At Duke, tenting is no laughing matter.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with our time-old tradition, let me catch you up. We take basketball very seriously here at Duke University. Very seriously. So seriously that, for our home game against our rival, North Carolina, the dirty Tarholes, we tent outside of our stadium, glorious Cameron, in a little area called K-Ville for over a month in the middle of winter. And no one really questions it. It means you get in for free to one of the most coveted college basketball games in the country, and your ‘seats’ (standing area) aren’t too bad either. But you are outside, in a tent, in the blistering cold, when you could be sleeping in your nice warm dorm. (For those of you interested, the full tenting policy can be found here.)
Have Your Voice Heard: Become an Odyssey Creator
It’s a tradition. Everyone at Duke says you should try it at least once. And I have, my freshman year at Duke, two years ago. It was cold, it was loud, and it was hard to get any sleep, but we did it. Because of it, we got close-up seats to one of the best games in Duke-UNC history. That team went on to win a National Championship. So I didn’t regret my decision to tent at all, and I left thinking that I’d do it again.
Fast forward to this year. In the preseason, Duke is ranked #1. All of my friends are buzzing, saying we have to tent this year. Of course I agree. It’s a fun experience; I had a great time at the game, and our chances of winning are pretty high. (They’ve gone down a little now, of course, but that’s beside the point.) The time comes around, and we submit our roster of 12 people to the line monitors, who run this whole tenting business.
Unfortunately, this year, it wasn’t so easy.
To put this into perspective, when I tented two years ago, we signed up to tent midway through the beginning of tenting and we got space number 52. We didn’t have to compete for that spot in any way. This time, 160 different tents signed up before tenting even started. At 12 people per tent, that is 1920 people. Absolute insanity. And only 70 tents are allowed at the beginning stage of tenting, which we call black tenting.
The line monitors announce a trivia competition to determine which of these tents will actually get to begin black tenting. It’s only about this year’s team to make it “fair for the freshmen”. So we start studying. In typical Duke student fashion, we make a study guide on Google Docs with all the necessary information. Many of us studied super specific things, like players’ heights and weights (for example, Marques Bolden is 6’11” and weighs 245 pounds). Before we go in, we’re all crammed into the Cameron lobby. We decide to try to trick some people by saying Grayson Allen is number 5. (It doesn’t work too well.)
Once we go in, we get this test and we realized we mostly studied the wrong thing. Some of the things on this test are just not what we were expecting at all. And we kind of ignored some pretty important things. For example, we didn’t even look at the schedule besides our losses (at the time – Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Kansas). We tried to put our heads together to come up with this missing information, but we end up putting random teams down that we never even played but somehow felt like we did. Whatever. We took that loss. There were even more questions that were oddly specific and no one could remember (ex. What was Amile Jefferson’s best game? What was the Parents’ Weekend game?). We were even asked to name the whole roster and their numbers, which was no problem, but also their high schools and hometowns, which was a bit of a problem.
Despite this, we answered most of the test accurately and went out feeling somewhat confident. I mean, there’s no way 70 teams did better than we did, right?
The next day, we get the email. 70 teams got in. We were number 74.
We’re fourth on the wait list, though, so that means there’s still a chance for us. We hold off during the week of black tenting, trying to keep track of how many teams have dropped out. Two get kicked in one night. We are excited. Someone tries to tell us that another dropped out, which would put us at first at the wait list, but this turns out to be a disappointing rumor. The second stage of tenting, blue tenting, starts, and there are still no slots available. But with it comes signups for the next wave of tenting: white tenting.
White tenting is a low-intensity method of tenting that is shorter (since it starts later). 30 spots are reserved exclusively for white tenting, since RAs and other people with high commitments can’t do black tenting. So we think, okay, we should try this, we’re obviously not moving up any time soon. To get into white tenting, though, you have to do something similar to a scavenger hunt. The line monitors send out a clue that relates to somewhere on campus and one member of the team has to get there and give the line monitors their roster. If your roster is one of the first 30, then you’re able to white tent.
We make a map of campus and divide it up so that one person is in each region, plus two people are driving around campus in case that’s faster. We’re pretty dedicated to this. We’re excited; we’re ready. We’re finally going to get to tent.
At 9 PM everyone’s in their spaces when the message is sent.
“They say a woman's place is at "home," which might be true in Oklahoma. But groundbreaking change is coming-not quickly, but fast.”
Of course with recent events, everyone’s thinking about feminism and the Women’s March and everything, so our minds immediately turn to the Women’s Center on East Campus. We encourage someone to go there. She gets there and reports that there is a line of people there, so all of us are like, phew, that’s over and we’re in. But then people start evaporating and saying that this isn’t the right place. We panic, and then some members of the group realize that the clue has subtle softball references (home/home plate, fast/fast ball, Oklahoma) and Duke is building a new softball stadium on East Campus. So we send someone there and two cars drive there. We run through mud, climb over walls, and we make it to this softball stadium.
By the time we get there, the waitlist for white tenting is already past the 80s, so we decide to cut our losses and take spot number 2, so we’re still there, stuck once again at number 2 on the waitlist, praying that one day we’ll finally move up.
But until then, we’ll keep watching the games from our lonely common rooms and hoping some other tent messes up so we can reclaim our space in K-ville.
After all that, I can say with relative certainty: Duke definitely takes basketball very seriously.