It's one of the best rivalries in college basketball, effectively becoming the bedrock of the Big East. And now we watch its demise and remember what is, was, and will never really be again.
Two scheduled games left. Four halves, barring overtime, just 80 minutes are left for Syracuse and Georgetown on the same court at the same time under the banner of the same conference. Only one of those games left at the Carrier Dome.
A rivalry and then some. Soon to be...gone.
SU v. GTown: it got its official start with possibly the coolest after-game statement in college basketball history. "Manley Field House is officially closed." Six simple words by an elated John Thompson Jr. Six blasphemous words to generations of Syracuse Orange fans. February 13, 1980 -- No. 2 SU has its 57 game home win streak come to an end at the hands of the unranked Hoyas. The Zoo, which practically had its fans hanging over the court, like gawkers taunting animals in their cage below, was done in by....Georgetown? This couldn't be.
All of this happened during the first "official" season of the Big East (official by name only, the seven teams only played each other one time and by no means was the Big East a real conference then). But without it, without that game, that outcome, and that statement, the Big East wouldn't be what it came to be.
And three decades later and Syracuse and Georgetown wouldn't have had so many classic, "are you watching this" text-message inducing, games. Actually, it was just four years after the "Field House is Officially Closed" game, well before even Zach Morris' cellphone, that the following happened:
Punches thrown! That's like "shots fired" for anyone who happens to rely on a police scanner in there day-to-day lives (tv and newspaper reporters sadly nod their heads). Plus, look at that all-tourney team, Patrick Ewing, Michael Jackson, Pearl Washington! Syracuse v. Georgetown for the Big East tournament title was like Hogan v. Andre back then. If Twitter had been around in 1984 the internet would have exploded before this game ended.
But let's jump ahead in this rivalry and get to my favorite Syracuse - Georgetown memory, ever:
Thompson Jr. gets the gate while No. 10 Syracuse beats No. 7 Georgetown in overtime -- claiming the Big East title to boot. This game was all sorts of surreal and the fact that Thompson Jr. not only got thrown out of the game, but also was hit with three technicals sent the Dome crowd practically over the edge. You may see a big time coach get thrown out of the biggest game of the season again, but you'll never see one get run the same way Thompson Jr got run.
And for Syracuse Orange fans who may not remember the older games, there's always seems to be a classic every couple of years. For instance, the game that, despite his unreal play as a freshman that lead to an NCAA title, cemented Gerry McNamara's clutch legacy qualifies:
There's a ton of them out there - including Syracuse's win over the Hoyas on its way to the improbable 2006 Big East tourney title, which had to happen if you think about it.
And since there are so many favorites, let's hit up Twitter to see some of your favorite Hoyas v. Orange games of all time:
@matthewmcclusky Hands down best moment: JT's three technicals and the 10 point play. I defy anyone to tell me the Dome's ever been louder…— Tim Mooney (@timmooney) February 18, 2013
I won't defy you Tim. No defiance here.
Tom listened to Tim, too. This is a good thing, I think.
But while that '90 classic seemed to top most people's list of all time great Georgetown v. Syracuse games (including mine), there were plenty of other entries:
While I despise the concept of "Tweet-longer" I respect the hell out of your choice, Darryl. That 1989 game gets completely lost in the shuffle, but it certainly helped fuel the flames of college basketball hatred.
@matthewmcclusky Pat Ewing came in his sophomore year, fouled out, Thompson ejected. same game the cheerleader fell off the pyramid. We won— capt_gordon (@captgordon) February 19, 2013
I can only assume the cheerleader was OK. Still, this is a hatred that only grew over time -- as evidenced by some of the Tweets.
Donovan McNabb: legends transcend sports. Especially when hero conquers football and then conquers Hoyas.
Outsiders questioned the students rushing the floor -- insiders to the rivalry questioned the questioning.
Um, let's move on, shall we?
(BTW - this could be one of the many reasons Michael Carter-Williams (along with the Eric Devendorf's of the past) gets ripped so mercilessly.)
There is so much to love about that tweet, I wouldn't even know where to start.
Still, as you see, Syracuse and Georgetown, when on the same court at the same time leaves people with memories. Yet, not one of them would have happened the same way, leaving the impressions, without those six words. Manley Field House is officially closed. Sure, Thompson Jr. was a bigger-than-life bad guy who made it easy to "hate" him and his team. But when it comes to Syracuse, when it comes to the Orange fan base, the hatred -- real, live sports driven hatred -- was born out of his taunting of everything Syracuse.
The argument can be made that Connecticut has, over the years, trumped Georgetown as Syracuse's biggest rival. The Huskies have had more success over that time. Its had better players over that time. Hell, it had Jim Calhoun. Syracuse Connecticut has had more on the line, at least tangibly, than Syracuse Georgetown has recently. Games when SU has been in the top ten, games when Connecticut has been in the top ten, a game that went six overtimes! UConn v. SU has had more on the line lately.
But there was never a "Manley Field House is officially closed" moment.
That's why Syracuse v. Georgetown, Georgetown v. Syracuse, has always meant something more. Remember when "Your Mother's a Hoya" was something? As in signs at games, actual chants, and radio jingles. Freakin' radio jingles! Syracuse had Connecticut and it will have North Carolina and Duke and every other Atlantic Coast Conference foe that comes its way. But it will never have another Georgetown.
Really, rivalries are about chasing ghosts. Red Sox v. Yankees was great in the early part of the 2000s, but it paled in comparison to the rivalries' glory days -- Bucky "bleeping" Dent out lives Aaron "whatever" Boone. The same goes for Lakers v. Celtics (Russell over...everyone) and just about every other classic rivalry. Great games, amazing moments; everything traced back to one or two defining moments that happened years and years ago. You can't make rivalry out of location alone, it has to have an organic in nature birth. Manley Field House is officially closed.
And now it's all ending. I'm sure Georgetown will venture back into the Carrier Dome again. Just the same, I'm certain Syracuse will, after this March, make the trip back to D.C. But it will always and forever be tagged with the label, "non-conference." Dismissive in its way. As in, "Syracuse will play, among others, Cornell, Colgate, and Georgetown in its non-conference slate this season." Imagine that? Georgetown, those hated Hoyas, clumped together with things like the Red Raiders and Big Red. Unbelievable.
Connecticut will some how be left on the sinking Big East ship. Strange. But there is something fitting about Georgetown and Syracuse, with so many tweets of fan favorite classic encounters, already having found their respective lifeboats, preparing for salvation in whatever form they can get. The Big East will never be the same, and soon Georgetown v. Syracuse will never be either.