SU Basketball: The Root Of All Rooting...For Some

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

I don't know why fans keep coming back each and every season, but I have a pretty good guess as to why I do.

You know how there's always someone who seems to say, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result"? That seems to come up a lot. (What, just me?) But look up the word insanity and the first thing to pop up? "The state of being seriously mentally ill; madness."

So if it's not insanity, what exactly is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

My best guess? Fandom.

Coming back again and again, in person or watching on television (or exclusively online. Hello, ACC.), game after game, season after season. All-in, all the time. It's really certifiable when you think about it. I mean, how many times does your favorite team actually win it all? Hell, I'm a Yankees fan and even I know that titles are pricey don't come easy. (I'm the Yankees fan from the 80's who didn't see a title for many years. In fact, there was something romantic about the run in '96. Why do I feel like I have to defend this? Okay, moving on...) Unless you're a bandwagon style fan, jumping from the Ravens to the Seahawks or the Spurs to the Heat, you no doubt experience a lot of frustration, much more so than any championship joy.

I know you're not a bandwagoner. You're a Syracuse fan. And thus, I also know you've experienced quite a lot of losing. Big games; little games; medium games, there's been plenty of losses. Sure there are plenty of wins in all of those styles of games too. Should any given season end as expected or unexpectedly, you'll be ready because you've been there and done that.

So why does everyone keep coming back?

Now, the real reason I ask is because I noticed something of a trend in the comments section of my last column. A lot of discussion about the Syracuse Orange basketball fan and their expectations. Stemming from something I kind of off-the-cuff wrote:

I guess Syracuse is spoiling everyone with constant change covered up by constant winning. I've been watching Syracuse for a few decades now, and maybe you've been on board for four or five, and I can tell you this five or six year stretch may be the best in the program's history.

(Damn, that's some preddy writin' right thar.)

Which spawned some great comments about what is expected out of a season. Obviously, Syracuse basketball has high expectations every season, especially lately, and there is some sentiment that if the team doesn't meet those lofty preseason goals said season is something of a failure. Top-ten in the preseason should end with, just spit-balling here, at least an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA tournament for some fans.

Is this right? Maybe. Honestly, who the hell am I to say how fans should react to...anything. If you set your bar high, based on previous seasons and incoming talent and preseason rankings, then you have every right to be upset if SU doesn't reach that high level when the season is all said and done. Especially if the Orange men are beaten by a lesser team in a round earlier than expected. Perfectly understandable.

For me, though? When it comes to any team I follow, I'm more about the journey than the destination. That's not to say I won't punch your cat if my team shanks away a perfectly great chance at a title -- I'm also an Eagles fan, so know I've punched plenty a cat. But somewhere along the way I learned to stop thinking about next week, or next game, or even next season and just started taking what good I could when I could.

Case in point:


How crazy was that game?!

Sure, SU was No. 6 in the country and had a team full talent and a coach in Jim Boeheim, but who really expected the Orange to go into the KFC Yum!(!!!) Center and beat the top ranked Cards? Stop it, you're lying. That game had "15 point loss followed by Boeheim freaking out about Rick Pitino" written all over it. But through a great defensive effort and Brandon Triche's unconscionable first half shooting stroke, Syracuse won, on the road, against the number one team in the land.

Afterward, I didn't care about how that win may have moved a potential seed in March for Syracuse. Nope, all that I was interested in were highlights, game recaps, and checking Twitter to see the college basketball world's collective reaction to that stunner. That moment when Michael Carter-Williams stole the ball and officially secured the win was, simply, awesome to watch. Bigger than the next game or the previous game or whatever the end-game to the season may be.

And the thing is, there's a ton of those moments, or at least close-enough-moments, throughout the year. Remember that '08 loss to Cleveland State? I bet you do. It may have been tough to take at the time, but it was pure college basketball at its best. Underdog scrappy team beats on-fire nationally ranked opponent with a 60-footer? It's not fun to be on the other side of those games, but they're without a doubt a part of the season, without a doubt worth remembering.

It's all a part of what makes a season, each and everyone one, so entertaining. I can't really explain why I keep coming back, but I know those Louisville highs or even those Cleveland State lows play a major part in it. It's entertainment. I want to go through those peaks and valleys, because they're guaranteed must-see moments. March or anything after isn't.

Of course, just because it's title-or-bust for some fans doesn't mean they don't too love the craziness. I don't mean to imply that at all. But I kind of worry that crowd lets a loss in the Sweet 16 diminish any of the wins from earlier in the season. I wonder if some fans completely write off a season after a loss like Syracuse's to Butler in 2010? That year was amazing, for a variety of reasons, but is it ruined now with hindsight for some? If you're all about meeting expectations you may not look back as fondly as you really should.

But I guess, as I've pointed out, to each their own when it comes to fandom. I mean, this whole thing is kind of insane.

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