Why do we love sports?
It’s a question we fail to ask ourselves enough. Too often we get caught up in the results of a possession, a game, a season, we forget why we even care so much in the first place.
For me, and I am going to assume for many of you, I love sports because it offers a sense of belonging. As a fan, you truly feel as if you are a part of that team you root so hard for. You are tied to them, through all the highs and through all the lows. When they win, you win. When they lose, you lose.
As a result, sports, even from just a fan perspective, can be emotionally draining – but, it can also be emotionally rewarding too.
Syracuse basketball fans know both of these feelings very well. Less than a year ago, the Orange shocked the world when they received an NCAA Tournament bid and made the Final Four. Prior to Saturday, however, this year’s team looked like it may not even make the NIT.
Syracuse entered Saturday’s contest with a 12-9 record, having lost three of its last five games. One of those nine losses was a 33-point defeat to St. John’s. None of those wins came on the road, as – for the first time in the Jim Boeheim era – the Orange have yet to win a game away from the Carrier Dome, losing eight straight to start the season.
Syracuse may be one of the most prestigious basketball schools in the country in terms of its history and past success, but the Orange have severely underperformed and struggled on the court this year, plain and simple.
On Thursday, John explained just how difficult it would be for Syracuse to make the NCAA Tournament. Upsetting Florida State on Saturday wouldn’t guarantee a tournament berth, but it would be a major step in the right direction – a fact not lost on SU students.
Florida State may not boast the same honorable basketball pedigree as Syracuse, but basketball prestige and past success means nothing when it comes to discussing the current season. The Seminoles came into the game ranked No. 6 in the country, with wins over Florida, Virginia, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Duke.
Syracuse’s best win? Miami, a team ranked 8th in the ACC entering Saturday. The Orange may have only been a three-point underdog according to Vegas, but, for students and fans who have watched Syracuse play all season long, it felt like so much more.
That is why, when the seconds started to tick down, and it became evident the Orange would pull off the upset, I, and a number of other Syracuse students, stormed the court.
This season has been emotionally draining, for Syracuse students and longtime Orange fans alike. Prior to Saturday, there have been very few – if any – highs, but there sure as hell have been many lows (St John’s, Boston College, Georgetown, etc...).
As students and fans, we felt a part of that Syracuse team. We were a part of their countless losses and their many struggles. But, we were also a part of them throughout Saturday’s contest as well.
For 40 minutes we screamed, we jumped and we cheered. And then, as the clock hit zero, we were a part of that win. We were in disbelief, we were excited and we wanted to celebrate. An opportunity to storm the court is rare, especially at Syracuse, so we took it.
Boeheim, himself, saw nothing wrong with students storming the court.
“That's a good thing. It's fun to do that,” Boeheim said. “We've got to get people excited. Why not let people get excited? Better than getting beat and having them go home at halftime.”
However, many may argue – and many already have – whenever you win a game, even one as improbable and important as this one, you should “act like you’ve been there before,” or that Syracuse is too renowned of a basketball school for fans to storm the court.
That may be true, but so what?
In that moment, I sure as hell didn’t care to act like I’ve been there before. As a lifelong Orange fan and an SU student who is in his senior year, I wanted to celebrate. I wanted to run. I wanted to enjoy the biggest regular season upset win in recent Syracuse basketball memory.
Because when it’s all said and done, celebrating when your team pulls off a miraculous win, isn’t that what sports, and being a fan, is all about?