I just finished reading Chuck Klosterman's Eating The Dinosaur. If you enjoy Klosterman's work, its solid. One chapter I enjoyed in particular was Chuck's essay on Ralph Sampson and why he was destined to be considered a failure.
It seems crazy that a a 7-foot-4 phenom who was named College Player of the Year three times (!), and 4-time NBA All-Star can be considered a disappointment but he is. A massive one. And while Klosterman explains various reasons that Sampson disappointed those who rooted for him, the big reason was due to the ungodly expectations heaped onto his shoulders by others.
Could Sampson have ever met the expectations laid at his feet? Probably not. And that says a lot about the way Syracuse fans look at Donte Greene. Last week, Syracusan at Cuse Country wondered how many other SU fans out there still find it hard to root for Donte. Donte's departure left a bad taste in a lot of Syracuse fan's mouths at the time (myself included). We like to say it's because we knew that he wouldn't get drafted as high as he thought. But the real reason is because Donte "owed" us.
In his one season with the Orange, the team failed to meet even the simplest of expectations...the NCAA Tournament. When Donte starting making it known that he was leaving, he immediately lumped himself in with the only other guy we could compare him to...Carmelo. And we all know what kind of bar Carmelo set. As far as Syracuse fans were concerned, Donte was "done." Not until he led Syracuse deep into the NCAA Tournament. To leave before that was a slap in our faces.
At least that's how many took it. Since then, Jonny Flynn has left early and we accepted it wholeheartedly. We did so because we realized we were jerks about the Donte situation but also because Jonny led the Orange back into the 2nd weekend of the NCAA Tournament. That made it easier to take.
Wes Johnson is 99.99% sure to leave us after one season as well and you won't see many Syracuse fans fight it. By now, we're used to it and it would more surprising for a great player to stay than to leave. Unfortunately for Donte Greene, he took the hit so that Jonny & Wes could leave without massive fan disdain. Also unfortunately for him, he continues to shoulder that load.
Despite the fact that he's proven himself a fun guy, admitted publicly that he wishes he stayed another year (his version of The Oprah Interview) and selflessly saved another human being's life. I'm pretty sure Donte Greene has earned the right to let bygones be bygones.
And so, when he returned to the Dome this weekend and sat courtside (with his young son), there was no reason for anyone to say anything to him other than "good luck" or "congrats." Unfortunately, in what is par for the course with Donte, he chose the worst-possible time to return. The Orange lost, the Syracuse fanbase was in an extremely strange place emotionally and he caught the brunt of it from some fans in the building and online.
NOW. The thing to remember, and that I hope Donte Greene knows, is that 98% of SU fans don't think like this. Just like with most sports outlets (besides this one, obviously), the anonymous, vocal, jerk minority is heard much more than level-headed majority.
For anyone who might agree with that sentiment, it's true that Donte Greene didn't meet our expectations while here, but he did have a pretty decent season while here if I remember. And guess what...he was in the Dome this weekend. Supporting the team and the school. How many alums can you say that about? There's a ton of former players who never come back for games or to support the school. He was only here for a year but clearly Donte still bleeds orange. At least I hope he still does.
And lastly, Donte Greene owes you and I nothing. When you get out in the real world you find out very quickly that you have to, HAVE TO, look out for No. 1. Always. You have to do what's best for yourself when you can. And when million-dollar paydays are involved, loyalty-be-damned. Most Syracuse fans reading this would start rooting for Georgetown if offered $20 million to do it (Besides, it's not possible...no Georgetown grad is a millionaire).
And it wasn't just Donte who felt the brunt. The SU players got dogged for the loss as well. To the point where Kris Joseph lashed out on Twitter. And I don't blame him.
Out of context, that's kinda dickish. But in context, he's absolutely right. Even his comments about how "half of ya'll can't hoop anyway" are as true as they are ill-advised.
I worried that as the divide between players and fans shrunk, the chance for this kind of interaction would become more and more likely. The players have had the benefit of success during their recent social media expansion. The flip side to all of the positive comments and Shut It Down promos is that those same fans now have access to you when they want to vent their frustrations...justified or not.
My guess, and it's only that, is that the Syracuse bandwagon has been revealed. We've all been enjoying this ride for so long that we stopped checking to see how many of them are among us. Now that the Orange have faced adversity and come out on the other side, they've shown themselves. Ugly, obnoxious malcontents who have no real investment in what's going on here. They just want to be on the winning team, whoever that is. The kid that roots for the Yankees, Cowboys, Lakers and North Carolina. It's an unfortunate side effect of being good, but, at least now we can spot them from the crowd.
It must be that because no real Syracuse fan would be truly upset right now. Not when the team is coming off it's highest ranking in almost 20 years. Not when the team is 24-2 after the best regular-season start in SU history. Not when you know what an impossible task it is to run the table in the Big East. Not when you know who Jim Boeheim is and what he can do. Not when you understand that every good team needs to lose every once in a while to remember how fortunate all of the wins are.
There's just no way someone who has been rooting for SU basketball for the last decade can possibly get that angry over the Louisville loss. I don't believe it.
With the most important Georgetown game since...the last one...coming up, Syracuse fans can choose to walk two paths. You can be the smart, supportive excited fan of one of the best teams in the nation who might get bummed out with any loss but understands the big picture.. Or you can hurl insults at our former and current players without any regard for perspective or common sense.
If you are the latter, please leave. No need to make a scene. Just drop off your SU Fan membership card at the front desk and be on your way. Those of us in the former group will be fine without you and we'll enjoy the rest of this season far more because of your absence.
Dealing with fan outbursts is par for the course for athletes. That's no excuse for SU fans to start in on our own guys though. If we want them to come back to the Dome one day with their child on their lap, rooting on the Orange, anonymously attacking them in a personal manner is the worst thing you can do. I want to have a reputation for having fans that make it hard for other teams to play us. Not for fans that make it hard for our own players to represent us. Or even want to in the first place.