Syracuse Orange legend Pearl Washington passed away last week and it was made abundantly clear in the days afterward that he was universally-beloved by those close to him as well as those who watched him from afar. \
In the days that followed his passing, there were many calls for Syracuse University to honor the man Jim Boeheim has called the most important player in Syracuse basketball history. His jersey already hangs in the rafters of the Carrier Dome. The most logical next step would be to build a statue in his honor. It's something quite a few people have called for.
Statues are also a pretty trendy thing to do these days. Not only here at SU (Plaza 44, the incoming Simmons statues) but also nationwide. And not only of people who are already gone but statues for people who have barely walked out the door. Tim Tebow has a statue at Florida. Nick Saban has a statue at Alabama. Hell, TCU just erected a statue for FB coach Gary Patterson. I mean, good for Gary Patterson, but, for reals?
I've made my position clear. I'm not a big fan of statues, especially for people who are still alive. You open yourself up to so many possible complications (see Paterno, Joe). I wondered aloud if even building a statue for Jim Brown, a known abuser of women, was a smart idea. The potential for that to blow up in SU's face seemed too high for my tastes. It's also why I don't like the idea of building a statue for Jim Boeheim, at least not yet. Cause you never know what else might come out regarding any number of issues.
In the world of Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Joe Paterno, and O.J. Simpson, we keep getting the lesson over and over not to deify our sports heroes, but we refuse to listen.
But that's not an issue now with Pearl. His story is complete. We (probably) know everything we need to know about him and it's a great story.
So what, if anything, do we do to honor him that we haven't already done?
If you want to go this route, it opens up a bit of a Pandora's Box. We've now got a corner of campus that's basically dedicated to all future football statues. Do we also start lining basketball ones up there as well? Or do we put it Dome-adjacent and create secondary statue of plaza close to the original Ernie Davis statue? And if we build a statue for Pearl, we gotta build a statue for Dave Bing and Jim Boeheim and Vic Hansen and Billy Gabor and Lawrence Moten and John Wallace and Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara, too, right?
What if we went head bust or plaque instead? Something akin to Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. Doesn't have to be in the Dome or even near the Dome. Maybe it's in or near the Melo Center. A central location where we can start building a collection of legend monuments without getting into the whole statue discussion.
Or maybe we've done enough? The desire to honor Pearl with something special will likely fade over time. There will still be calls for it but, like any tragedy, the more you move away from it the less the impact drives your decisions. Like I said, we've retired his jersey and it hangs in the rafters alongside all of the other Syracuse greats. That was, for a long time, considered the proper way to pay respect to a hoops legend.
Or is there some other way? Add his name to the Carrier Dome court? Put an image of a pearl on the spot where he launched that unforgettable buzzer-beater? Pull a Stanford and rename the assistant head coach as The Pearl Washington Memorial Coaching Position?
I don't know if there's a correct answer, really. I know how I feel, but I'm curious to see how others feel.