As the 2013-2014 season approaches, TNIAAM is asking the tough question. Is the Syracuse Fan Stand & Clap a good tradition or a dumb one? I asked TNIAAM correspondents to pick and side so we can make pro and con arguments. For the record, I am the only person who chose the con side. Fine. You can read the argument for it here.
I spent the previous two hours watching not just the Louisville Cardinals and Wichita St. Shockers, but also their fans. Cardinal fans were loud, overwhelmingly so. Their students packed the section behind one basket, going nuts with every score or big play. What Shocker fans lacked in numbers, they made up for in zeal. When they made their run in the second half, you certainly heard them.
Both fanbases had now shuffled out and the fans for the Orange and Wolverines replaced them. Students from both schools filled those same spots. Michigan fans broke out in coordinated cheers. Their students were in constant motion and in a perpetual state of excitement no matter what was going on.
Syracuse fans, meanwhile…were there.
The game was about to begin. The players took the court, primped their jerseys, wiped their sneakers, shook hands with one another. The Georgia Dome got loud. Really loud.
On cue, Syracuse fans began to rise throughout the arena. Whether in the student section, the mostly-orange section beside the court or just peppered wherever they were, they stood and they started clapping. And clapping.
Where I'm sitting, we're not in any kind of Syracuse section. There's a healthy mix of fans around us but, if anything, it's slightly more Michigan-y than Syracuse-y. I look around and see two SU fans standing and clapping in one section. In another section, I see three in a sea of maize and blue. In another, I see a lone Orangeman calmly clapping, his focus intently on the action below.
I realize it's time to do the same. It's my duty as an Orange fan to stand, clap and continue doing so until the Orange score a field goal (free throws do not count). It is what we do. We do not question it. It simply is.
But in this moment, I can't do it. Surrounded by Michigan fans cheering and casual fans watching the game, I realize the idea of standing up and clapping seems embarrassing. I think about what it must look like to the uninitiated. Do they think, "Are they just going to do this all game? What a bunch of rubes."
Of course, I also don't want to be That Guy amongst Syracuse fans. So, I take the middle ground. I do a kind-of standing lean against my seat and clap with my hands low in my lap. Even that feels awkward and depressing. I'm mentally-willing Brandon Triche to score a basket so I can sit down and focus all my attention on the game.
22 seconds in, Triches misses a jumper. Agony.
Clap. Clap. Clap.
46 seconds in, James Southerland misses a three. Gah...
Clap. Clap. Clap.
51 seconds in, Southie misses a layup. COME ON...
Clap. Clap. Clap.
62 seconds in, Southie misses ANOTHER layup. For the love of Odin...
Clap. Clap. Clap.
68 seconds in, C.J. Fair misses a layup. You've got to be f***ing kidding me...
Clap. Clap. Clap.
Two minutes and two seconds in, Fair hits a jumper, the Orange fans erupt and everyone sits down. I am almost certainly the first among them.
If you think about it, the Stand & Clap is not a supportive gesture. At all. The premise, that SU fans will stand and clap until SU scores a "real" point, is actually anti-Syracuse.
If, a minute into the game, Syracuse hasn't scored, they have to look up into the crowd and see every person in orange still standing. And they know that Syracuse fans want to sit down and stop clapping. That's the point. But for every second and every missed shot that requires them to continue standing, it only serves to make SU fans more agitated. And now the home team is playing in front of a packed arena full of annoyed fans who just want to sit the f*** down but can't cause you idiots can't make a shot.
I was there at the 1998 Providence game in the Dome when Syracuse didn't score until the 9:18 mark of the first half. I remember that feeling of agitation and frustration that built up with every missed shot and every passing minute. The "can you believe this" glances we gave one another. The collective groan of the entire fanbase as five minutes turned into six…and seven…and…are you f***ing kidding, Etan??? JUST PUT IT UP!
When Syracuse finally scored, you better believe the most sarcastic cheer this side of Trevor Cooney finally making a three-pointer on his ninth attempt rang through the Dome.
I'm sure folks at the 2011 game against Manhattan, in which the Orange opened the second half by going scoreless for seven minutes, can attest to that same feeling.
If you believe that fans influence the game, and that the energy that we generate affects the team we're rooting for, why the hell would we want to send that kind of energy to our players?
One of my big complaints after the Final Four was just how passive the Syracuse fanbase seemed in comparison to the other three. And I don't think it was an isolated incident. Having watched a lot of college basketball, I have no qualms telling you that the Dome advantage is a quantity, not quality, one. We can get loud and intimidating, but Syracuse fans fight a war of attrition, not guerrilla warfare, like Pitt or Kansas St. fans who have to make up for smaller arenas.
The Stand & Clap is all of that personified. It's lazy. It's ineffective. It's boring.
There are no Dome cheers other than the usual generic ones. There are few unique moments or creative collaborations. There are very few fan characters and even less spontaneity.
I say all of this knowing full well that I have unrealistic expectations. I want college sporting events to be like European soccer matches. I want to see everyone on their feet the entire game. I want to hear cheers and songs and choreographed numbers the whole time. I want there to be a guy in the nosebleed section banging on a drum from the first whistle to the final one. I want to see people jumping and screaming and generally making the entire experience uncomfortable for the visiting team and anyone over the age of 45.
No college fanbase can claim to do all of that. Hell, only a handful can claim to do ANY of that. But anytime I see a fanbase veering in that direction, like UNLV's fans or Utah State's fans or Kansas St's Wabash Cannonball, I get a bit jealous.
Maybe this is the price we pay for being good. We don't need to be creative to enjoy ourselves cause we're usually just enjoying watching Syracuse win (or at least be competitive).
Here's my question. If we stopped doing the Stand & Clap tomorrow, would it change anything? Would it matter?
I don't think so. Certainly no one outside of the fanbase would notice. It's not like we can't even lay claim to starting it in the first place (Ironically, according to this New Mexico message board, the originators changed the tradition to be until either team scores since it put "undo pressure" on the home team).
If Kansas stopped doing Rock Chalk Jayhawk, you better believe people would notice. Same goes with Duke getting rid of the Cameron Crazies or if Utah State stopped doing weird things. A part of the gameday experience would be lost. Whether you like those traditions or not, they would be missed and their absence would change everything around them.
The Stand & Clap? No more vital than The Wave or doing the whole "You Suck!" thing during player introductions. Yawn.
It's an exercise in repetition. I can't tell you how many times I settled into my seat right before the second half of a Syracuse game and then watched everyone rise to start clapping, thinking to myself, "Oh…right. Crap." It's an annoyance. Maybe not to all Syracuse fans, but certainly to some.
I'm sure the tradition won't end anytime soon. I'm just one person and judging by the opinion of those I've spoken with, I'm in the minority.
But at the very least, can Syracuse fans come together and just try…TRY…to add something creative to the game experience? Big Heads and funny signs and face-paint are great, but they're not specifically "ours."
All I'm asking for is a gameday tradition that we can call our own and be proud to do, not just in the Carrier Dome, but in opposing stadiums as well. Something that tells other people We Are The God Damn Syracuse Orange And We Are Better Than You, Or, At The Very Least, More Creative Than You.
If we can do that, I'll stand up and clap all day long.