Nearly thirty years ago, outside Burlington Athletic Stadium, home to Cleveland Indians’ rookie league baseball team, Trip Durham could tell that his younger brother was about to make a mistake. His brother, Josh, a member of the stadium’s clean up crew, had had enough. Josh had had enough of missing out on time with friends. He’d had enough of his fellow crew members who routinely failed to show up. And he’d had enough of the leaking trash bags and the disgusting trash juice that ran down his legs every night. This was his first summer job, and he hated it. He was ready to quit and just walk away.
Trip certainly understood the hard work part. As the team’s Clubhouse Manager, one of his most important tasks was to make sure the Indians had clean uniforms. As baseball players are a notoriously dirty bunch, his was no easy job, and while Josh’s work still permitted him to have some amount of night each time he left, Trip stayed well into the next morning. He’d then catch a few hours of sleep at home before rushing back to the stadium to ready things for the next game.
Trip’s job was only slightly more glamorous, though, because with his came access to the players, several of whom would become major leaguers. He also knew the coaches. And he knew the people in the front office.
To Trip, the walking away part was not acceptable.
“You go in there and meet with them,” Trip told his brother on the empty concourse behind the grandstand, as the last of the night’s fans made their way to the parking lot. “You sit down and tell them why you’re leaving. You don’t just quit and walk away. You NEVER, EVER burn a bridge.”
That no one achieves success alone and that connections matter are hardly groundbreaking ideas. To grown-ups, that is.
Trip Durham was just a twenty-year-old college student.
Trip’s not sure whether it was his mother or father who taught him this, but the lesson and a great deal of hard work have served him well. He now runs his own business, 2D Consulting, which partners with athletics departments at small NCAA and NAIA schools to improve their athletic brands and game-day event operations. He has contracts with schools across the country.
The lesson and hard work have also gotten him here, to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tonight, Trip will complete his sixth season as the Public Address Announcer for the Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball team. He’ll wrap up another season with the biggest game of the year: Carolina versus Duke.
Nearly two hours before tip-off, Trip takes a stroll through Kryzyzewskiville, a village of tents that for several weeks has been home to students hoping to get inside for the game. The residents’ time to finally leave is near, which is good. The smell of musty tents and cheap, stale beer is likely to become overpowering soon. The students will pack later, though. Now, they happily slather each other with body paint.
Those who make it inside tonight, who will become the Cameron Crazies, will hear Trip’s voice. They’ve all heard it many times already, and they’ve all cheered wildly when Trip announces “Here comes Duke!” before each game. As the Voice of Cameron walks among them now, however, they have no idea who he is. Trip Durham prefers it that way.
An hour and a half before the game, Cameron is chaotic. The Crazies stream in, filling the general admission seats in Section 17, opposite the teams’ benches. They squeeze together, pressing against each other and against the reporters on press row. They form a restless, white and dark blue mob, one that never stops moving. During the pregame shoot-around, the mob happily greets the Blue Devils and taunts the Heels. The mob sings along to the music pumping through the stadium’s sound system.
That ESPN’s College Game Day is here only fuels the flames. Cameramen rush to get footage of the fans in action, and the fans eagerly oblige.
Meanwhile, line monitors look for empty spaces in Section 17. Upon finding any, no matter how slight, they round up more Crazies from Kryzyzewskiville and let them in. As these newly admitted fans rush to find seats, security guards quickly stop them. The Blue Devils are coming off the court, and their path to the locker room intersects with these fans’ path to Section 17. It becomes apparent that Cameron Indoor Stadium was designed for people to run into each other. It happens everywhere here.
For Trip, it’s like any other game, and he goes through his routine. He finds his seat at the scorer’s table. He reviews the game sheet with player names and ensures he has the correct pronunciations. He reviews the game script, written by Nicole Jones. She is the show director for these games, and she’s provided Trip with a “Top Secret” script that no one else has. This generally means there is a special announcement to be made, or perhaps a special guest in the building.
Trip’s “first read” won’t come until forty minutes before tip-off, and he’s got a little time to kill. It’s a welcome break in a busy schedule. He’s been doing the public address at the ACC women’s tournament in Greensboro for the last several days. He did three games there yesterday. Trip catches up with other members of the crew, including the ESPN stat keeper, who, like Trip, has also been working the women’s tournament in Greensboro. They ask each other what time they got home last night.
Before his first read, Trip also says hello to Jay Bilas, a former Duke standout and member of the ESPN Game Day crew. Earlier in the day, Bilas posted this on Twitter:
Trip is more restrained with his game day social media posts. He stands alone in the bleachers, surveying the scene. He takes a panoramic picture and posts it to Facebook with very little commentary.
Cameron Indoor Stadium is yet another on a very long list of stadiums in which Trip Durham has worked. He began in the 1980s at Burlington Memorial Stadium, working football games as a member of his high school’s spirit squad. On an October day in 1984, the school’s athletics director asked him to do the public address for a JV football game. A few years later, at East Carolina University, as the school’s “mic man,” Trip tried to whip the fans at Ficklen Stadium into a frenzy. At nearby Minges Coliseum, he was a manager for the Pirates men’s basketball team.
“That was when David Robinson was playing for Navy,” Trip says. “They came in one day, and I ran into David in a hallway. I looked up at him, and I just kept looking up, and up, and up.” Trip then smiles. “I tell people that ECU was in that game right up until the coin flip.”
