“This inventive and enlightening romp through the wintertime tent city on the Duke campus is like a trip back in time. You’ll find yourself in college again, taking Anthro 101 and Chaucer and letting ACC basketball run your life.”—Alexander Wolff, senior writer, Sports Illustrated
The Krzyzewskiville Talesby Aaron Dinin
Recent Duke University graduate Aaron Dinin has produced an entertaining, imaginative look at Krzyzewskiville, the tent city named after Duke University's head men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (Sha-shef-ski). A unique Duke tradition, Krzyzewskiville is used to determine which students are admitted into key games. Taking Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales as his model, Dinin has created characters who narrate their semifictionalized tales—by turns reverent, bawdy, and humorous—to enlighten readers about this cherished institution.
So the story begins. On a wintry night in Durham, North Carolina, writes Dinin, twelve students huddle under the meager protection of a nylon tent. They have little in common except the sacrosanct tradition that has brought them together for the past month. Before the sun next sets, they will anoint themselves in blue and white paint and enter nearby Cameron Indoor Stadium to worship at the altar of Blue Devils basketball. In the meantime, they abide in Krzyzewskiville.
A stranger enters the tent, a respected sportswriter, and suggests that the tenters pass the hours until the next tent check by telling stories of Krzyzewskiville. Like Chaucer’s pilgrims, the students compete to tell the best tale. They report on ribald tenting exploits, relate a dream in which Duke basketball players and coaches test a fan’s loyalty, debate the rationality of tenting as a way of allocating students’ tickets, and describe the spontaneous tent city that sprang up one summer when their beloved “Coach K” was offered a job elsewhere. This storytelling competition creates a loving portrait of the complex rules and tribal customs that make up the rich community and loyal fans that are Krzyzewskiville.
Mickie Krzyzewski, Coach K’s wife and a familiar courtside figure at Duke basketball games, has contributed a foreword praising the “love, commitment, and ownership” of the citizens of Krzyzewskiville.
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The Krzyzewskiville Tales
By Aaron Dinin
Duke University PressCopyright © 2005 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
HERE BEGINS THE CAPTAIN'S TALE
The First Part Follows
Once upon a time, before the days of tenting, when Duke had yet to win a national basketball championship and the school's athletic reputation conjured up images of football dominance, its students were setting standards for cheering excellence. Before the television camera appeared in college arenas, before ESPN sold the country NCAA basketball, the students of Duke University transformed taunting into an art form. In fact, Duke students were wildly enthusiastic basketball fans even before their beloved arena took the name of the famed Duke coach and athletics director Edmund Cameron and they earned their moniker, the Cameron Crazies. Today Duke basketball fans have become sporting legend, and the evolution of the Crazies has become myth. Some people like to date Krzyzewskiville back to 1986, but its foundations were laid nearly a half-century prior.
A man by the name of Bradley R. Walton—Brad, to his friends—ranks as one of Duke's first diehard fans. Born in 1924 and raised in the southern part of Durham County, Brad came of age amid the Duke-UNC rivalry: his uncle's small horse farm, where he lived, was halfway between the two institutions.
Growing up on the farm, Brad lived with his aunt and uncle and their son Sam, his cousin. The two cousins had been born only a month apart, and because Brad was sent to live in Durham at the age of five, they were raised as brothers. They shared a room, worked the farm together, and attended the same school. Sam and Brad were inseparable and the best of friends, but, as would any pair of friends or brothers, they did occasionally disagree. Most notably they clashed over the Duke-UNC rivalry.
The year was 1940, and basketball was still a young sport in North Carolina. But the semiannual games between the neighboring schools along Tobacco Road carried an intensity not unlike that of today's rivalry: both programs were laying the groundwork for a rise to national prominence. The new decade saw the first meeting between the two schools in a brand-new basketball facility on Duke's recently built West Campus, Duke Indoor Stadium. As legend has it, the first design of the building was sketched on the back of a matchbook by Edmund Cameron and another familiar personality in Duke athletics — the man for whom the football stadium is named, Wallace Wade.
On a mid-January evening, Brad sat at the dinner table with his aunt, uncle, and cousin, having just finished a piece of apple pie baked in celebration of his sixteenth birthday. Brad stood and began stacking the dirty plates to take to the sink when his uncle said, "Just hold on a minute. We're not done here yet. First you need to open your present." His uncle handed him a thin envelope with Brad's name scrawled on front.
