There's been trips across the border, there's been games with Cornell and Colgate. Hell, we've even witnessed near disaster against Fordham. But those games were the appetizers, because, fittingly enough with Thanksgiving a few days away, the main course for Syracuse basketball is served up starting today.
The Maui Invitational: Minnesota up first, then possibly California or Gonzaga or Baylor. I don't care what happened in the previous games, there's something entirely different starting with tip-off against the Gophers. We'll find out a lot about Jim Boeheim's team over the next three days, no question about it.
And really there may not be anything more resembling March than this time in Maui for the Orange. Yeah, the ACC is probably going to be a meat grinder, but I'm not so confident of that anymore. Did you even know there is a such a thing called NC Central? N.C. State does. But in Hawaii, every opponent is likely to be in the top 30 of Ken Pomroy's rankings. Hell, SB Nation picked Maui as the top November tourney to watch. This should be an entertaining few days -- like Maui wouldn't offer up some basketball drama?
So on this unofficial official start to the basketball season why am I writing about football? Especially after the way Syracuse botched a golden opportunity against Pittsburgh? Seriously, this seems like a perfect time for Orange fans to take their collective minds off missed field goals and blocked extra points and think about alley-oops and Boeheim in Hawaiian shirts and the madness of hoops.
But this Tweet from the Post Standard's Chris Carlson really stuck in my mind.
People are actually leaving the Carrier Dome. ... it's 17-16 with 8:09 left.— chris carlson (@ccarlsononSU) November 23, 2013
There's something off about football here.
(This was written before Brent Axe's wonderful take on the attendance issues went live on Syracuse.com. I can't recommend you checking that out enough. Brent hit a home run, again, on the subject of "fans.")
A one point deficit for the home team and dozens of people, "fans," head for the exits? And this wasn't just a one point meaningless game, Syracuse was one more score away from putting away the Panthers and all but locking up a bowl berth. Which, by the way, would be the third such invite in the last four years.
But with the game in limbo, with the season on the line, and the Orange needing any and all help they could get, a number of fans decided they...wanted to beat the rush?
8 mins before kickoff at the Dome. pic.twitter.com/VFKcST6Ktd— Brian Dwyer (@BrianDwyerYNN) November 23, 2013
Okay, so that excuse doesn't work. It was snowing in and around the city on Saturday, so maybe those fans wanted to get to the car, clean it off, warm it up, and hit the roads a few minutes early?
Whatever. I'll never understand it. I'm that fan who loves to get to the stadium, arena, or Dome, an hour early and I stay until the bitter end. Sure, I may leave if a game is ugly quickly (Penn State, 2008) but I'm damn sure I wouldn't head for the exits in a one point game.
Think about this: Chris tweeted that with just over 8 minutes to play, Syracuse would go on to get the ball back TWO MORE TIMES.
I know. I hear you and I see your eye rolls. This is nothing new. Hell, we've all complained about it, and most of us here with Sean's site have even written about it in one form or another. Yet, it still makes me do a double-take when I see how pathetic the Orange football crowd can be. And it's not just me.
Yup, that happened. And you can bet recruits have been wondering where the hell all the fans are for decades. Really, watching those people leave reminded me how great of a job Doug Marrone really did in Syracuse. How did Marrone get anyone halfway decent to come here? And it makes me appreciate Scott Shafer that much more. He's taken an inexperienced and under-talented team to verge of a bowl trip. He's doing a lot with a little and he's doing it with virtually no help from the fan base.
That's not to say there aren't real Syracuse fans. Honestly, I think I've written enough about fans in the last week. I didn't even want to get into this, but Chris' tweet stays with me. Even as we're getting ready for college basketball to really start. It'll be Minnesota in Maui and then Indiana and then the ACC battles. Before we know it there will be 35,012, or 35,013 just to piss off Georgetown, in the Dome come Febuary 1, 2014.
Once again, on the most national of national hoops stages, Syracuse will show off its rabid fan base. ESPN will send the sideline reporter to the furthest point from the court to talk to fans using binoculars to see a glimpse of Syracuse basketball. All will be right.
And somewhere Shafer will be on the recruiting trail. Trying to convince someone, anyone, that it's not just basketball at Syracuse. That the Dome can be that loud, that crazy, and that fun for his team, too. That age old fool's philosophy that football and basketball don't have to be so different.