Trip has since done the public address, or radio play-by-play, or otherwise been involved in game day operations at dozens of stadiums and venues. Burlington Athletic Stadium. Ace Speedway in Alamance County. Wheeling Island Stadium in Wheeling, West Virginia. Ernie Shore Field in Winston-Salem. Rhodes Stadium at Elon. University Hall and John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia. Nearly every basketball and football venue in the Southern Conference, the South Atlantic Conference, and the Big South Conference. Bank of America Stadium. Philips Arena in Atlanta. The Georgia Dome.
In May 2009, Trip didn’t come to Duke looking to become the public address announcer. He’d been an associate athletics director at Elon for more than fourteen years, but a recent administration change, which tends to happen in this industry, meant he no longer had a job. Rather than let it get him down, Trip immediately reached out to his contacts for guidance and ideas about what might be the next step in his sports career. From so many years in the industry, he had a lot of contacts.
Kevin White, the Duke Athletics Director, was among them. Kevin had been on track to become the president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of America at the same time Trip had been on track to become the president of the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators. They’d known each through these associations. Not well, but well enough for a meeting.
The meeting led to a conversation with Boo Corrigan, Duke’s Associate Athletics Director (and son of former ACC Commissioner Gene Corrigan). Boo directed Trip to Art Chase in the Sports Information Department. Trip knew Art from Art’s time in the athletics department at Presbyterian College. When Trip was at Elon, Elon played them frequently. Now at Duke, Art was looking for a public address announcer for football.
“He gave me some football copy and asked me to cut some tape. I went home and did it and sent it to him. They were listening to it, and, from what I understand, the women’s volleyball coach walked by, heard it, and asked if I could do volleyball, too.”
Trip got the football job. Even though he’d never done volleyball before, he agreed to do it. Volleyball plays in Cameron after all.
Trip Durham began doing the public address at Wallace Wade Stadium in the fall of 2009. He did volleyball in Cameron as well, and he would only gain more opportunities to get his voice in that building. He emceed Countdown to Craziness, Duke’s celebration to kick off the men’s basketball season. He did the public address for a preseason NIT basketball game at Cameron.
In April, 2010, Duke won the national championship. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Art Chandler retired. Dr. Chandler had been the Voice of Cameron for forty years. Duke offered the position to Trip, and he immediately said yes.
“I wouldn’t say I get nervous,” Trip answers when asked how the games affect him. “It’s more anticipation and excited energy.” He tries to stay calm, but he’s learned recently that he doesn’t always have everything under control. “My left leg thumps like a rabbit’s,” he says. Trip didn’t discover this. Kelly Umstead noticed it. Kelly sits at the scorer’s table, too. Three seats away. It’s apparently that noticeable.
Trip admits to enjoying certain moments, including the video Duke plays twenty minutes before game time. It’s filled with incredibly moving and goosebumps-inducing highlights from seasons past. It riles the crowd even more and culminates in the unveiling of each of Duke’s NCAA Championship banners. The crowd screams out each one. “1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5!” A few minutes before tip-off, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” increases the excitement. It’s Senior Night tonight, and Trip will enjoy introducing Marshall Plumlee. Reading from the “Top Secret” script, Trip will not introduce senior Amile Jefferson. Jefferson broke his foot in December, and he will apply for medical redshirt status, which means he could return next year.
Trip enjoys the player introductions, too.
“And watch out for a hot timeout,” he says with a smile.
Tonight, Duke’s shots don’t fall. Carolina is better on the rebounds, and the Heels jump to an early lead. In the second half, however, Duke ties together a string of threes to tie the game at 49. Roy Williams calls a timeout.
The Crazies are always on their feet, and now everyone in the upper level joins them. Here comes the music. It’s loud. It vibrates through every surface in the building. Cameron Indoor Stadium just might collapse.
This is the hot timeout.
Duke can never seal the deal, though. The Heels pull ahead and keep just enough of a lead for the remainder of the game. They win 76–72.
As fans make their way toward the exits, Trip Durham, the Voice of Cameron, thanks them for coming. “We’ll see you here next year,” he says. He then packs his things. He takes with him his game sheet, on the back of which he’s written various thoughts about the night. What the game was like. Things he wants to remember. He still has every sheet from his six years here, and he plans during the off-season to go through them and do something with them. As Coach K gives his post-game press conference nearby, Trip slips out the back door to make his way toward home.
Tomorrow, Trip’s continuing sports journey will take him back to Greensboro, where he will do the public address for the ACC Women’s Championship. After that, he will go to Washington, DC to do the address for several games at the men’s tournament and to moderate a panel comprised of all the athletic directors from the ACC member institutions. He’ll soon take trips to Charleston, California, and perhaps Colorado, all for projects on behalf of 2D Consulting.
Tonight, though, on Interstate 85 to Burlington, Trip Durham is heading home. He’s tired from the hard work. Yet he’s also extremely grateful for the many incredible opportunities he has had over the years and for the many people he considers himself lucky to have met. There’s no question these people have helped him get to where he was today.
Riding with him is his brother Josh. Josh did go into the front office at Burlington Athletic Stadium that night decades ago, and he had the tough conversation with management. Though he did leave, he left on good terms. The Burlington Indians even offered him a better summer job two years later.
Josh Durham is grateful, too. He is grateful for the lessons his brother has taught him through the years, and he’s grateful for the chance to have accompanied Trip to work tonight. It was the chance, in one more stadium, to listen to his older brother.