"Thanks, Uncle Danny," said Brad as he took the envelope. He pulled his chair closer to the table and slipped his finger under the sealed flap. Brad pinched the two thin pieces of paper inside the envelope between his thumb and finger and pulled them out. He read the words aloud, "February 23,1940, Duke vs. UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke Indoor Stadium." Brad stared at the tickets as a smile spread across his face. He looked up and said, "Tickets to the Duke-UNC game! I can't believe it. How'd you get these?"
"What, you think your old uncle doesn't have any connections?"
"No ... I didn't mean it like that. I just ... just can't believe it. Thanks!"
"Happy birthday," said Brad's aunt. "Now you two boys enjoy those."
"Who said I was going to bring Sam?" joked Brad.
"That's fine. Why would I want to go see Duke play anyway?" answered Sam as he reached over and snatched the tickets. Brad sprang from his chair and darted toward Sam, who, in turn, sprinted around to the other side of the table. The two boys raced around the house laughing and hurling insults about each other's favorite school.
"Snobs!" cried Sam, in reference to Duke students.
"Hicks!" retorted Brad, describing Chapel Hill kids.
These insults continued for the next month until the day of the game. At that game in 1940, and probably at every game to this day, the stadium was packed with fans anticipating the contest between the neighboring schools just eight miles apart. Brad and Sam entered the new 8,000-seat arena—which would give way to the 9,314-person setup of today—built just west of the main section of the men's campus. (In 1940 all women students would have lived on East Campus, the former women's college, which eventually would become an all-freshman campus.) At the time, Duke Indoor Stadium was the largest enclosed arena in the South, although it is difficult to imagine such a distinction for Cameron today. It was often described as a "cheap knock-off" of the Palestra, the stadium in Philadelphia on which it was roughly modeled.
When Brad and Sam entered the arena, their eyes widened at the sight of 8,000 spectators — more people than they had ever seen gathered in one building—all anticipating the clash between the Blue Devils of Duke University and the White Phantoms of the University of North Carolina, as they were known in the days before they were the Tar Heels.
Bradley and Sam found their seats. They were in the last row on the side where the broadcasting booth now hangs. The two cousins sat down and hardly spoke as their eyes darted around the stadium. They saw an arena scarcely unlike what it is today, at least in terms of general setup: the same iron beams arched over the hardwood and formed a crest at the peak of the roof; white bucket seats lined the upper dignitary areas; and, on the floor below, wooden bleachers surrounded the court. Filling every spot on those bleachers were, of course, Duke students. Even at the stadium's inception, the best seats in the house were reserved for Duke undergraduates. Standing to cheer during games had yet to become protocol, however, and all the men wore coats and ties and women wore their best Sunday dresses —very unlike today's blue- and white-painted screaming fans.
One aspect of Cameron missing at the building's completion, one which we today take for granted, was air-conditioning. Even in February, a building containing 8,000 enthusiastic fans could still become hot and steamy. Cameron, however, was not air-conditioned until the 2001-2002 season, more than sixty years after it had begun playing host to hundreds of athletic events, ceremonies, speeches, and concerts.
Brad turned to his cousin, who had his arms crossed over his chest trying to hide his dirt-stained and age-worn overalls. Indeed, the two, similarly clad, looked out of place among the well-dressed crowd, but Brad took no notice of the distinction. He whispered to his cousin, "This is the most amazing place I've ever seen."
Samuel had just the opposite reaction to the majesty of Duke's new arena. "It's too big," he griped, "we're never going to be able to see anything from up here! Why did they have to make this place so big? It's not like this many people will always want to come see a Duke game. These people are only here because they're playing UNC. This place is just a waste of space. At least tickets will probably be easy to get."
"Are you kidding, Sam, this place is incredible!" responded Brad.
"Well," began Sam, "I hope I never live to see the day that UNC builds a huge, gaudy stadium that they'll almost never be able to fill."
And so the two boys countered back and forth for the rest of the game. Sam cheered in the loudest voice he could muster every time UNC made a basket or Duke missed. Not to be outdone, Brad lost his voice screaming for Duke throughout the game. In the end, no amount of cheering from Brad or anyone else would help the Blue Devils: Carolina defeated the home team with a score of 3127.
On the walk back to the farm, Sam taunted Brad so ruthlessly that an onlooker might have thought Sam had won the game himself. Yet Sam's jeers did little more than cultivate Brad's desire to one day attend Duke and become one of the students who lived for the basketball team.
