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Is it college basketball, or a cult? Whatever you want to call it, Cameron Indoor — and its Crazies — are one-of-a-kind.

Durham, N.C.- 2/05/23- Globe staff photo by Stan Grossfeld- Cameron Indoor Stadium- Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels: A Duke student aka Cameron Crazies who camped out for three weeks to get a ticket to the student section for the game against UNC enters Cameron Indoor Stadium. Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
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Is it college basketball, or a cult? Whatever you want to call it, Cameron Indoor — and its Crazies — are one-of-a-kind.

DURHAM, N.C. — From the outside, Cameron Indoor Stadium looks like a church. Inside, it feels like a cult.

The Cameron Crazies are in full nut mode tonight for North Carolina vs. Duke. The Blue Devil fans, all 9,314 of them, are screamers. The noise level in here was once recorded as high as 121.3 decibels, which is louder than a power saw running three feet away from your ear.

On Tobacco Road, Duke-UNC is “The Game,” the Atlantic Coast Conference’s biggest basketball rivalry. It is the equivalent of Red Sox-Yankees, or Packers-Bears, or Bruins-Canadiens. In the last 100 meetings, the series is tied, 50-50.


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A tent city pops up before each big home game at Cameron Indoor. They call it Krzyzewskiville.
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Katalina Guma, a freshman from Nashville, chose to attend Duke because of how unique the experience was. She dressed as a human backboard for Duke-UNC.
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Grad student Alex Caspary and his buddies were bundled up waiting to get tickets before Duke-UNC in February.
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Student leaders administer trivia tests to determine who gets the best seats at Cameron Indoor.
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The reward for camping outdoors is sweet: Free courtside seats at the rowdiest college basketball venue in America.

Cameron is where the foul-mouthed Crazies wiggle their fingers, yell, and try to intimidate inbound passers. They invented the “air ball” chant. They’ve tossed album jackets on the court to embarrass a player who had allegedly stolen a stereo. In 1986, when North Carolina guard Steve Hale was sidelined with a partially collapsed lung, the Crazies chanted “Inhale … Exhale.” Eventually, Coach Mike Krzyzewski appealed to the Crazies to stop swearing. For a while they chanted “We beg to differ” at the referees.

But even the great Coach K had his limits.

“We respect the man, but we’re going to heckle as best we can,” says Dan Behrens, a Duke student who digs up dirt on opponents. He says the chants and insults make a difference.

The Crazies’ wildest stunt was in 2003. When UNC’s Jackie Manuel stepped to the line to shoot two free throws, Duke student Patrick King — wearing nothing but his blue speedo — jumped up and started dancing like Will Ferrell giving more cowbell. Manuel clanged both shots and later admitted he was “distracted.”

Apparently so was the girlfriend of Speedo Guy’s brother. She quickly dumped her man and married King. He later became a pastor.


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Duke’s Ryan Young runs past the Crazies en route to the locker room.
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Cameron Indoor Stadium fits fewer than 10,000 people.
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Workplace hazard? Just like Duke's opponents, media members must learn to drown out the noise.
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The Crazies dig up dirt on opponents and aren't afraid to use it in chants and cheers.
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Costumes, like this one poking fun at the referees, are encouraged.
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After UNC knocked Duke out of the men's NCAA Tournament in 2022, the Blue Devils got revenge in the Tobacco Road rivalry this past season.

Tonight’s game against North Carolina is the first in 47 years that the Blue Devils will not be led by the legendary Coach K, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, who retired at the end of the 2021-22 season.

The Crazies want revenge. The Tar Heels ruined Coach K’s final game at Cameron, and then ended his career when they eliminated Duke in the Final Four.

Tickets for the game start at $1,000 on secondary markets. But the best courtside seats go to the students, and they’re free.

“It’s the best seats in basketball that money can’t buy,” says Parker Betts, a graduate student who wears a blue Cookie Monster costume for each game.

More than 1,500 students camped out in 130 tents in “Krzyzewskiville” outside Cameron for three weeks to get inside. First-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer, a former Blue Devil who won a championship in 2010, visited the tents armed with coffee, doughnuts, and hot chocolate.

“Some people had to sleep in puddles of water last night,” says Alex Caspary of Tallahassee, Fla., as he shivered in a blanket. (The university shut down the tent city around 10 p.m., when temperatures dipped below 25 degrees.)

Katalina Guma, a freshman from Nashville, said each tent had to take two trivia tests. Scores determined who got the best seats.

“We had no phones, no Apple watches,” she explained. “We just were all in a room for an hour.”


Guma says she decided to go to Duke when she visited the campus last year and saw how unique the experience was. She dressed as a human backboard for the game.

On game day, each Crazie is allowed one six pack of beer for tailgating. Everybody knows the rules for Cameron.

Students are given two page “dirt sheets” when they enter. The key dirt tonight is that the Tar Heels are the fastest team to go from No. 1 rank to unranked in men’s college basketball history. Another item says a UNC player’s nickname, given to him by his mother, is “Booger.”

Duke rookie Kyle Filipowski is a former Massachusetts boys’ basketball player of the year. In a pregame video, he calls playing at Cameron “the toughest road game in America.

“… If you come into our house, you better be ready to fight. It’s 9,000 against five.”

In a see-saw game, one of the Crazies faints and EMTs rush into the stands.

Late in the game, 18-year-old freshman Dereck Lively II blocks his eighth shot of the game. The place erupts.

Duke wins, 63-57, and the entire team runs the length of the court high-fiving the Crazies.

“It’s hard to see, it’s hard to breathe, it’s hard to move,” says Betts, the Duke Cookie Monster. “It’s because it’s so packed in there and everybody is screaming at the top of their lungs.

“I’ve had days where I was literally ill in the head the next day because we were screaming so loud, but it’s all worth it.”


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Stan Grossfeld can be reached at stanley.grossfeld@globe.com.