If you haven't already, you should really watch the 30 for 30 Requiem for the Big East (you can buy a digital version on Amazon) for a lot of reasons. If you're on the younger end of the spectrum (like me), it's a valuable, admittedly-romanticized, history on the rise and fall of a conference Syracuse Orange Basketball helped build. If you skew older, it can be a trip down memory lane through the voices that made those memories.
From a film perspective, the documentary does something wonderful: it uses the backdrop of the final Big East meeting between Syracuse and Georgetown as a device through which to pace the story. Not only is it well done, but a focal point of the documentary is on this rivalry that catapulted the Big East from competitive to historical in the same context as the Tobacco Road Rivalries.
And that's where we start and will eventually end. (If you stick with me. I get it if you just want to get hyped in the comments. I'll meet you there.)
What made this rivalry great was that it was organic. This wasn't just about two teams forced to play every year. It wasn't just about that this game would be a marquee game for both sides. It wasn't just that the coaches were larger than life characters. It's all of that coupled with both teams striving to prove something and make their mark in a young conference and ultimately a nation of viewers who were seeing this basketball for the first time.
And that's why it pains me to say I'm not sure this rivalry will ever be THE rivalry. I mean, we all kind of knew this would happen. It's not like we're suddenly going to pretend John Thompson is cool or anything like that, but it's just never going to be same. There's no longer any of the edge of two young coaches trying to prove themselves, two programs proving a larger point about basketball supremacy, or any of the general craziness that seemed to surround the Big East we knew and loved.
It's weird, because when I drafted this, I had a whole thing about how the one standard was Jim Boeheim. About that the one thing keeping this rivalry with one foot on the court with Pearl Washington and Patrick Ewing was Jim Boeheim. That if this rivalry would be remembered and given meaning to the younger generation, Boeheim HAD to be there for this revival. Then yesterday happened. And I sat and wondered if that was the nail. That was the nail that firmly moved this from THE game to a really big game against an historical opponent. (Think Pitt football if both of us were constantly competing for division titles.)
But the more I thought and the more I watched fans talk, I realized I was wrong. No, this rivalry will never have the fire it once had. But what we now have are layers. We've got John Thompson's son going up against Jim Boeheim's protégé in the coaching debut for the young Orangeman. All great rivalries ebb and flow over the years but what makes them legendary are the layers. And for the first time in a long time, Syracuse is peeling off one of theirs to show another one with just as much fire and history as the one before.There were already bound to be a hundred storylines leading up to tip about how Syracuse and Georgetown's rivalry would be forever changed by the landscape of athletics. However, with yesterday's developments, it's clear more than ever that if this rivalry lives on, it's not going to be the one we all remembered.
Unlike most rivalries, neither proximity, perceived traitors, nor conference is why this is a rivalry.
This is a rivalry because John Thompson said Manley Field House was closed.
This is a rivalry because Pearl Washington stood up to Patrick Ewing.
This is a rivalry because our starting quarterback came on as a walk-on to lead us to basketball victory.
This is a rivalry because Gerry McNamara loved beating them.
This is a rivalry because after beating our butts twice, we got the last laugh.
This is rivalry for what happens on the court. And whether it's the same as we remembered or something entirely different, as long as something happens, it will be remembered. And it will be passed on from Orange to Orange, no matter how long ago it was.