Hoya Suxa aimed to attend 10 of Syracuse's 12 regular season football games this year. He went to nine. This is his final travelogue from his journeys.
I WAS DONE AND THEN I WAS REALLY DONE
It wasn't even certified "snow," the kind of precipitation that actually causes mild agita for Central New York. No, "snow" was on the western horizon, marking time until I peddled my Jeep south for what was surreptitiously decided to be my final football road trip of the 2016 season. This "dusting" -- a few inches of frozen and falling bullshit, filling up my windshield for about 200 miles -- etched away the wax seal on the agreement that demanded I attend 10 of Syracuse's 12 games this year, affirming a non-material breach of contract: The promises were substantially fulfilled, and termination was inevitable.
Arriving at that point, though, was essentially a two-week process of existential crisis: Do I push through the final throes of November and cross into the unknown of attending over 80% of Syracuse's dates, or do I rest at 75% -- passing! -- and know that I probably carried more water this year than all but the team, staff, a handful of parents driven by the love for their sons, and those paid to follow around the team? There was no model for this to provide insight as to when to press the eject button and fall safely back to earth, but a feeling steadily matured toward calling it quits after Florida State, if only because my life was bifurcated between Monday-Friday Matt (full toiletries in my bathroom and a pile of clothes earmarked for non-weekend wear) and Saturday-Sunday Matt (full toiletries shrunk by an atom gun and placed in a suitcase that held a non-rotating selection of officially licensed football apparel). I was leading two lives, literally segregated by geography, time, and direction, and it was too much to continue without having brains leak out of my ears. It was time to conclude this whole idea.
This isn't to imply that my final two missions were rote sleepwalks of business-as-usual, beaten down by a football team staring up at a .500 record. In fact, the last two weekends of live Orange football were just as fun and worthwhile as the preceding seven, even if the weather was colder and generally more icky. We all have a hill to die on, and mine is that you can have a riotous good time going to the Dome to watch Syracuse football if you choose to separate the happiness-victory connection. This is anathema to many -- the function of fandom that promotes vicarious success and failure almost necessitates victory in order to achieve an enjoyable experience -- but the proof of concept was put forth in extreme circumstances this year and I somehow survived this sociopathic laboratory experiment.
I do not recommend doing something to the scale of what I did this year, especially if your circumstances are something other than Professional Single Person. I do, however, think there is incredible value in getting to the Dome and contributing to the atmosphere: Build the tailgating scene, make the Dome the kind of place that you want it to be, adopt more cultural touchpoints of major college football and help shape Syracuse into the kind of panorama that stacks up with its peers. There comes a point where everyone needs to contribute, both the university and its supporters, and this is really the time that it can come together and pull the Orange out of a unique wilderness.
I DIDN'T ANTICIPATE WRITING A FOOD BLOG, BUT HERE WE ARE
Anthropologists will look at these diaries 100 years from now and probably assume that I was the fattest person on the planet. Over the course of all of these travelogues I have written about food and drink more than anything else, providing the evidence as to why I look like I've been stung by a hundred bees. So, to stay consistent with this effort in mastication porn, here are the grub and booze highlights from the North Carolina State and Florida State jaunts.
Tully's . . . in Pennsylvania?
Based on where and when I depart, it's usually quickest for me to get to Syracuse by rolling up I-87, cutting across the state on Route 17, and then hammering the accelerator on I-81. This is an awful way to get to The Hill from New York City: Route 17 is paved butt and there isn't a damn thing to do with that road other than to send it to remedial highway classes. For Wolfpack weekend, I decided to write a different script and head west, piloting toward Scranton and meeting I-81 in a new and exciting locale (sort of). The benefit to this, other than assuring my personal sanity? A visit to the only Tully's location outside of New York -- Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, home to, I can only guess, every gas station in America.
Do you even understand how much of a traveling game-changer this is? The ability to inhale tenders on the regular, two hours before being able to vacuum tenders into my stomach at their birthplace, has totally altered the universe in a beautiful and lightly deep-fried way.
I don't know why it took me almost an entire season to start drinking wine slushies
I clipped my finger nails! Also, that is a 64-ounce wine slushie and I have gigantic bear hands.
The last supper
There was only one reasonable option for the tailgate menu during Florida State weekend: Less than a week from Thanksgiving, we proxied the holiday into a grilled sandwich, fixing homemade cranberry sauce with grilled turkey breast and mashed sweet potato:
I'm not sure which pregame feast was the best this year, but this was kind of a perfect coda to a season spent exploring what we could do on the grill. We accomplished everything from breakfast to lunch, to desserts and drinks. This is the time spent that I referenced above that is the core to a day spent around live football: It's friends and family and having the kind of time that releases all of the nonsense that builds toward the weekend.
This whole deal -- this tiring, draining, ridiculously fun and arguably stupid adventure -- doesn't come together without some really good people putting up with my bullshit on a weekly basis. I saw more friends and family over the last dozen weeks than I probably have in the last dozen years, and it was great to reconnect with so many people, even if it all ended with a losing football record upon final tabulation.
Right off the top: Thank you to Dave and Tara. You opened your home to me to pass out well before #PAC12AfterDark for almost all of this season and basically held together all of our tailgates while I meandered north with only mason jars filled with Bama Bombs and pickles. You guys have been great seat partners and friends, and while I'm sure you guys would like to bolt well before the final whistle, singing the Alma Mater with you every week remains a favorite memory of this fall. I'm indebted to you both until what is likely my untimely demise.
Ryan earns special thanks for not only signing up for a bunch of these trips, traveling from Florida for all of them, but for also riding shotgun from New York City on two commutes and keeping me from losing my mind as the same Kenny Chesney song blared over the radio as the only option somewhere west of Roscoe.
Gary and Peggy, the patient patrons of the seats in front of us: I looked forward to seeing you each week and thank you for putting up with the nonstop repetition of "GRIZZLY EXTREME!" and the jet fighter-level droning coming out of my facehole on almost every defensive possession, regardless of the count on the scoreboard. We need you at one of our tailgates next season!
Mike and Nat: Thank you for letting me crash in the penthouse for Boston College. It sucks you guys couldn't make it up for Florida State. I should probably apologize for wearing just underpants and an undershirt around your house, but I am not particularly good at life.
To the Genessee Brewery: Thank you for doing you. If you would like to sponsor these diaries next year, please contact me at your earliest convenience and we can work out something very reasonable.
To everyone else I ran into and contributed to this journey, if only for an instant moment: Ma Suxa and Pop Suxa, Joe, Adam and Stef and Ms. Olivia, Ted, Shaun and Mary Beth, Ben, Matt, Evan, A.J., Chris, Collin, Jackie and Jeff, Dom and Brody and the whole MetLife crew, Noah and family, Greg, Booey, Rob, Arto, Terry, Anthony and Katie, John and Karen, Brian, John, Cait, Sean, Katie, the two bartenders that locked the door and let John and I drink at D.J.'s by ourselves after the Florida State massacre, and to all the others that I may forgot -- it's not that I don't appreciate you, it's that I'm an idiot and probably have a error in my hero database.
Games Attended: 9
Syracuse's Record in Games Attended: 4-5
Miles Driven: ~3,680
Miles Flown: ~1,525
Next Syracuse Game I'm Attending: Central Connecticut State
Previous: Colgate; South Florida; Connecticut; Notre Dame; Virginia Tech; Boston College; Clemson