While there's never a bad time to tell the story of what you were doing when Syracuse defeated Kansas to win the 2003 National Title, today seems particularly apropos. I'll show you mine if you show me yours (in the comments, that is...)
I was living in Manhattan Beach, CA at the time (the southern, beachy tip of LA) and my go-to bar, Sharkeez, was just around the corner. Sharkeez was, and still is, a necessary evil to me.
It can be the best sports bar ever and it can be the worst sports bar ever. It's very no-frills, you order your food from the register so there's no waitresses bugging you. On a busy day you could probably slip in there, grab a seat in the back, watch games all day and never pay a thing. They've got more TVs than you can possibly look at in one sitting.
Sharkeez one big problem is that they're one of those sports bars that's uncomfortable with commercials. So rather than change the audio to a different station when the commercials come on, they flip a switch to a running loop of 80's music. And I don't mean Metallica, I mean the cheesiest, lamest 80's music you can imagine. Think of the songs you least want to hear on a Sunday while you're watching football and those are the songs that Sharkeez plays during each and every commercial break. What's better, it's a manual system so most of the time they don't turn the music off right away when the game comes back on. So you're left listening to Bananarama while the Giants are going for it on fourth down to win the game.
(This doesn't really have anything to do with the story, it's just a rant I've been bottling up for a long time)
So like I said, I had been going to Sharkeez to watch the NCAA Tourney games by myself (cause I'm cool like that) and over the course of the last couple weeks I had befriends some fellow West Coast Cuse people. Some had gone to SU, some were life-long fans from the area. Every game, without planning for it, we were all there. And with every win, we allowed ourselves to get giddier, louder and more excited. Somehow, some way, SU made it to the National Championship and we knew what we were doing.
That night we show up at Sharkeez in full Orange regalia. I'm draped in an orange and blue blanket that my grandmother knitted for me (no homo) and we've all got front row seats in front of the big screen. Funny thing is, the bar is packed. Packed like I've never seen it before. And every single person in there (it seems) is rooting for Kansas.
Was there an LA KU contingent I was unaware of? Was Syracuse just THAT despised that everyone wanted to root against them? Was it just Taco Monday and this was all a coincidence?
The great thing I remember about the game, other than...you know...was that late in the 2nd half, after one-too-many botched commercial music transitions, we all came together to lustfully boo the bar employees into not doing it anymore until the game was over. It was the only time I've ever seen it happen. Thank the Lord.
The game, well, I don't really need to explain what happened, do I? Just watch this...again:
After the final buzzer, we went nuts. Most of the bar got angry and one of our guys almost got into a fight (natch). Cooler heads prevailed and we all went outside to make our obligatory phone calls to family and Syracuse friends so that we could scream "WOOOOOOOOOOOO" into the phone as many times as possible.
We all went back to my place and designated my deck (which overlooked the road) as the official Syracuse Home Base of Manhattan Beach. We screamed at passing cars and pedestrians, egging them on to cheer for the Orange. We waved flags and ran shirtless in the streets. Did all of this through around 1am when it became apparent that my neighbors, not Syracuse fans, were kinda over it. Plus it occurred to me that I wouldn't be excused from work the next day.
The cool thing about the whole experience is that I had made all of these new friends because of it. Random people I never would have interacted with if not for the Orange's magical run. We bonded at supersonic speed and were already looking forward to doing it again for SU football and next season's basketball games.
I never saw them again. Candles in the wind, I suppose we were. You know how it is...sometimes those bonds are best left in the moment. As much as I got to know these people, it all revolved around SU's Tourney run and subsequent championship. I knew where everyone was from, what dorms they lived in and what their favorite beer was but I'm not entirely sure I ever actually learned their names.
Alas, we'll always have Sharkeez and the 2003 National Title. And that stupid commercial music policy...