Duke, the graduate students are placed behind the baskets, separate from the main student section. Graduate students who end up wearing their undergrad colors (if Duke happens to play their alma mater) are not restricted from going to the game and doing just that, but they are often subjected to some lighthearted taunts from the people standing near them. On the rarer occasions when this happens in the main student section (Duke students who have longstanding allegiances to other schools from their family affiliations and/or childhood fandom), a similar experience to what these Miami grad students faced would likely happen. But as a current Duke student who deals with the stereotype all the time of our student fans as arrogant and spoiled, this sort of behavior does not exactly help to allay that sentiment:

Unfortunately, the immaturity and spite exhibited by the administration and the mascot was only amplified among the student body. About 1,300 students were in attendance, and I’m sure 1,200 of them had never watched a Miami basketball game in their entire undergraduate careers. Uninspired expletives, homophobic slurs and limp references to genitalia were the only “cheers” I heard from Miami students the entire game. They did not cease during the national anthem, nor during a moment of silence for a deceased member of their own coaching staff. Pause for a second and imagine that scene in Cameron.

That’s OK—we couldn’t either.

Just the other day against Maryland, Dez Wells was serenaded with “No means No” chants when he was at the free throw line and after playing some overly aggressive defense. I can admit that the Cameron Crazies (myself included) are far from saints during the game. While I also feel that sometimes the Cameron Crazies can be very witty, Picon should let others point out any brilliance, if they in fact see it, rather than suggesting that Duke students are better than everyone else when it comes to cheering at basketball games.

Regardless, if you go into another team’s student section wearing the opposing team’s garb, it probably isn’t a good idea to expect to be treated well. Picon should try visiting Maryland for her residency interviews.

EMann (30 Posts)


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2 Responses to “The Perils of Sporting Your Undergrad Colors in a Hostile Arena”

  1. Alex says:

    Fair points, however I don’t think the point of Picon’s column was as much about student behavior (although from my ~50 games and four years in Section 17 at Cameron, definitely cruder than at Duke) as about the deplorable actions of the UM administration. Only at the Carolina game are people wearing the other color looked into at all – and that’s because in the largest rivalry in sports, the fear would be for disruption or making a scene, not simply cheering for the wrong side. I waited in line for a UVA game behind 3 friends of a Duke student – none of them students themselves – who got riotously drunk in line, flaunted UVA gear, and were treated for the most part politely, let into the game with their borrowed Duke IDs, and taunted lightly only by the students directly next to them as they were obnoxious for a full two hours. The treatment is clearly far different at UM and Duke, and Picon’s letter is fully merited.

  2. Big "S" says:

    The entourage of the former Duke students who feel mistreated at Miami is, at best, derisory.

    What reaction did you expect? Check your own behavior and treatment toward Miami and other schools in reference to Cameron.

    However, I’ll agree that the behavior of the Miami students and administration was “over the top.” Maybe the saying “whatsoever you sow, that shall you also reap” applies here.

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