SU Football: Spring Shame No Longer?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago I railed at how poorly Syracuse handles its annual spring game. Now, cclosing in on 365 days later, I think I may be back on the whole event.

You want a #HotSportsTake? Well, feast your eyes on this sizzzzzzzler from last April.

Syracuse's spring game is usually garbage.

1995 was my first experience with this...thing. Back then the game was offense vs. defense, with scoring coming from interceptions, sacks, tackles for loss, and, oh yeah, actual touchdowns. It was one of those games where you needed a program not just to figure out the players, but to try and decipher what the hell was going on out there.

Spring game or spring shame, amirite, people! You may want to open a window because it's probably getting a warm in here.

Okay, maybe it was more lukewarm, but that was from the heart -- mine lamenting the sham that Syracuse routinely forced down Orange fans' throats every April. I never expected something like you see at Ohio State or Alabama, I mean, this is Central New York we're talking about here. But spring games at the dome kind of felt like sports torture. The most sadomasochistic of us attending with hope of watching real live football, but instead mostly getting metaphorically whipped and prodded.

From coach Dick Macpherson to Paul Pasqualoni to Doug Marrone, the end of spring practice was usually meant with a weird ceremony rather than a triumphant game. Where most programs capped a few weeks of practice with a fan-friendly event surrounding actual football, something fun to do and a reason to get excited for the fall, SU coaches seemed to think everyone would rather see some weird bastardized version of the game they love -- along with zero fanfare.

But that seems to be changing, what with the news that next week's game will feature...things and probably a real game to boot!

  • During the game, a fan will be selected to attempt a field goal to win a pair of 2014 football season tickets.
  • The Syracuse Marching Band, Orange spirit squad and Otto will perform throughout the event.
  • Following the game, fans are invited onto the Dome field for a 30 minute autograph session with the team.
  • Inflatable jumpies!!!

All of that on top of the fact the game is free, parking is free and there will be coupons for free hot dogs (Dome Dogs, right?) and soda and Scott Shafer will wear a mic to speak to the crowd during the game.

And you know what all of that is at its core? It's trying, it's effort, it's showing Syracuse University actually gives a damn about this game, about you. I know that SU has tried variations of some of these changes in the past, but coming off last year's game where the coaching staff was trying to get 20,000 people to attend but ended up closer to 2,000, changes were probably more necessary than ever.

You see, in all reality, this game isn't for the coaches or the players, they've seen enough of each other and they'll see plenty more come August. No, the spring game should always be about showcasing all that SU football offers to fans.

I'll still never forget sitting next to my dad in '95, both of us happy to be together watching Syracuse football both of us thinking, What the hell is this? A Pop Warner team's first day of practice? That day we were sitting in the dome, but we might as well have been sitting on the moon for all SU cared.

Here's hoping, though, between Shafer's open-mic commentary (I can't wait to explain some of Shafer's "Shafer-isms " to my son, Brady) and the band playing and the freebies and the extended hours of festivities and actual football being played, somewhere in the stands a father and son have an honest-to-goodness fun time. Because that could eventually lead to those two, and any and all satisfied "customers" in attendance, to actually showing up for the real games, too!

I know, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. But you've got to start somewhere and it looks like SU is finally learning to crawl when it comes to this seasonal rite of passage. Am I cooling off a bit? Well, hell, I'll admit, I'm genuinely excited.

So count me back in, Syracuse football spring game. Just don't screw around with us, you're playing with fire at this point.

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