Gainesville in the fall it's not. In fact, the center of Central New York will never be confused for any of those southern Meccas of college football found in Tuscaloosa or Tallahassee. The Carrier Dome is, in my humble opinion, is probably more suited for 30,000 basketball fans than 45,000 football crazies.
Still, is there anything like walking up to the Dome on game day? Crossing through the quad minutes before kickoff can give the SU believer chills. And although this happens every freaking year can you believe we're in the middle of game week, already!?
Northwestern will be in town soon enough and the Dome will be filled with heat, humidity, and hope. Hope that the Orange can win its first game of the year, which hopefully will propel it to at least 6 wins, which would bring Syracuse University back to a bowl game. This is a great time of the year.
So with that, I thought we'd count down with the top
44 reasons for Syracuse fans to be excited for the 2012 season. If only because there is really nothing like the first fall Saturday on the Hill - just don't tell that to anyone hanging out at The Grove in Mississippi this weekend.
- The trip to the Dome, either on Rt. 11 or I-81, and spotting cars full of fans you know are going to the game.
- Actually, just the first trip to the Dome is a pretty damn good feeling.
- Finding a parking spot and not paying $25 at Crouse. "Yes, honey, we have to walk a little, but I'm not paying that much for a parking spot to SU football!"
- Getting out of the car/truck/RV to set up a tailgate, only to end up setting up shop with complete strangers.
- Is there a better time then the first crack of the first beer?
- The realization that it's still an hour before noon. Followed by, the first of many angry conversations about noon kickoffs.
- The first sight of Otto, and then the subsequent wondering about how many heat related medical issues the poor kid inside will have throughout the day.
- The first sight of the cheerleaders. The subsequent wondering if you could have ever dated one of them when you were in school. The answer is no, no you couldn't have.
- Passing what seems like millions of people, all dressed in Orange (or for some Godforsaken reason, blue), yet getting into the Dome and seeing way too many empty bleachers.
- Laughing at fans from (Insert Team Here) wearing jeans and/or long-sleeve t-shirts.
- Getting angry at Syracuse fans wearing jeans and/or long-sleeve t-shirts.
- Being impressed by the new scoreboards in the Dome, only to make a joke about them to your friends.
- Seeing a complete stranger wearing a (Insert Team Here) t-shirt or jersey and just knowing you hate everything about them.
- Standing next to said person in the beer line, and asking them about their team's chances for the season.
- Buying a program, complaining about the program, trying to read through the program, only to give up talk to friends.
- Speaking of food, is there anything like the first smell of a Dome Dog or sausage sandwich?
- That sinking feeling of having to squeeze in as more people show up in your section.
- Wondering why those people didn't show up earlier.
- Trying to figure out a way to stay cool as you sweat uncontrollably. (By the way, the forecast is calling for a high in the low 80s on Saturday, but given the Friday forecast of 92, I'm betting it will be a little warmer on game day.)
- Taking comfort in knowing the Northwestern team and fans are feeling the effects of the heat more because they, despite hearing that the Carrier Dome doesn't have air conditioning, didn't dress accordingly.
- The build up of excitement as the video board plays the newest "Syracuse Football, Since 1889" intro.
- Screaming so loud you start to blackout, just a little.
- Remembering kickoff isn't for another five minutes, and that the game is likely to last another three hours.
- Hearing the crowd chant, seeing the ball kicked off, and knowing the game, and the season, is on.
- Watching the first big hit of the year, then quickly turning to the video board to see it again.
- Watching the first big offensive play of the year, standing up, seeing the rest of the fans across the Dome stand up, right as the ball crosses the goal line.
- Remembering that there is nothing more deflating in football than the opposing team doing what it wants on offense on its way to a all too predicable touchdown.
- Debating about taking a bathroom break to also get food and beer before halftime.
- Deciding to go with about five minutes left in the second quarter, and feeling like you won the lottery when there are no lines, anywhere.
- Waiting for the second half kickoff, trying to talk yourself into the same feeling you had prior to open kickoff.
- Wondering why Syracuse is flat coming out of the half - then remembering how you feel, too.
- Grabbing beers right before last call and missing a huge play.
- Knowing that you missed that huge play because there is nothing like hearing the Dome crowd "oohh" and "ahhh" from the concourse area.
- Looking up at the scoreboard and realizing SU only has about two or three more possessions left to pull out a victory.
- Embracing the feeling that what you are watching is, in fact, life and death.
- Hearing the crowd come back to life after a big stop from the defense.
- Watching SU come up with big play after big play on its way to stealing game No. 1 of the season.
- or -
- Watching SU turn the ball over late in the game and knowing that the other team will run out the clock.
- Leaving the Dome with 40,000 of your closest friends all feeling the same way, pissed.
- or -
- Leaving the Dome with 40,000 of your closest friends all feeling the same way, relieved.
- Walking across the quad trying to get in front of everyone, being unable to do so.
- Wondering why the hell you parked so far away.
- Getting to the car/truck/RV and trying to find the station with the post-game. Even though you listened to the pre-game on the way up and even though you've listened to that station for years.
- Wondering how you survived nine months without doing what you just did.
Whether or not those anecdotes match any of your memories of the Dome doesn't really matter. This post isn't designed with much levity. It is, rather something of a bigger reminder. A not-so gentle nudge to your inner psyche to remember how much fun football in the Dome actually can be when you're not worrying about conference alignment, coaches job security, or any other off-field issues.
For the next few days Syracuse is undefeated, and to stay that way come Saturday afternoon the Dome won't have to be Death Valley, just a reasonable facsimile. To the people wearing Purple, anyway.