Duke Basketball, Family Traditions and Falafels – One Girl’s Journey to Cameron

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ehbdFor as long as I can remember, I have loved Duke basketball. It was a love instilled in me by my parents, who have watched every Duke game since the 80’s. I grew up in a small part of Texas, so fellow Duke fans were scarce. Shane Battier is the first player I can remember being very fond of. Today, I find him to be the only redeeming thing about the Miami Heat (and also in my opinion, LeBron will never touch Jordan but that’s not the point here).

In high school, my dad took me to a game at Cameron every year. The first year we went, we made the mistake of trying a falafel at a small Middle Eastern restaurant close to campus. My dad laughed so hard at my reaction to the mystery green substance hidden inside the sneaky fried shell. He took a picture of me eating one, green stuck in my teeth (which wasn’t traumatic at all for a gangly 14 year old girl to have her dad take a picture of her with food stuck in her extremely un-cool braces). I couldn’t help but laugh with him.

Every year after that, we always went back to that small restaurant, ordered the falafels and took gross embarrassing pictures with them because hey, tradition is pretty cool. Sharing those experiences with my dad made us closer because falafels will always be our thing. Going to Duke games will always be our thing.

To this day, my favorite Duke player of all time is J.J. Redick. I liked his style, I liked his beautiful shot and let’s be honest, I liked his face. In my trips to Duke, I saw Redick break the all-time ACC scoring record (even though it was short lived because of he who shall not be named) and his jersey retired. I also went to a Duke/North Carolina game, which were the greatest few hours of my existence. My only fear is that my wedding day or the birth of my children will not live up to the magic that was Cameron Indoor that day with my dad. Actually if we’re being honest, a greater fear is that neither of those days will ever come but that’s another story for another day…or not…#singleandreadytomingle.

It’s every Duke fan’s dream to see a game in Cameron and I was living that dream, watching my favorite players, J.J., Shelden Williams, Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, Greg Paulus, Nolan Smith, etc. I was seeing them with my own eyes and cheering for them along with every other crazy fan in that arena, next to the first man I ever loved: my dad. How lucky am I?! I was a part of the magic that is Duke. I felt like I belonged in that crowd and belonging meant that I was a part of the history and tradition. I chanted those Duke chants as loud as I could and I screamed until my throat hurt and I wished with all my heart for my boys to make those shots and get those rebounds. I looked around and everyone next to me was doing the same; we were all united in our love for Duke and that’s special.

What I’ve learned about Duke over the years is that it’s not just the Crazies that make it magical or the players or the fans. It’s not just Coach K or his history of winning or his fabulous hair. It’s all of it together, the tradition and the legacy of excellence that Duke has carried for so long. That’s why people love to hate us: because we have most likely been beating their team for decades. We are always the team to beat and we’re not punks about it. As fans, we love our team and that never falters and the players continue to make us proud every year, on and off the court, and that means something. It’s an honor to be a Duke fan and to love this program.

I’ll always be grateful to be a Duke fan for a lot of reasons: 1. Winning is awesome, and we do a lot of it. 2. Coach K is the epitome of class and is more than just a good coach. 3. It brings my family together. I’ll be forever thankful for the time spent with my dad in Durham, the countless times my mom and I have posted up in front of the TV together, and the time my brother took me to see J.J. play for the Clippers.

Being a Duke fan is magical, and I hope to someday pass that love down to my kids like my parents did to me: another tradition. Let’s go Duke, and GTHC.

You can follow Erin on Twitter at @ehays91.

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