DURHAM, NC - Duke University basketball fans are widely regarded as some of the most passionate, fervent, and animated fans in the nation. The “Cameron Crazies” cheer wildly for their Blue Devils and make life miserable for any visiting team who ventures into Cameron Indoor Stadium. So it was no surprise that the Crazies were in rare form Saturday when archival Maryland visited Durham for yet another epic battle. What did surprise many, however, was the Cameron Crazies’ less then gentle treatment of a legless orphan wearing a Terrapins sweater.

“I know these fans are passionate, but this crossed the line,” said Maryland Coach Gary Williams, whose team lost 86-63. “I really felt bad for the kid. We brought him along because he wanted to experience Cameron Indoor Stadium. Well, he experienced it. They really lived up to their reputation as miserable assholes.”

John Gilchrist, who led the Terps with 14 points, was disappointed with his team’s performance and extremely critical of the Duke fans’ behavior.

“Little Danny is a friend of the program. He comes to practices and stuff because we feel sorry for the kid,” said Gilchrist. “We never would have taken him along if we knew they were going to torment him. I mean, what’s the point? They won the game. They didn’t have to rub it in by taunting a legless orphan. Hopefully, next time we play them at home, our fans will make fun of one of their legless orphan friends.”

Danny O’Toole, the orphan in question, is a cousin of Terps strength and conditioning coach Paul Gray. The 12-year-old O’Toole is a huge college basketball fan and spends most of his free time hanging around the Maryland players and coaches. Over the past year, he’s become part of the Terp family and a regular staple at practices and home games.

Saturday’s match against Duke was Danny’s first away game. The team decided to bring him to Durham so he could experience the exciting atmosphere of a Maryland-Duke game.

“We really wanted to show little Danny a good time. He’s such a great kid and such an inspiration and we never expected the kind of treatment he received at the hands of the Crazies,” said Williams. “This whole thing proves my theory that college basketball fans are vile, evil barbarians – not ours, though. University of Maryland is the exception.”

The taunting occurred toward the end of the game. With Duke nursing a comfortable lead and the second half winding down, the Crazies began to get restless. After tormenting Terps players Sheldon Williams and D.J. Strawberry (DAR-RYL), they took aim at the adorable little sad sack, Danny O’Toole. Chants of ‘DAN-NY’ filled the arena, followed by ‘LO-SER’, and then an impromptu sing-along version of “Tomorrow”, the signature song from the Broadway play Little Orphan Annie.

The Blue Devils have a different perspective then their Maryland counterparts, however. After the game, coach Mike Krzyzewski defended the actions of the fans, claiming that it's all part of the homecourt advantage.

“This is just what makes this building so unique. How do they do it? How do they coordinate those sing-alongs? It was totally out of the blue. They are professionals all right. We hear a lot of people complaining about some of their antics, but I wouldn’t trade them for any fans in the world. This is all part of the Cameron experience. Seriously, where else can you go and hear fans taunt a legless orphan?

“Well, probably any other big time NCAA arena,” he continued. “Since everyone knows college basketball fans are Neanderthals who enjoy watching people suffer.”

Senior guard Chris Duhon, who has four years of experience with the lovable Cameron Crazies, pointed out that the Maryland fans are just as bad, if not worse than the Duke fans.

“Hey, we’ve had some pretty bad experiences on the road,” said Duhon. “I’ve been called all kinds of names. That’s why they call it the homecourt advantage. If fans didn’t personally insult players, cruelly taunt them, spew bile and hateful epithets, and torment crippled kids, it just wouldn’t be the NCAA. We have a rich tradition of idiocy here, and the Crazies are a big part of it.”

Even Dick Vitale, the charismatic college hoops icon and broadcaster for the Duke-Maryland game, said the fans had every right to do what they did. Vitale believes the fans are like an extra member of the team and visitors must deal with them, just as they must deal with Duke’s swarming defense.

“Hey, baby, that’s the name of the game when you come here to Durham! You gotta beat the fabulous senior Duhon and the diaper-dandy Luol Deng, and Coach Krzyzewski’s suffocating defense! But most of all, you gotta beat them Crazies, baby! That’s what college hoops is all about – humiliation and cruelty babee! If you can’t stand the heat, Mr. O’Toole, get outta the kitchen!”

Though Vitale is in Duke’s corner, the NCAA is not. They are reportedly examining film of the game to determine if additional measures need to be taken to prevent the kind of ghastly display from happening again. The NCAA has already cracked down on fans personally insulting players, but it’s difficult to control an arena full of drunken college kids.

As for little Danny, he made it through the experience, none the worse for the wear. The precocious 12-year-old has been through so much that a little taunting isn’t going to bother him, especially coming from Blue Devil fans.

“At first I thought the nice people were singing to me as a tribute to all I’ve been through,” said O’Tolle from his foster home in Baltimore. “I love that song from Annie, and I thought it was really neat that the nice people were serenading me. It made me feel special. But then someone told me they were making fun of me. That surprised me a little, but its no big deal. After all, everyone knows Duke is just a fallback school for people who can’t get into Princeton. And Mike Krzyzewski is a big homo. There, I said it.”

Copyright 2003, The Brushback - Do not reprint without permission

Legless Orphan Taunted By Duke Fans