We hear the announcer begin, speakers overwhelmed in large part by the roar that permeates the stadium. We turn and give each other one last look of confirmation. It is time.
For the past week, 18 of us have trod a narrow line between fear and joy, trepidation and exhilaration. We are Carolina students who are Robertson Scholars, a joint program between Duke and UNC whose members are considered students at both schools. That means we have Duke IDs–and the temerity to camp in Krzyzewskiville (the tent city of Duke students outside Cameron Indoor Stadium) before the two schools clash on March 4. Each day, we stride over to our tent, outwardly bold. We are simply Duke students going to cover our tent for the next few hours. Inwardly, we are doing a mental check to ensure we didn’t wear any Carolina garb by which we might unwittingly reveal our true identities.
Thursday night comes. Tent checks are over. Personal checks have arrived. K-Ville is awash in stumbling students, no small numbers of whom have 40s (40-oz. malt liquors) taped to both hands. Vivek Chilukuri and David Suitts are meandering through the crowd when suddenly an exuberant WXDU reporter selects them for an interview. “Who,” he asks, “is your favorite Duke player?” Chilukuri responds first with, “Shelden Williams.” At the moment he begins to speak, screaming erupts from the other side of the crowd, running in his direction.
“He’s an impostor! He doesn’t go to Duke.” Vivek has been discovered by a high-school classmate. He quickly disappears into the crowd. David claims, “I don’t know that guy.”
Shortly later, we learn that our secret will be out the following day. Pablo Friedmann, Alex Snider and Katie Macpherson have decided to share our scheme with The Daily Tar Heel.
Friday morning comes. We make the front cover of the DTH, but we’re not identified and word doesn’t reach too many Dookies right away. Still, at Coach K’s meeting Friday evening, a group is spotted reading the article online. Our ears burn as the rumor continues to spread. Everywhere, it seems, people are saying those guys must be crazy, and we, of course, agree wholeheartedly.
Friday night is cold, very cold, and we end up in a huddle at the tent. Dan Kimberg comes by, raises a chant of “Go to hell, Carolina, go to hell.” Many of us decide it’s time to take a walk and get away from the tent for a while. We get through our last two checks by 2:30 a.m., and I pack a good number of people into the car for the trip home.
Saturday arrives. A Duke Chronicle reporter comes by. At one point she asks, “So, will you be coming out to the bonfire after the game as well?” I answer, “We don’t plan for there to be a bonfire.” She frowns.
Seven o’clock comes and we all begin finding our place in line. Posters are hastily scribbled as we try to block the view of prying eyes. Pockets are checked and rechecked to ensure Duke cards have not been lost. Two people hide their blue chests under a shirt of a darker shade. The line begins to move. Suddenly, we are past the line monitors and sprinting to get the best place we can. We end up behind the UNC bench and a line monitor explains, “This is the buffer zone, you all will have to move further back.” We look at each other, thinking, “If only you knew.”
We listen to introductions of Duke’s seniors, clapping reservedly as we try to balance the goal of keeping our disguise with our thinly veiled animosity. The clocks ticks down, the buzzer sounds. Game time has arrived.
We hear the announcer begin, silenced in large part by the roar that fills the atmosphere. We turn and give each other one last look of confirmation. It is time. In a single motion, we shed our Duke rags. I rip mine. We don our Carolina blue wigs. We scream in support of our boys. We chant “U-N-C” as the tip-off nears, but are soon silenced by a 13-2 Duke lead. We try hard to keep our smiles, knowing we are the face of Carolina amid a sea of Devils, but things are looking a bit grim. Before we know it, we are back in the game. We sing out, “Here we go Tar Heels, here we go.” David notes how similar Duke’s cheers sound to our own, particularly, “Let’s go De-vils.” I reply, “Yeah, but they’re cheering for the spawn of Satan.” He agrees that I have a point.
As Duke shoots its first free throws, our true power is revealed. Cameron Indoor is silent; Crazies’ hands are raised in anticipation. Suddenly, an utterly unexpected sound rings out clear and true from our bloc, “u-n-c, U-N-C, U-N-C.” No few crazies’ heads turn, the second free throw is missed. Suddenly, the wrath of the crazies is directed not at the players on the court but straight at us, a sea of hexes are sent our way. We have crashed the Cameron party, and we are not welcome. Chants of “Save your voice” and even “Go home now” rise in our direction, and we respond by waving and cheering all the louder, knowing that we are being utterly drowned out but equally confident that our sheer presence is sound enough.
We enter halftime down by one with hopes high. A short distance away, one particularly drunk Dook fan starts … well … not exactly singing our praises and tells a classmate that he better never see him in class again. We check our phones, and the text messages are flowing. We have made ESPN not once, but twice, in the first half.
UNC comes out in the second half and leaves the looseness of the first half behind. Marcus Ginyard starts lighting up the court. Tyler Hansbrough seems unstoppable.
At one point, the Tar Heels find themselves with the shot clock running out and Hansbrough up top. Bobby Frasor holds the ball, looks at Tyler, and says something along the lines of, “You’re going to have to shoot.” Tyler’s eyes go even wider than before. He nods his head, catches the pass, shoots, and sinks a long three. We go wild. Our Tar Heels are up, not just by 2 or 3 but by 11, 12. We are sending high-fives everywhere. Gliding on a cloud of elation as the Crazies grow steadily more depressed, we are all thinking, “We may really win this game,” but are afraid to say it out loud for fear of jinxing it.
With 2:32 left, we have an 11-point lead. Then, suddenly, before we even recognize what has happened, the margin has dropped to 3. Redick is pounding the floor. The Crazies are going wild. They shout “Our house.” We scream “So what?” in return. The atmosphere is electric around us, but while it energizes others, it burns us. Our ears ring. We feel the Devils’ voices creeping into our bones, a sure indicator that our fate, which had begun to seem secure was, in fact, anything but. We shout, chant, and cheer our support to our players, striking out against the Devilish blue that seems to converge upon us.
The clock is at 23 seconds. Hansbrough is at the line. We raise our hands, willing what energy we have into our players on the court. He makes the first; we pull in our hands with a “whoosh” of excitement. We are up by 5. Duke gets the ball, shoots, misses. We inbound and manage a series of quick passes that run the clock down, down, down. With 10 seconds left, Hansbrough is at the line again. The lead stretches to 83-76. We are alternately screaming in support and standing deathly still. Duke brings the ball back, misses, and Hansbrough gets the rebound.
Carolina wins the game. We are stunned. We are ecstatic. We have entered Cameron Indoor in a way no group of Carolina fans ever has. The crazies finish their alma mater, and we begin our own. As “Hark the Sounds of Tar Heel Voices” echoes in Duke’s cherished Cameron Indoor, the stadium goes wild. Impassioned shouts rise up against our exuberant song.
Before we even finish the fight song, we decide it is time to depart. As we walk, a resounding chant of “Fallback school” bites at our heels. First, I consider the irony that this group of Carolina students cumulatively turned down nearly every school in the Ivy League (and, coincidentally, at least one full scholarship to Duke) in deciding to come to Carolina.
Cameron Indoor is a place unlike any other for a basketball game, Dean Dome included. Now, we have been able to cheer our Tar Heels on to the end of a five-year drought of Cameron victories. This night, this moment will linger in my memories and make my heart bleed bluer than ever.