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SU Football: Getting Through The Day

The more things change...

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Today is always a pretty strange day for me. Eleven years after his passing, November 10 is and will forever be my dad's birthday. With or without him. (Twelve now without him. Yes, I'm counting.)

Typically, it comes and goes with me stopping at my dad's grave for an awkward three or four minutes, never knowing how to act. And I almost always attempt an awkward prayer at some point -- since the night he unexpectedly passed, praying has become a stressful chore for reasons I can't truly explain. The whole day is really like: Do you party or mourn some more? We certainly do plenty of both on the anniversary of his death.

His birthday, for me, is always a little complicated and whatever I do this day won't change the fact that he's gone.


A little dramatic, right? I tend to do that sometimes, I know. Shit, how many posts have I written about my dad already? You could probably say I'm milking it here. And Lord knows he would be super embarrassed by them. But I've always figured: I lost my dad in a really bad way and I'll hijack whatever I can to show how great he was. For anyone in a similar spot, if you've gone through a tragedy, then you get to play the Woe Is Me card for as long as you want. There is no "use by date" or statute of limitations here.

Truth is, I really don't want to write about today today, anyway. I'd much rather get into some other hot topic, something actually Syracuse related. But where is there to go? Discuss Scott Shafer's tenuous tenure? Bah. I know the season is over, given the six-game losing streak. And freaking Clemson is up next? #Bloodbath Shafer's time is the focal point of Syracuse football right now, in the middle of another lost season.

The fact that firing a coach is even on the burner is a little funny to me. As I've written about before, one of my last conversations with my dad was about the future of Paul Pasqualoni. I wanted him gone. Hell, I wanted him fired before Donovan McNabb ever set foot on the Carrier Dome carpet. And after McNabb left? I not only joined the Anyone But Pasqualoni fan club, I created the damn thing. But back in the fall of '04 my dad was a little more middle of the road than I ever was.

That was his way in life. Probably because he was a defense attorney for so long. Most often he wasn't the classic contrarian, but he always seemed to know that a belief wasn't true just because it was popular. So he would counter my Pasqualoni vitriol with something like, "Who are you going to get to replace him? How much better can Syracuse be?" I figured the answer to both was "We'll see, because the whole thing has to be better than this. Right?"

And all these years later, we're nearing a very familiar spot.

Shafer doesn't have the tenure that Coach P had here. And the current coach doesn't have nearly as many Ws as the old-old-old coach earned. But we've got a coach who may very well be in over his head, with a fan base growing increasingly dubious. Anger or ambivalence, there's really no in between. We once again have that same prospect of change hanging in the air, wafting. Should he stay or should he go now?

It would be fun to have my dad to talk with about this one. Would he reason that Shafer has essentially beaten Wake Forest and Central Michigan in the last two years? Argue that the coach has made way too many shaky moves. That Shafer probably best serves Syracuse as defensive coordinator.


Would my dad say three years isn't enough of a case study on a football coach? That it was just two years ago when Syracuse was in a bowl game. That there are a ton of underclassman playing key roles and that Shafer deserves to at least see how they play with another season of seasoning.

I don't know where it would go. I guess I don't know where I stand on it either. Shafer has been an easy guy to root for, one who puts his emotions on his sleeve and goes all in all the time. He's likable, for whatever that's worth. At the least,  I want him to succeed. By the end of Pasqualoni's reign, I think I was almost pulling against him, not with him. I'm not there with Shafer,  but can he win regularly enough? And what about his in-game decisions? What about leaving in Eric Dungey last weekend at Louisville? Down four-plus touchdowns in the fourth quarter and the frosh QB is still in, still running around, all because Shafer thought he'd "try to make it a great comeback-type situation" in a game that was OVER.

I couldn't talk to my dad about it, but Saturday evening I was letting everyone around me know that Shafer was gone. "A comeback?! Shafer's potentially wrecking a kid's health all so he can make the score look a little more 'respectable!' Pfftt...This guy...He's done." That was then, in the heat of the moment. Days later, I've cooled off. And I now know that one play in a blowout loss was not the nail in the proverbial coffin. That dumb move and the dumber comments afterward were something, but not terminating-employment worthy.

Well, I don't think it's a fireable offense. I'm certainly no expert on it, though. Back in '04, Daryl Gross came in and gave Pasqualoni the boot, something I WANTED to happen but didn't see coming when it did. I suppose if Shafer puts up back to back 3-9s, then Mark Coyle could do the same. It's his pressure-packed move to make, one that will impact the program for another decade-plus.

I just really hope there is a right answer, one way or another. That if Shafer is gone, there will be a plan to find the right candidate, one who is hopefully already identified. And if Coyle keeps Shafer on board, I hope we see evidence of it being the right move early and often. My dad is gone and I'm still having Syracuse football deja vu over a decade later. With a few peaks breaking up the endless valleys, history simply can't keep repeating itself again and again forever.

I ironically write that November 10, the same day I'll visit a certain cemetery and try yet another conversation with God. Just like last year and the year before that and the year before that...

(Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that my wife's birthday is in two days. And, coincidentally enough, it was a year ago tomorrow when she pretty much saved my life. So, yeah, I owe her.)