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No Wonder the Media Hates Syracuse, We have a history of Upsetting the Status Quo

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Enough was enough. The television network was getting a spectacle, a shiny bauble with which to lure both eyeballs and advertisers. The school was getting a payday, a hefty holiday stocking stuffer. And the players? Nothing. Nothing but a few more weeks of practice, battered pads and helmets, bodies too, of running and hitting and aching, a draining coda to a long, tough season. All for the opportunity to play middling mid-December college football in cloudy Philadelphia, where the sideline palm trees were imported -- and the 22-degree temperatures were not. "I still remember running out on the field," says former Syracuse linebacker David Meggyesy. "They had brought in the palms because we were playing against Miami. It was cold as hell, wind blowing, snow, and I’m thinking, 'God, those poor trees.'" Like a frosted palm frond, Meggyesy felt out of his element. So did many of his teammates. In fact, when Syracuse first agreed to participate in the 1961 Liberty Bowl, a made-for-television matchup featuring star Orangemen runner Ernie Davis (at right) and gifted Miami quarterback George Mira, the linebacker's reaction was typical: since the coaches and administrators accepted the invitation, maybe they should play the game. Disgruntled, the Syracuse players held a special meeting. No coaches allowed. The assembled college athletes had more questions than answers. Why are we even playing in this game? What is it about? Who is ultimately benefiting? The seniors talked boycott. A decision was made. If the team had to play – and in a second-rate icebox bowl nobody had ever heard of, to boot -- the players should at least get something in return. Say, wristwatches. Nice ones. Like the nice wristwatches given out at the major bowls, the Orange and the Rose. And so, the team met with coach Ben Schwartzwalder. We want watches, they said. Or else we won't play. A half-century later, their message is more relevant than ever.

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