FanPost

Syracuse Basketball Neuroses and The Wire

I've been thinking a lot about Voteprime's fanpost about watching every game and waiting for the bottom to fall out. For me, this season (despite the plethora of blowouts and dare I say "boring" games) has been one of the most stressful that I can remember. When you start the season as a consensus Top 5 team and a Final Four contender, and then win your first 20 games, expectations are justifiably HIGH. And to put it bluntly, lofty expectations suck. When you're favored to win every game until you get to the Final Four, you're almost guaranteed to be disappointed sooner or later. It's the same with television. If I were to tell you that the first season of Homeland is not only the best new show on television (and I think it probably is), but the best show on TV hands down (it's not), I'm going to ruin it for you. Because as good as the first season of Homeland was, if I hype it for you too much, it will inherently disappoint you simply because of your own overly-inflated expectations. So what do I do? I downplay it, and I tell you it's good, certainly not the best thing on TV, but definitely worth a watch. And when I watch a Syracuse game, I do exactly the same thing. I say, "we're really good, but so is Notre Dame at home, winners of 29 out of their last 30 there, so there's a good chance they beat us." It's a defense mechanism, because if I allowed myself to believe that we were absolutely going to win and then we lost, I'd be crushed, but by downplaying how good our team is or over-estimating our opponent, I keep my expectations manageable and in the event of a loss, I'm at least somewhat mentally prepared.

And this is a defense mechanism that I think most (long-time) Syracuse fans use. Maybe it has something to do with the doom and gloom of growing up and/or living in a snowy, slowly dying rust-belt city. Maybe it has to do with our own inherent realizations that we're not quite as "elite" of a program as we sometimes consider ourselves to be. Or most likely it has something to do with our own personal experiences with Syracuse basketball. It's not just that we haven't fared as well in the NCAA Tournament as we'd like to, it's the horrible, awful ways we've witnessed our team lose. Derrick Coleman's missed 1-and-1 and Keith Smart's jumper were my first repressed memories. The shame I felt as a 9 year old when I learned that Syracuse was the first #2 seed to ever lose to #15 seed. Moten's time-out against Arkansas - the first time I felt like a sports team was actively trying to hurt me. My naivete as a 13 year old, believing that David would triumph against Goliath in the National Championship game. The Vermont game - my worst birthday of all-time. The Butler game and knowing that with a healthy AO, we were better than our 2003 National Championship team. And of course Marquette last year. It's not just that we've lost. It's that we've had our hearts ripped out from our chests, while simultaneously being kicked in the crotch with metal golf spikes so many times in the past. When a team hurts you as much as Syracuse has, you don't stop loving it, but it's not like the scars go away.So we prepare for the worst and hope for the best, because as good as this team is (and they're really good, trust me), we have to brace ourselves for the pain that we fear might be coming.

But here's the thing, we're not alone. Sure, there are the George Masons and VCUs and Butlers that come out of seemingly nowhere to make an epic run in the Big Dance, and you can look at their fans and think that they must be content with just a Final Four, because after all, they were playing with house money; so was Syracuse in '96 and as much as I loved that epic and wildly unexpected tournament run, when the final whistle blew, I was devastated. At the end of the season, only one team's fan-base is going to be happy. And that's what's wonderful and terrible about sports. There are lots of Homelands and Justifieds and Mad Men and even the occasional Breaking Bads, but you'll never find The Wire... a show so good, no matter how much I built it up for you, no matter how many times I told you it was the best show in the history of television, no matter what I said, or how incredibly high your expectations were, was guaranteed to never disappoint you. Because in sports, there are no sure things. That's what makes it exciting and unpredictable, and why I'll be a nervous wreck on Saturday (when we play a team that is 11-8 and lost to a bad Georgia team on a neutral court). And this is only January, just wait till March...

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