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Sorry, We Only Root For Dissapointing Syracuse Teams

I read this morning over at the D.O. Sports Blog that a member of the Men's Lax team is calling out students for not coming out to games. I think it's an honest request, especially of a team as successful as they are. Problem is, how do you actually change the situation?

I remember reading an interview back in '98 with Roy Simmons Jr. where he was discussing the difference between the basketball program and the lacrosse program. The gist was that if he were to walk then-SU basketball star Todd Burgan across the quad, he would be mobbed with autograph-seekers and lookers-on. If he then did the same thing with Casey Powell, arguably the best college lacrosse player in the nation at the time and the best player on one of the best teams in the country, barely anyone would notice.

Besides the fact that it's humorous to think of a time when Todd Burgan was a star (and to posit all Syracuse students as fawning, autograph-pad-wielding groupies), there's a larger point to be made with that statement. Of course basketball and football players command most of the attention on campus, not only at Syracuse but at most Division 1 schools. But in certain situations, surely the prolonged success of a niche program would warrant some special attention at a school. And certainly a program as vaunted as Syracuse Men's Lacrosse (8 National Titles, 22 consecutive Final Fours) would warrant such attention.

Don't get me wrong, SU doesn't get terrible numbers. This past weekend, #2 Syracuse was playing #17 Loyola and drew 4,500. Not a terrible number by any means (this past weekend's UNC-Hopkins and Virginia-Maryland matchs drew similar numbers). But if you looked over at the student section, where anyone with an SU ID can sit for free, it was bare bones as usual. How can it be that a perennial power can consistently lack any interest from it's fanbase despite the fact that it's the only "money" sport on the Hill actually performing at a preeminent national level?

Well, #1, lacrosse hotbed or not, most SU students don't care. If you were an SU student, think back to when you were at school. Imagine the tennis team was a national powerhouse, winning national titles year after year. They had a huge match this Saturday against Evil State Tech for bragging rights and they were asking for students to come out and support the Orange. You have a choice between chilling out and watching the NBA/MLB on TV and BBQing on your front lawn or trekking down to the tennis courts to watch SU play EST.

Lacrosse isn't tennis but it's the same idea. It's a niche sport beloved by those who play it and who have played it but for everyone else it's a boxscore in the paper the next day. Lacrosse is growing in popularity every day but it's still aggressively niche. Even in the hotbed areas where it's played, you're either invested in the sport of you don't give a crap. There's really no in-between. And so, when you arrive at SU after a lifetime of not caring about lacrosse, all of the national titles and final fours in the world aren't going to change the fact that you simple don't care.

I always like to reference my experience at the '96 Syracuse-Virginia game, easily the most exciting, intense and enjoyable lacrosse game I've ever seen. My lacrosse neophyte friends who attended the game with left at halftime, bored to tears. They went back to the dorm to drink beers and watch baseball. Cause that's what most people do. Hell, I played lacrosse in high school and considered myself a fan and even I only attended a handful of games in my four years there. Call it apathy, call it disinterest or call it living on South Campus without a car and no desire in take the bus but it just is what it is.

You can blame the recent downturn of SU lacrosse for the lack of student turnout but we all know better. It is what it is. There's really no short-term solution that's going to change it. Syracuse is already the best program in the country playing one of the hardest schedules in the country and featuring some of the best players in the country. It's been that way for over twenty years now.

So what would I do? #1, Syracuse needs to host a Final Four. I know the Dome isn't ideal for the spring weather and outdoor roots that lacrosse likes to show off, but think of what it would do for SU. Thousands of fans would descend on the city, it would get people talking, juices flowing, media reporting and students noticing. It's one thing to hear that Syracuse is in the playoffs and trying to win, it's another to know that it's going on right down the road from you and you've always thought about going to a lacrosse game but didn't know if it was worth it. Well that finally sounds worth it.

#2, "Gross" things up. I hate to be gimmicky but here's the perfect opportunity. Forget basketball and football, what do you really benefit from having performances before or during those games? Do you increase attendance in any nominal sense? But what if you got a halfway-decent band to perform before or after the SU lacrosse game? And I'm not talking about that Orleans bullshit, you gotta get someone the students would actually be interested in. Even if its not a band or performer that lines up with lacrosse fan interests, as long as it gets students in the building and in front of the game so they can see for themselves if they enjoy it, so be it.

Even then, I don't know how much you influence student attendance and get more of them to the games. Again, it is what it is and we should probably just appreciate those that do show up rather than try and force apathetic ones to come (and almost-certainly not enjoy themselves).
If you really want to play to the students, you'll start a campaign asking them to come out and actually see a successful Syracuse men's team for once. Especially the senior class...come see a Syracuse team compete for a national title for once in your time here. Get those flyers up on the Euclid Ave. streetlights. Have some fun with the lack of success the big boys are having and use it to your advantage. It's the one thing Syracuse lacrosse almost always has going for it.