I regret to have to end this first part of my story on a sad note: Bradley Walton never made it to the student section of Cameron. Even as he and his cousin watched the basketball game in February of 1940, a ruthless dictator was ravaging Europe. Before they were ever college students, Brad and Sam found themselves in the northern deserts of Africa fighting a "fox" in the service of a murderer. And it is there that I shall leave the tale of these two gentlemen for now.
The Second Part Follows
Daniel had been a Duke fan his entire life; it was a passion he had never questioned. Duke factored perhaps larger than religion in his upbringing. He had been raised with constant reminders from his father about how he would someday attend Duke. "If you work hard enough in school," his father would say, "one day you'll go to Duke University and be a Blue Devil. You'll get to sit with the students in Cameron." His dad also jokingly admonished him, "If you do poorly in school, you'll wind up at Carolina."
Inspired by the incentive to work hard in school (not to mention a damn good reason not to slack off), Daniel found himself bound for his freshman year at Duke. Most of all he anticipated the basketball games his father had spoken of so often, because despite his family's fanaticism for the school and its basketball program, Daniel had yet to see a game in person. That changed soon after he arrived on campus: he attended every game played in Cameron during his four years at Duke, from the first tip of the season opener in the fall of his freshman year to the final second of the season's last game in the spring of his senior year. By far the best of these match-ups involved one of the most impressive offensive performances by a single player in the history of Duke basketball, during a game that has been called one of the greatest in the Duke-UNC rivalry.
The game on February 23, 1963, ended in one of fourteen Atlantic Coast Conference wins for the Duke program that year, giving the team a flawless league record that helped it along to the Final Four. The star of that game was Art Heyman, the first Duke player to go number one overall in the nba draft. The All-American scored a career-high 40 points, 24 of which came in the final period, to lead the team to a 106-93 defeat of Carolina. With twenty-two seconds remaining in the game, Heyman left his home court for the last time to a three-minute standing ovation from the Duke Blue Bedlamites—the name given the student-section fans before they became the Cameron Crazies.
Heyman's performance was certainly a memory to cherish, as was the win. But more important, in those three minutes of applause, Daniel came to truly understand his father's love of Duke basketball. After the game, he went back to his room and wrote a letter to his father. The letter said
By the time you read this letter, you will undoubtedly know the result of Duke's most recent basketball victory over Carolina. You will have read the news reports and will know how the game progressed. You'll also have read about the unbelievable offensive performance of Art Heyman. But I wanted to send you my own thoughts on the game, something you won't find in any newspapers. I want to tell you that I finally understand why you taught me to love Duke basketball.
Today's victory was not merely a defeat of an arch rival, nor was it simply another victory toward a perfect conference record. Today, Duke basketball was about the Duke student community. When Heyman left the court to applause that shook the floors and walls of the stadium, I saw in every face the spirit of this school. It was the students, the faculty, the alumni, and even the unaffiliated fans joining together to support a Duke victory. Basketball may be the most prominent example of such support, but never has a day gone by when I haven't received the same in a classroom. The Duke community will appreciate any accomplishment, that's for sure. But more important, and perhaps proved more so by other experiences that didn't produce stars and victory, the Duke community will always be here to support its students in their more trying hours, be they in academic struggle, personal tragedy, or any other challenge.
Duke basketball is an extension of the Duke spirit. The players are students, just like us. They are our colleagues, our peers and, above all, our friends. We celebrate their victories and taste the same bitterness of defeat because together we are a student body. We are a community. Now I know why you love this school. Now I know why you sent me here. I can never thank you enough for the opportunity you have given me, and I can only hope to have the chance to pass this experience on to my children as well.
Always with thanks and love, Daniel
The Third Part Follows
James entered an already crowded commons room on a cold evening in late February of 1986. It was a Thursday night, andjust as there had been every other Thursday night, a game of Quarters was taking place in the selective-living group of Mirecourt. This is not the time or place to explain the intricacies of that particular drinking game, although some here may know it very well.
But I digress: let us return to that February night in 1986.
