Expectations and perception. They drive how we consume sports more than we realize. They're both fluid, they both change constantly based on results, and they both define how we measure success.
The Syracuse Orange basketball program is in a never-ending struggle against our expectations and perceptions. We expect national rankings and Final Fours and greatness. We don't usually get all of those things. That affects our perception of where the program is in comparison to others. That, in turn, makes us maneuver our expectations. And so it goes.
All of which brings us back to gravy. You remember gravy. It's that cop-out that we build into a situation like the one this Syracuse team finds itself in. Where we tell ourselves that just getting here is good enough and anything else that happens is gravy. It's a way to protect us from our own expectations.
Because I don't know about you but when the game starts, I don't care much about gravy. I care about winning the game. I might not have high expectations beforehand, but once the game starts and Michael Gbinije drills a three-pointer, I know we can win. I expect to win. It's that simple.
Once the game's over, we can be human beings with perspective again.
While I was on hold waiting to get on the air with Brent Axe on Wednesday, I heard him reading texts from listeners, one of which was all about how even if Syracuse loses to Dayton it's okay because everything is gravy from here on out. And sure enough, that was the first question Brent asked me. Is it all gravy from here?
And my answer is no, simply because Syracuse is there. And if you're good enough to be there, you're good enough to win the first game. And if you're good enough to win the first game, you've got a shot against the big dog in the second round. And if you pull off the upset there, anything's possible. With each successive win, the expectations change. Suddenly what was unthinkable is now expected. Think about how that happened in 2013 when the Orange made their run to the Final Four. People were calling the Sweet Sixteen "gravy" and then spent months after complaining that SU could have won the National Championship (or at least beaten Michigan). Each win negated the initial expectation as it went.
So as far as I'm concerned, keep the gravy in the fridge. It ain't time to serve yet.