We're all conditioned, a little like Ricky Bobby if you think about it, to think that second place is first loser. It's always, "eyes on the prize" or "win at all costs" or some other cliche.
The thing is, you or I or anyone else can't win them all. No one can. But as we sit minutes from Jim Boeheim's 900th career win, a question seems to linger: Why, with so many victories, does Boeheim only have one national title?
It's a stupid question, let's get that out of the way quickly. If national titles were so easy to come by, why then do so many great coaches have zero? Why do so many "loaded" teams come up short in April? If national titles fell from trees for the truly gifted, why did Bobby Knight win his last some two decades before retiring?
It's that end-all be-all attitude fans and media members have that spoils a lot of the good in sports. I've never sat before a season and thought, This year will be a waste if the Orange don't win it all. I've thought, like this season, a deep tourney run would be expected, but I've never thought, Title or bust.
Call me crazy, but the season, the journey, is the fun. College basketball, is a marathon of a great dramatic movie, not a sprint of a short film.
For instance, I'll always remember Terrence Roberts hitting this miraculous three pointer at the buzzer to beat Rutgers in February of 2006. Imagine that? Calling any shot against the Scarlet Knights "miraculous"? I mean, it is a program that hasn't been to the NCAA tournament in over 20 years! T-W-E-N-T-Y. And, if you recall, SU wasn't exactly going places that season, either. The Orange would end up needing a few Gerry McNamara miracles just to go dancing that March.
But in that moment, directly after the ball went through the net and the clock struck double zeros, that was the equivalent of a "sports miracle." It wasn't for the national title, hell it wasn't even for the Big East title. It was just one of the many moments, stories really, that make up a season. Which reminds me, do you think back to how that team wasn't very good, or do you remember the McNamara run?
That's the point here. The goal is to win a championship, of course, but that doesn't stop all of the rest of it, the random small glories and small pitfalls, from being time well spent. That's why I could care less about the drummed up debate, "Why has Boeheim only won one national title?" He's given the Syracuse fan base so much more than a title to remember. Actually, I would bet most people remember the '06 Garden run more fondly, or at least as fondly, than the '03 national title. Or maybe the Big East regular season finale where SU beat top-ten Georgetown and John Thompson Jr. got the gate after getting three Ts?
The journey is the destination for fans. That's what keeps me and a lot of the Orange faithful coming back. Because Boeheim has provided so many great, "Remember that!" or "Oh, what a win!" moments. Not titles, sure, but 900 wins means you're doing something right.
Each October it seems like SU is in the mix for a title, a top tier team -- a credit to Boeheim.
So, let the outsiders or the haters or the misinformed have pointless debates, I'll take Boeheim's consistent success. Championships everyone dreams of winning, and as long as Boeheim is coaching that's a possibility -- something a lot of people don't seem to get, either -- but it's a guarantee every season will be one hell of a journey -- well worth how ever it ends.