The highly anticipated UNC game was fast approaching, to be played on Sunday, March 2. As is usually the case around campus in the few days before the Carolina game, the discussion in Mirecourt eventually turned to basketball. James had a particular interest in this match-up, not only because of the opponent but also because of some of the fans who would attend. James's father, Daniel Walton, would be at the game; so too would his grandfather, Bradley Walton. In honor of his father's sixty-second birthday, Daniel had procured three tickets for himself, his father, and a friend of his father's. Because two earlier generations of Walton Duke basketball fans would also be at the game, James wanted to be certain that he would be visible among the students. Concerned with how to secure one of the best seats in the house, he initiated a discussion about how early he and his friends should begin to line up for the game.
"When do we want to get in line?" asked James.
"The game is on Sunday, right?" said one of James's friends. "I'll bet people start getting out there Saturday morning."
"I suppose we can get out there around then," said another friend. "Maybe midmorning or early afternoon. When do you think we should get out there?"
"I don't know," answered james, "but I need to get good seats. My dad and grandfather will be there. I want them to be able to see me from the stands."
A few more rounds of Quarters (and plenty of drinks) later, someone said, "Hey, why don't we just go out there tonight? That way we're sure to beat everyone in line."
"If we get out there now," said another person, "we'll have to sleep outside for three days. I'm not doing that."
James thought about how to form the line that very night without freezing. "I have an idea," he said at last. "Why don't we just pitch some tents?"
Perhaps under normal—and sober—circumstances, the notion of being outside for three straight days in the cold of February simply for good seats for a two-hour basketball game would have seemed foolish. But since this idea would assure the group a prime location in Cameron for the Carolina game, they decided to give it a try and set up four tents.
Word of tents being pitched on the grass in front of Cameron began to spread on campus that day. Discovering that people were already waiting outside Cameron for the UNC game, other students rushed to stake their places in line. And posted on a pole fixed in the front of this makeshift campground was a piece of cardboard—the back of an old pizza box, from what I hear—and on it was written the word Krzyzewskiville. I guess the name stuck.
Now we have to remember that the Krzyzewskiville of today is not at all like it was in the early years. Although line monitors existed, they didn't wield the same powers they hold now, nor were they out policing the integrity of the line days in advance to ensure that no one wrongfully jumped ahead of an established group. There weren't any rules governing the tenters; there were no tent shifts. K-ville was a free-for-all, and if you wanted your place in line, you had to stay out there and protect it yourself. But that first group of kids, and all of the tenters that followed them that year, made it abundantly clear: they had been outside in line for days, and nobody was going to get in front of them. A second sign appeared in what quickly came to be known as K-ville:
DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT
CUTTING THIS LINE ...
WE'VE BEEN HERE SINCE
WE'LL KILL YOU!
So that was how K-ville began. As you can see, it wasn't created by the administration to show school spirit, and it wasn't a prefabricated city with the current long list of rules and requirements. Krzyzewskiville is the offspring of spontaneity, and Duke's most devoted fans flock to it with one purpose: to earn the best seats possible in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
As for James, he got his reward. He was in the front row at center court for the game. And all he had to do was look up across the stadium to see his father, Daniel, and his grandfather, Brad. In a game between two of the best teams in the country, the Blue Devils edged out the Tar Heels, 82-74. Duke was en route to a first-place finish in the acc, a Final Four appearance, and a final record of 37-3 — the winningest season in the history of collegiate basketball to that date.
Forty-six years after his first experience in Cameron, Bradley Walton sat in the same stadium he'd visited in his youth, looking upon two generations of Duke fans that his love for the school had helped create. He finally saw Duke triumph over Carolina in person. But the victory was truly bittersweet. This time his best friend was not in the seat next to him to share the experience. Although he had another ticket and could have invited someone to attend the game with him and his son, Brad chose to leave a seat empty in memory of his cousin, Samuel, who had not come home from the fighting in the north of Africa.
Excerpted from The Krzyzewskiville Tales by Aaron Dinin. Copyright © 2005 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
An Atlanta native, Aaron Dinin completed The Krzyzewskiville Tales before receiving his B.A. in English from Duke University in 2005. Dinin, who was indifferent to sports before coming to Duke, tented in Krzyzewskiville for two years, and as a senior he was a line monitor, one of the most powerful positions in Duke student fandom. When not in class, in a tent, or cheering for the Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium, he worked on a scholarly project to analyze the manuscripts of Walt Whitman, played viola with the Dulcedo Quartet, and provided campus tours for prospective students with the Blue Devil Guides. The Krzyzewskiville Tales is Dinin’s first book—but surely not his last.
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