The best things in life are unexpected - because there were no expectations. - Eli Khamarov
High expectations are the key to everything. - Sam Walton
I feel like I write about expectations a lot. I suppose that because I write about Syracuse Orange athletics. Syracuse fandom is constantly at war with the expectations of our teams. Fans of Syracuse Lacrosse expect Final Fours every season. Fans of Syracuse Basketball expect top ten rankings and NCAA Tournament runs.
As for Syracuse Football Fans, we expect a lot of things. The specific expectations vacillate season to season, but the general gist remains the same. Every season should be better than the one before it.
It didn't always used to be that way but ever since The Reconstruction of A.G.E. (After GERG Era), that's the basic agreement we've had with the team. Obviously, it doesn't always work, otherwise we'd be undefeated by now. We simply recalibrate based on what happened last season.
Which brings us to the 2014 season. Look at our preseason predictions. Hell, look at everyone's preseason predictions. Coming off of a 6-6 regular season, everyone expected 7-5, if not better. It just made sense. Returning pieces. First-yesr jitters done with. Winnable games on the schedule. On paper, it worked.
What we really didn't consider with those expectations was the very things that make expectations worthless. Injuries. A mid-season offensive coordinator switch. A true freshman quarterback thrown to the wolves. Opponents who improved. Even more injuries.
Three games left and the Orange need to win them all just to break even with last season. It's been months since the team put together-back-to-back wins, let alone three. And while Duke, Pitt and BC all looked beatable on paper before the season, that doesn't seem the case anymore. Duke is ranked and rattling off wins. Pitt might be 4-5 but they're capable of more. BC is 6-3 and has basically done this season what we hoped we'd do. The odds that we can run the table are slim at best.
And that's because we haven't even taken into account the fact that Syracuse can't get out of its own way long enough to beat a quality team. Not bashing, just how it is. It's not a question of want or desire, just a question of ability, injury and experience.
The NC State loss stings for a lot of reasons but most of all because it means we're about to cross the Rubicon on this season. We've already missed expectations (at least, the preseason ones) and we're one loss away from the one territory none of us wanted to admit was a possibility in 2014. I mean, there's a reason our Why The Orange Will Finish... series didn't go any lower than 5-7. We just didn't think anything worse was a possibility.
And so, while we wait for the hammer to drop, we're left with confusion and frustration. "Shafer should be fired!" "Put in Mitch Kimble!" "Fire Boeheim! Just because!" It doesn't make sense that this year's squad will fall short of expectations, possibly very, very, very far short, and so in the short-term we process that with anger. It's what we do.
And that's when you realize that if we lose one more game, it's time to start thinking long-term again. Start thinking about 2015. And I don't know about you but I was looking forward to waiting until 2015 before I did that.
Alas, we don't always get what we want. Especially as a Syracuse fan. All I do know is, whether we make a bowl game this year or not, our expectation for 2015 will be to finish better than we did in 2014. That's a guarantee.