Basketball For All

Duke basketball. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I was slightly oblivious to the team when I arrived in Durham, but that changed very quickly. Even though there is much more hype among the undergraduate population at Duke, some of the graduate students really have gotten into the spirit as well. Given that Duke is the No. 1 team in the nation this is not hard to imagine.

This month, I had the amazing opportunity to finally attend my first ever basketball game! It was also amazing because Cameron Indoor Stadium has about a 9,000-seat capacity. Let me put that into perspective; other top teams in the country right now are Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. Their stadium capacities in order are 21,000, 14,000 and 23,000. Needless to say, Duke basketball tickets are very sought after.

Empty Cameron Indoor Stadium resembles a high school gym

Somehow, some way, tenting was Duke’s solution to adequately distributing the golden tickets, if you will. Students sleep outside in tents in front of the basketball stadium for a selected number of days in the hopes of winning tickets. There are checks every so often by tent monitors to make sure at least a few team members are present at all hours of the day. Graduate students get off pretty easy. Their tenting period takes place over one weekend. The more present checks they get, the more entries in a lottery. If you win the lottery, you win the chance to pay $300 for Duke season tickets. This may sound like a lot, but given that public tickets to a Duke game run about $300 a piece, it’s a decent deal.

Tents line a lawn outside of the stadium

Undergraduates, on the other hand, must tent for four to six weeks straight and then only win tickets to one game; Duke vs. North Carolina. This matchup is considered one of the most intense rivalries in all of U.S. sports. The universities are less than 10 miles apart, both are considered quite prestigious, and the public and private structures of each school only contributes to the ferocity of their rivalry.

Some students decorate tents based on a certain team member. This tent has chosen Alex O’Connell to champion.

Luckily, I was able to purchase a ticket from another graduate student who was not attending the game. This method only costs $15, market price for all graduate students. Even though we were not playing a big rival, the game was completely sold out. The St. John’s Red Storm basketball team had a small number of fans in attendance, but the sea of blue easily drowned the few in red. Coordinated cheers were easy enough to pick up and the band blasted pop melodies throughout.

Duke went on to win 91-61
More tents line the sidewalk outside of Cameron.

The excitement and electricity in Cameron Indoor Stadium is unparalleled in college basketball. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never even been to a basketball game before (like me), the cheering and camaraderie created in the space will suck you in. I now understand the hype associated with one of the top-ranked college basketball teams in the nation and believe it’s something you won’t be able to find anywhere else but here. Go Blue Devils!