Final Score: Tar Heels 45 – Blue Devils 20, Attendance: 33,941 Sell-out!
Weather: Clear but cold – 44; Ticket Price: $20 Scalper – Face $25; Parking $10
“Duke High School, Home of the Blue Devils”, by Tree
The Blue Devils play at Wallace Wade Stadium situated on the bucolic Duke campus. Unfortunately, that is about the only redeeming feature about the Duke football experience. The stadium only seats 33,941, but a small site is not necessarily a bad one. At a small stadium, one can often sit right next to the action and see the game up close. The problem at Duke is that the field has a running track around it and the slope of the stadium is a gentle one which puts the seats far from the action. I half expected to see students cruising around the track looking for friends, aka any high school, U.S.A. They do have a serviceable video scoreboard above the one end zone. On the opposite side was your classic, old school scoreboard that wasn’t even fully functional. I have seen junior highs with better scoreboards. The stadium consists primarily of general admission seats of the standard aluminum bench variety. Perhaps, Duke is going for a kitschy retro look?
At kickoff, there were still seats available at the gate for $25, but I snagged one for $20. I have never been screwed by a scalper but this ticket was missing the bar code. The kid told me that Duke was the only school in ACC that didn’t put bar codes on the tickets. I was a bit wary but I figured it was only $20. True to his word, the ticket was fine and I walked right in. Surprisingly or maybe not so surprisingly given the proximity of their rivals, the place was packed. I did find a pretty good end zone seat with enough space to sit comfortably. The UNC fans were well represented. I would estimate half the fans were in Carolina blue. I did catch some evidence of tailgating on my entrance.
The concessions were a mix of local and chain providers. Unfortunately, I went with the latter. The Papa John’s pizza left much to be desired and my buyer’s remorse only increased when girls next to me came back with a freshly made funnel cake. This was another stadium where the students could use their meal plan at the concession stand. There’s value for your money mom and dad. I did get a souvenir cup soda for $5, which is about the going rate. I don’t recall what the bathroom situation was. I was too cold to look for them. I was wearing my full winter gear but the wind seemed to cut right through it. The young ladies next to me were completely freezing as they chose fashion over function with their wardrobe. It was a classic student mistake. I loaned them my blanket which they graciously accepted for short period of the game they attended.
Getting to Duke was more difficult than I thought it would be. The GPS on my phone died just as I was approaching Raleigh. There were no discernible signs for the stadium on the freeway so I took the exit for Duke and hoped for the best. Once I got into town, I did manage to see a sign for the stadium. After stopping at an Exxon to fuel up and buy a cheap pair of work gloves (any port in the storm I say), I tried to follow the sign to the stadium. I say tried because the traffic flow was badly managed and the traffic cop forced me to completely go around the block so that I came in with the rest of traffic. I literally had to get off the street to the lots and then come back in and make a left onto to the same street I was just on. The parking lot was at the Duke Medical center. It was $10 but they were running shuttles. As I was late, I got a spot that was pretty remote in the garage. I thought I could find a stream of people to follow to the shuttle, but being late there was no one left to follow. I finally found someone leaving the center from work (this was a Thursday night game) and I asked him how to get to the stadium. He looked at me like I was from Mars and hesitantly pointed toward campus. So I wandered on toward the campus until I came across a few guys who said they were going to the game. I think only one of them was an actual student and he clearly did not go to a lot of games based on the number of times he checked himself on the walk to the stadium. However, with such a nice campus, the hike to the stadium was actually enjoyable.
After the game, I did find the shuttle pick up point. Shuttles are a blessing before games but generally a curse after. The line was pretty long so I bagged it and decided to walk back instead. It was a nice stroll back, highlighted by a kid jumping cars. I didn’t think he had it in him, but he cleared the hood of a BMW, barely. The owner, who was further back, was none too pleased and started yelling something about calling the cops. It was really a case of no harm, no foul and that was the end of it. I found the garage easy enough but I ended up walking every floor thanks to some sort of Byzantine color / lettering system in the garage. I had even written down the level, but the information was virtually useless. It was a frustrating end to a miserable day at Duke.
Duke and UNC are storied programs. Storied basketball programs that is. Unfortunately this was a football game. To be fair, Duke was in a bit of a renaissance, having nearly won the ACC the prior year (lost to eventual national champ FSU in ACC title game), and they were still in the running for the ACC championship game. UNC was having a normal, middle of the pack year. As this was at Duke and the Blue Devils were the better team on paper, I was afraid this was going to be a blowout. Anything can happen in rivalry games though so I was hoping the Tar Heels would show up. Little did I know that Duke would be the team that did not show up. It was 28-7 two minutes into the second quarter! Custer took less of a beating at Little Big Horn. Instead of seeing the new and dynamic Blue Devils, I was treated to a flashback of the perennial bottom ten Duke of old. They turned the ball over early and often and each and every time, UNC made them pay by scoring TD’s off of each one.
I attended this game as part of a long weekend right before Thanksgiving. Being a Thursday game, I drove down that day from D.C. I had a friend who had recently relocated to Raleigh and she casually mentioned that if I was ever in Raleigh… This was the wrong thing to say to me. Tulasi was a good sport and let me stay at her place even though it turned out that she had to go out of town that week. Her husband, Chris, was completing his residency and working the night shift so it was just me and their cute pup, Riley. I got a great night’s sleep and tiptoed out Friday morning, heading up to Blacksburg to stay at my son’s place before going to see the Hokies play the Demon Deacons at Wake Forest.
Perhaps, on a warm fall day, a Duke football game would be worth the visit, but I doubt it. It has too many things going against it. The stadium is a joke and the program has historically been weak. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, it makes for a lousy experience. Duke students must save their enthusiasm for hoops, because just about everything associated with this game was lackluster from the play on field to the lame entertainment during timeouts. If you are going to a game at Duke, make it basketball as the football experience isn’t worth $5 let alone $25.