Worgull: If you Build it, They Will Come

In one of the greatest venues in all of college basketball, an arena known throughout the country as one of the best home-court advantages, Wisconsin fans could be seen throughout the four corners of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

DURHAM, N.C. – They were everywhere. They were clustered behind the bench and sandwiched in the tight corners, high up in the rafters. They were behind the baskets, standing in the aisle and sprinkled throughout the arena. Looking around, they were everywhere.

In a game that was an eyesore to watch, it was comforting to look out and see plenty of red in the stands.

In an arena consistently dominated by black and blue and the rowdiest student section in the history of modern civilization, Wisconsin fans continue to live to their billing as one of the best traveling fan bases in America.

Every sports fan is suppose to make a pilgrimage before they retire in the great sports euphoria in the sky. Football has Lambeau Field. Baseball has Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. College football has the Golden Domes of Notre Dame and the Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

Cameron Indoor Stadium is all of that for college basketball rolled into one.

While the first-ever meeting between the two schools did not turn out so promising for Bucky, hundreds of Badger fans finally had a reason to make the journey through Tobacco Road, opening up their pocket books to ensure that they would have a ticket for this historic event in Wisconsin athletics – a sign that networks are starting to recognize UW as an established national power.

For most fans, no price was too high for this game.

"This is Duke, the Mecca of college basketball," said Badger fan Eric Becker, who drove to see the game from Richmond, Virginia and claimed to pay three times face value for his upper deck seat. "It doesn't matter how good your team is or how good Duke is, this is a trip you have to make."

With Wisconsin fans being spoiled with the lavish amenities in the state-of-the-art Kohl Center, Cameron feels more like a cozy three-car garage than a basketball arena.

But the hardware in this garage is certainly impressive. While most programs keep its trophies tucked away in the offices, Duke's success has become so routine that the foyer is plastered with countless regular-season, tournament and invitational trophies, all adorned with a disfigured $4.99 nylon net draped artistically over one side.

"The history here is unprecedented," said graduate student Rob Feldman, who did his undergraduate work at Madison and bought season tickets this year just for this game. "You walk in and you see the trophies. You look into the rafters and see the ACC championship banners, the retired numbers and the national championships. It puts you in awe. You can't escape it because the tradition of winning is around every corner."

With a capacity of only 9,314, there isn't a bad seat in the house, creating an intense and suffocating environment for the visitors and an electric atmosphere for the Blue Devils. Part of the mystique of Cameron is the location of the fans, the infamous Cameron Crazies, as they surround you whichever way you turn.

When the entrance gates open 90 minutes before tip-off, 1,200 screaming Dukies come sprinting in to grab seats that are mere feet off the court. They sing in unison, they cheer in unison and, most importantly, they distract you in unison.

Handed a full Wisconsin roster – complete with nicknames taken off the team Web site – upon arrival, the Crazies won't stop until they're firmly under your skin. The ‘cheer sheet,' as it's affectionately called, dives deep into the backgrounds of Wisconsin's players.

Here's a sample of a few of the nuggets listed on the sheet:

Landry used to work at Walgreen's, Flowers used to word for FedEx and Stiemsma used to hoe weeds. Chant "Waaaaaal-greeeeeeeen's" for Landry, "Feddddd-Exxxxxx" for Flowers and "Hoe those weeds!" for Stiemsma.

Bohannon, Cain, Flowers and Butch all list Stuart Scott (an outspoken UNC alum) as their favorite SportsCenter anchor … what?

Leuer and Nankivil say UNC's DeanDome is their favorite arena – obviously uneducated freshmen.

And that was just a sample of the dedication these fans have. Seriously, either they have a crack-research staff or restraining orders need to be organized. Whether you're for it or against it, the support they give and the confidence they take away makes them the best.

"When you watch the antics of the Cameron Crazies, it puts us to shame," said Wisconsin student section member Alex Dunham, who flew down for the game. "You think your student section is the best in the land until you head to Durham."

Whether it was A.D. Barry Alvarez, two-time U.S. Open champ Andy North, the gutsy fans who brought along a king-sized Badger flag or the drunk guys in section four all wearing cheeseheads, the cardinal and red in attendance all had the same thing on their minds.

History is nice, but we came to see the evil empire lose.

"Who doesn't want to beat Duke?" said a decked out Badger fan, with his face painted red and white and wearing his striped farmer jeans. "Unless you are from the area, your two favorite teams are your team and the one playing the Devils."

Love them or hate them, the trip to Cameron Indoor for plenty of Wisconsin fans was something to remember. Whether is was having a picture taken with the court in the background, cheering when they scored the opening points or taking a long lazy look back before exiting the arena, Cameron leaves a moment that stays etched in your mind.

If you go, however, be sure they don't have a cheer sheet with your name on it.

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