Previous entries include:
#10 - "Can we just come inside and look around?"
#9 - "Say your name, where you’re from and say your wrestling name."
#8 - "Okay, all we need is your passport and you're all set."
#7 - "You know why."/"What high school did you go to?"
#6 - "Succatash!"
#5 - "So horrifying, so macabre..."
#4 - "Someone broke in...everything's gone."
#3 - "I don't even wanna fucking be here!"
I never realized how much we cursed at Syracuse football games until my mother was standing next to me at one.
Let me back up. It's November 15th, 1998 and my mother and cousin are up from New Jersey visiting me at SU. He's a junior in high school and he's beginning to look at colleges so it's a perfect opportunity to see a real one instead some pansy school like Rutgers. There's a big game this evening between the Hokies of Virginia Tech and Syracuse and I need to score some tickets. Fast.
Our plan is twofold. But the cheapest pair of tickets possible for my mom and my cousin so we can get them in the Dome. Once there, we'll sneak them into the student section and that will be that. Worst case if trouble is a-brewin' they can sit together wherever those seats are.
(Note: You're probably wondering why I was so confident in being able to sneak my mother into the student section. I mean, the ushers were gullible but that's a stretch, no? Fortunately for me, at least in this instance, I was the kid growing up who had "the hot mom." I know we're all supposed to say that but seriously, your mom probably isn't hot. Not many of us can have that "luxury." You know whether or not your mom was the hot mom amongst your group of friends...deep down you know. So even with a college-aged son, my mother's youthful looks made it an easy operation.)
The game is sold out so I head down to Marshall Street to find a scalper. Sadly, there was no kindly gentleman like Nakimo so I forced to deal with some rather shady characters. I find one to make the deal with, try my best to make sure that I'm getting two tickets next to each other for the fail-safe and I make the transaction. I take the tickets, he takes the money and off we all go. By the time I realize he somehow swapped around some tickets and gave me two seats nowhere near each other, he was long gone. So much for the fail-safe.
We head to the Dome. Me, my mother, my cousin and my five friends with whom I shared seats with. I don't remember exactly but we had great seats, something like the fifth or sixth row back. We all got through the ticket scanners (whew, they weren't fakes) and made our way to the student section. From there we did the "tricker" that everyone does. The five of us who were students went in, I came back out with my student ticket and two of my friend's, gave them to my cousin and my mom, we walked through when a particularly large crowd happened to appear in front of the ushers, and that was that. We were all in.
The game itself was a huge contest. Cuse (5-3) was in the middle of the infamous 1998 season that started with a tough loss to eventual champion Tennessee and a win at Michigan the following week. The bottom had dropped out on what was supposed to be a national spotlight season for the Orange when they lost to NC State and West Virginia. Virginia Tech (7-1) came into the game nationally-ranked and on their way to the Big East title. All that stood in their way was the Orange.
Early on, it looked like the Orange's disappointing season was only going to get worse. The Orange could only muster two field goals in the first half while the Hokies smacked SU in the mouth with a 78-yard touchdown run, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a 78-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. The Hokies led 21-6 at the half.
It was at some point in that first half that I first noticed it. It's amazing how your senses change when your mother is standing next to you. Whereas before I never would have noticed all of the "Fucking A!" and "Sonofabitch!" and "Motherfucker!" going on all around me, every single utterance stung me. I probably would have been screaming "I fucking hate you, you fucking Hokie!" just as loud as the girl behind me had my mother not been there, but she was, so I didn't, but the girl behind me did. And how.
And the piece de resistance occurred either immediately following that punt block or the fumble recovery. I don't remember exactly which one but it's irrelevant. What I do remember is Virginia Tech scoring a touchdown to make the game feel like a blowout. I looked down the row, past my mother who was next to me, past my cousin who was next to her, and directly to my roommate Tom. Tom was a gentle guy and a real nice person. But he was passionate about SU football. And on this particular day and at this particular moment he needed to unleash some of that pent up emotion regardless of whose mother was standing right in front of him. Exasperated, he looks directly at me and screamed at the top of his lungs...
"I DON'T EVEN WANNA FUCKING BE HERE!"
I always liked that. Cause he could have said "We suck!" or "This is bullshit" but he went to all that trouble of uttering the whole phrase. It's like ten syllables. That's a lot for a moment of anger such as this.
I shared every inch of that sentiment but then I remembered that my MOTHER was standing next to me and I recoiled in horror. About the same time, Tom remembered the same thing. He would spend the rest of the game alternating between cheering for the Orange and apologizing for screaming the word fuck into my mother's pristine ears.
Tom stuck around for the 2nd half. And I'm sure he's glad he did.
The Orange began mounting a comeback with a touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to the tight end, Stephen Brominski, followed by a field goal. The Hokies did not score in the third quarter and the gap had been closed to 21-16. Now we all wanted to fucking be there. Very fucking much.
At the 12 minute mark of the 4th quarter, Rob Konrad crossed the goal line on a 1-yard run to give the Orange the lead, 22-21. Pandemonium. For those who only know what the Dome is like when there's 25K inside, I can't properly describe how much that place was rockin' at this moment. You could have powered Schenectady with the energy being generated in there.
But the excitement was extremely short-lived as Virginia Tech blocked the PAT and returned it for two point, regaining the lead 23-22. If you've ever heard about Virginia Tech's history for being a very good special teams unit, this game was textbook. The Hokies extended their lead with just under five minutes left with a Shayne Graham 49-yard field goal to make it 26-22. Only a touchdown could save the Orange now.
In the waning minutes of the game, Donovan McNabb began leading the Orange on a drive from SU's 17. It was a do-or-die drive that would not only determine the game but also reshape the entire Big East landscape. It was so pressure-packed, so intense that you could almost puke. Which is exactly what McNabb did. Literally. On the field.
The Orange got to their 44 until they were forced into a 4th down situation. With their backs against the wall they turned to the one guy who could get it done. Pukey McPukesalot. He ran a draw for 41 yards all the way down to Tech's 15 yard line. Two plays later he connected with Maurice Jackson on pass all the way down to the one yard line.
At this point, the building is quite possibly on fire. The student section is beginning to shuffle. There's something in the air and it's not just the stale aroma of nacho farts. I turn to my mom and say the following...
Me: Alright, if they score here we're storming the field.
(three seconds of silence)
Mom: What's that mean?
I explain the logistics to her and she's fair game. And so we wait. As for what happens from here on out, I'll let the YouTubes explain:
And so, we stormed the field. All of us. My friends. Tom, who wanted to be nowhere fucking else at that moment. My cousin. Me. And my mom.
As we ran around on the Dome turf, the huge mass of Syracuse players, coaches and fans were coming towards us. In a flash, I saw Donovan heading right towards us. This was my moment to shine. I was gonna high-five him and then furiously run home to encase my hand in carbonite so it may never be altered. McNabb raised his hand in celebration. So did I. He closed in and began the forward motion indicating that a high five was imminent. I got giddy. And then Donovan McNabb high fives my Mom. Then he was gone. My mom totally stole my thunder.
I guess that's still pretty cool.
Seriously though, let's watch that touchdown again: