By Mike Ogle
Special to Page 2

DURHAM, N.C. -- OK, let's get this out of the way right up top. Yes, I am a North Carolina grad.

But have I written in praise of Duke? Absolutely. And have I trashed the Tar Heels? Well, during my senior year at The Daily Tar Heel the hoops team lost home games to the EA Sports All-Stars, Hampton, Davidson and Ohio.

What do you think?

Cameron Crazies
Nice wigs and all, but they just don't make the Crazies like they used to.

So for the moment, let's put aside the outcome of Wednesday night's UNC-Duke game and turn our attention to another matter, one of higher importance. The Cameron Crazies -- yes, those delightfully painted, bouncing, hand-waving, mind-bendingly clever Crazies who cheer their little trust-fund hearts out -- have jumped the shark.

Cleared it by a good 50 feet.

The most clever sign at Thursday's game? Certainly not "RAYMOND FELTON IS A $0.75 TAIWANESE SEX WORKER!" Whatever that means.

Nor was it "SEAN MAY ATE ALL OUR COOKIES."

Or "HEY ROY -- IN THE RARE CASE AN ERECTION LASTS MORE THAN 4 HOURS, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR DR."

It wasn't even "CAROLINA BLUE IS JUST PAST TENSE FOR CAROLINA BLOWS."

PAGE 2 FLASHBACK
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  • None of the above. The one that hit closest to home belonged to a pair of Carolina fans in the middle of the madness. It read, simply, "POSERS." And it featured arrows pointing in every direction around them.

    The truths hurts. And what must be especially painful for the Crazies is that the truth is coming at them from observers in both shades of blue.

    Instant Classic
    Missed Wednesday night's Duke-UNC thriller? Just want to see it again? You can, Friday night at 9 ET on ESPN Classic!
    "It's been said for a while that [the atmosphere has] been down," said Andrew Eimer, a former Crazy from the class of 2003, in a phone interview before the game. "It happens to be a dorkier part of the student population. You realize it more when you're out of school."

    You heard that right. The Crazies are now considered nerdy, even by Duke standards.

    Eimer isn't alone. Last year, a columnist at Duke's student newspaper wrote, "You cheer to be a part of your big, dorky club, one that's lost any pure root, root, root for the Blue Devils ... You're not even living up to your reputation -- one that gives you a lot more credit than you're worth."

    Cameron Crazies
    The Blue Devils won the game, but their fans weren't at their best.

    Sure, these kids still come equipped with blue paint, wigs, togas, Speedos, and soap on a rope for Rashad McCants. Bless their little hearts. They try, they really do. But it's for their own amusement more than anything else.

    What does Jawad Williams care that they're wearing a clown's bowtie and sunglasses? More importantly, did he even notice?

    The chants of "Cameron Crazies? You're crazy" to McCants and "Sean May ... eat me ... you so fat" to May? McCants once related playing ball on this level to being in jail and Sean May still has some baby fat, so those riffs were almost mildly amusing. But they were about the only logs the Crazies used to try to burn the Heels.

    Please.

    North Carolina swingman Jackie Manuel proposed to his girlfriend two weeks ago with a talking Build-A-Bear. So where were the stuffed teddies and "Will ... you ... marry me? Clap-clap clap-clap-clap" taunts? Nowhere to be found. The Crazies' official cheer sheet suggested singing "Here Comes the Bride" when Manuel shot free throws. That might've worked, but it never happened.

    Last week, McCants seemed to issue an open invitation to the full Crazies treatment when he pulled his throat-slash gesture against N.C. State. Wouldn't the heyday Crazies have been all over that? Thursday night, it wasn't mentioned.

    Maybe they're too busy with their future-CEO classes to actually care about basketball anymore -- or at least care as much about the hoops as they seem to care about amusing each other. Now they appear to be too smug to realize, much less admit, that their mere presence alone isn't worth the 20 points they seem to think it is.

    They're too in love with themselves.

    CHEER SHEET
    Curious about what the Cameron Crazies' cheer sheet for the Duke-Carolina game looked like? We've got it right here.
    There were problem signs this season even before the UNC game. A cheer sheet for the Virginia game (including such gems as "You killed Abel," to be directed at the Cavs' Jason Cain) was circulated on the Internet, complete with an Instant Messenger screen name to submit ideas. An enterprising Duke hater used this information to dupe the Crazies into self-deprecating taunts during the Maryland game.

    And on a more serious note, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg claimed his eye was nearly poked by fans as he walked off Coach K Court, and he rightfully complained publicly about the lack of security at Cameron Indoor.

    Now, don't get me wrong. The atmosphere at Cameron still dwarfs most other arenas.

    But these days, it's more a product of the building than the students. They've been living off their reputation for years. Duke's student fans aren't even the cleverest in the ACC anymore. Wake Forest has snatched that title.

    Where did the Crazies go wrong? Maybe it isn't so much that they've jumped the shark. (And besides, hasn't the phrase "jumped the shark" jumped the shark by this point?) Maybe it's that the Cameron Crazies have, shall we say, adopted Cousin Oliver. The Bradys added Oliver in the final season when the Bunch wasn't so cute anymore. "Growing Pains" (Chrissy and Luke) and "The Cosby Show" (Olivia) tried to compensate the same way as those shows matured.

    Now, the Crazies are peopled with young blood, the freshmen. That seems to be what it's come to in Durham -- the student section has been taken over by frosh in recent years. And get this: There is a significant sentiment even on campus that regards the once-revered Crazies with embarrassment, that looks down on them. They don't seem clever, and they don't seem spontaneous.

    They rely on lame attempts at biting humor, body paint and capes. And that isn't enough anymore, because at the end of the day, at the end of the game ... it's only Carrot Top material.

    Mike Ogle is a freelance writer for ESPN The Magazine. Contact him at Mike.X.Ogle.-ND@espn3.com or mogle23@hotmail.com.



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