Saturday night I received a call from my brother. He said they had an extra ticket.
His in-laws had come across some good seats in the auxiliary section at mid-court.
I, being the biggest SU fan in history (who is aged 28, living on the North Side of
Binghamton, & driving a 2007 Mazda 3 5-door),
was their logical next choice to fill the seat.
I had qualms, for 4 of the last 5 games I'd been to have been losses...including Pitt.
I haven't seen a win since G-Town 2007. At home, I've been wearing the same outfit for
every game, which includes a 'Cuse Snuggie, except the one I went to and we lost.
However, as my lady so obviously put it,
"I'd be worried about your dedication, James,
if you turned down a million dollars to not go."
So parting ways with my fillie on V-Day, I set off for breakfast with
my kid bro at a nice Greek diner in Endicott while
we waited to set sail up RT-81 with the rest of the crew.
We were sat in the middle of the dining room at a table.
All the good folks surrounding us in booths were dressed in their Sunday best.
So were we.
In the sea of suit coats and satin hats, we stuck out like an Orange doughnut hole.
Proudly wearing my newly-won "Beat Nova" shirt, brethren in a blue-knit sweater,
we were happy to absorb the gawking stares of the old folks which plainly said "what
the hell?" and the also from the longing teens which read "You. Lucky. Bastards."
Then the breakfast took a different tone.
Dousing the Tobasco on my home fries, I uttered "I'm worried."
"I know," said Daniel. We didn't have to say another word about it.
For the next couple minutes we didn't say anything, as if having the
pre-rehersed conversation in our heads. Rather, a conditioned
conversation borne from over 20 years of experience.
The series of realizations goes like this:
"Rick Pitino is coaching the other team"
"We're on a winning streak and have national attention"
"Andy Routins isn't turning the ball over"
Then it moves up another level:
"We should win this game"
"Largest home crowd for any team, all season"
"Jimmy will never go man, especially when needed"
Finally, the conclusion is made:
"These are the games we lose"
All of this was in our heads.
Then, as I worked on my 3-egg sausage & cheese omelette,
I said to Dan "Not this team, not this year:"
So did every other fan that day.
Then my brother bestowed a piece of wisdom and a revelatory insight that I'd never
"If we weren't Syracuse fans, we'd hate Syracuse fans, we're assholes.
Watch what happens if we lose this game."
IF. Damned if we didn't right then and there know how vapid that "if" was.
It dawned on me then that's why we're so awful, why the self-depricating trolls come out
against our team in a larger force than even Mets fans do, why I have that sinking feeling
anytime a circumstance like this comes along, because we never win THAT game.
The one we're supposed to win. The one where we take a deep breath and put
all of our vulnerability on the line for them.
When our heartiest support was out, when the opponent wasn't very good, when the entire
nation was watching, when the defense fell apart, when the BS whistles started blowing,
did we show any moxie? Did we make hay with the ball down 2 at the end of the game?
No. We lost.
I'm sure we'll be fine. I'm sure will win plenty of games at odd hours, against odd teams,
when the ratings monsters are on other channels at the same time.
But tell me right now that the thought of at Georgetown, at Providence, vs Nova, & at Louisville
doesn't leave a pit in your stomach.
I don't want to hear it from you young folks from outside the region, I'm talking to the veterans.
We've seen this happen before. We know that, in essence, we are coached by the
Mark Few of the Northeast. We've got crazy wins, a great system, and great recruits, but when it
comes to it, we need the best college player of the decade to win...and we're only 1-1 in those
God I love this team, and I will die rooting for them in any circumstances, but I'm prepared
now. I'm ready for the 4 seed. I'm ready to get rolled by Wall, or clobbered by Cole.
I know it's wrong to say these things out loud...but this is the Mr. Hyde of
Syracuse Basketball talking. He lives in all of us who have been through this before.
My revelation is that you must accept it as part of the package.
The reaction to Sunday's game should be expected.
Even though we publicly acknowledge these hyperbolic reactions are wrong & mis-guided,
we're all torn on the inside by the knowledge of the past.
Most of all, we know that when there's smoke, somewhere there's a fire.
Or, maybe this is year it all changes. I hope so.