There's one thing about me that I think most of my friends, and enemies, should agree on; I can admit when I'm wrong. A perfect example of my ability to own up to a mistake? How about what took place way back in 1995 during an SU spring football 'game.'
For a few years, I was lucky enough to have season tickets to SU football (With a parking pass for the cemetery to boot! That's not nearly as morbid as it sounds.). My fortuitous ways had nothing to do with the on-field action, as the early 90's where the time Syracuse football started it's painful march back to mediocrity. Rather, I was lucky because I was able to go to the Dome and watch football with my Dad (Don't worry, I'm not going to get all Rick Reilly on you.).
We'd get to the games early, eat some Dome Dogs and I'd listen while my dad talked about his days on the Hill. Father, son, football. The way God intended.
Again, the football wasn't good. It was everything else about being at the Dome that made for life lasting memories (Seriously, I'm not going to Mike Lupica you here.).
The football was down right depressing, actually. The 1993 team that was Preseason Top 10 finished with just six wins. The '94 team finished with one more win, but was actually worse. Even then, I was calling for Paul Pasqualoni's head to be served up on a platter. How could he tank with players like Marvin Graves and Marvin Harrison on offense? How could the Orangemen get railroaded by schools it used to dominate (history repeats, my friends, history repeats)?
The program was foundering and I was fed up. By the time the spring game rolled around in 1995, my dad and I decided to attend. A first for us, but also a Final Stand of sorts. We were both upset with the program, me more than him, and we both figured the season ticket experience was over.
We watched whatever the hell it was that day. Points given out for certain plays, scores in the 100s, a lot of action, but no real sign of football. The only thing I saw that day that I knew for sure was, Keith Downing, a returning starter, needed to be the quarterback that September. I saw this guy Donovan McNabb, a redshirt kid for Illinois, get reps with the starters and I kept saying, 'No way, this is Keith's team. He put in the time, Downing gives us the best chance.'
Shows what I know, right? I was wrong, big freaking time wrong. McNabb started that September game at North Carolina and beat the nationally-ranked Tar Heels. Then No. 5 went on to be a superstar. Whoops.
I admitted my error in thinking McNabb wasn't ready and I realized the spring game means nothing. You can't take a thing from it.
@SyracuseSeymour - "there was a spring game already? :-)"
I didn't even follow along with the game on Twitter this year. There just too much going on to think about a scrimmage for football in April.
Glorified Media Day indeed. For years SU has had all sorts of renditions of the spring game. It's rarely been a game with two teams playing FOOTBALL. That hurts attendance for sure. You can't promise football and deliver something of synchronized swimming and expect people to show.
@Liten_Galen_Ord - "the spring game feels like putting kindergarten on a resume--it might reveal something but no one's interested yet."
As it turns out, I wasn't the only one thinking about everything else than the game this year. Which is very common throughout the years for SU. While schools like Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and others can sell out their April fake scrimmage, Syracuse for years has had less people in the Dome stands than Sectional football playoffs.
Does that mean you're a bad fan for not going or paying attention? Should SU drop it all together?
@Gooner - "Holding the game? Sure, why not. As for not attending= not a fan? Naah, that's taking it too far."
Agreed. It's a necessary practice of sorts. But why don't more people, Orange fans, care about the spring game?
@MattL75 - "People attend spring games when they have hope for the upcoming season."
If a team is expected to do well in November people will jump at a chance to see it in April, seems logical. Actually, Matt L is a fan of Alabama, where they get 70,000 lunatics to watch a glorified scrimmage because Nick Saban's teams
cheat lie win a lot.
So, if SU were sitting Preseason Top 20, or even Top 10, the crowds would clamor at seeing the Orange, right?
Most responses on Twitter ripped the idea of the game and complained about attendance, so I decided to get more to the point asking, 'If SU football was as consistent as SU basketball, would the 'Spring Game' mean more?'
Or so you'd think. I've heard horror stories about the crowd, and game, dating from the 80's and 90's.
@lummgr - "I've been going to the spring game my whole life. pretty sure it stunk even in '87. But I refuse to not go."
A. Dave's a true fan and B. Dave's right.
In '93, for an SU team with high expectations, the spring game was a barely a blip on the Central New York sports fan's radar. The same stories apply for the late 90's teams that had McNabb and were a regular in the preseason polls.
And the biggest fear/concern about holding a 'game' in April that means nothing?
@NunesMagician - "... If someone major got hurt during spring game, there would be calls to cancel it."
If Ryan Nassib goes down for the year in April, some fan(s) would call for Dr. Daryl Gross to end the charade. Could an injury actually put a stop to the festivities? In a word, no. This isn't Powder Puff or Donkey Basketball at your local school. The PTA isn't going to pull the chord. Still, a real injury in a fake game months before the season starts would put things in perspective.
You really shouldn't take anything from the entire experience.
Scrimmages take place in practice all the time. Be it April or August, there are a whole lot of fake games we fans don't get to see. So, complaining about the spring game is a bit much. It is a day to be at the Dome and to, at the very least, see the team, something that's been difficult this season.
Still, SU fans attempt to find the answer to two questions. Why does SU even have a spring game and why don't fans care? Both not likely to go away anytime soon, if ever. Mainly because April in Syracuse, or Central New York, offers more for the sports fan than settling for a scrimmage.
I think we can all agree, however, that to take away anything from whatever happened on the field would be foolish. Doug Marrone's kicked more people off the team between April and August than years you've been watching the team!
So, if you think you watched this year's version of the spring game and now know what's going to happen in September, well, just remember that for every Keith Downing there are a few hidden Donovan McNabb's waiting to prove
me you wrong.