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We're all witnesses, no matter where we were

Reflecting on a game we’re unlikely to forget any time soon.

Clemson v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

“You were here! You guys got to see this in person!”

This random man, someone we’ve never seen before and will likely never see again, stopped on his path to the field, pausing to turn and yell that to me, my wife and my son. He was feeling the vibes, drunk off beer and the fact that Syracuse had just beaten the number two team in the country. An exuberance of euphoria.

“You were here! You guys got to see this in person!”

And it was at that point, as this dude halted his trek to the turf to make sure we understood the magnitude of the moment, that the magnitude of the moment really hit me.

Syracuse University just beat the defending national champion. Syracuse University just beat the second-ranked team in the land.

That. Just. Happened.



Clemson v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

I know I write for so many of us who have been at the Dome to see countless gut-punching losses. Sometimes it’s a blowout, sometimes it’s a last-second heartbreak. And if you think back, there are plenty from column A and from column B.

Occasionally, like after that Miami game in ’92, you’re left thinking that SU is thisclose from really turning the corner.

Then there are times like when Miami came to the Dome and completely flattened Syracuse. How about the game West Virginia came in to the “Loud House” in ’93 and walked out with a 43-zip win? Who could forget the time Pitt beat SU by 24 in central New York’s bubble? (That was the year 2002, in case you forgot or were lucky enough to black it out.)


Oh, man, what about that debacle against Iowa in 2006?

And every time, it was impossible to not think that the Orangemen or the Orange was the JV to the rest of everyone’s varsity.

That’s what Dino Babers, and the previous lot, deals with as “Head Coach, Syracuse University Football.”

We as fans want to return to the “glory days,” we demand something to be made of this nothing. And we want it now, not later. But the truth is those past experiences either never truly existed the way we remember or they’re blurred by the hardships of reality. Maybe those great days for Syracuse football really happened, or maybe we just prop up the past to justify our continual fandom.

What is glory in college football, anyway?

Clemson v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Further, given the state of the program, we’re always clamoring for a reason to believe that Syracuse’s David will always have a chance to take down the opponent’s Goliath. It can happen so often in bumfrick, USA, all across the college football landscape, why the hell can’t it ever take place in a bubbled tent in upstate?

And then it did.

Syracuse 27, Clemson 24.

“You were here! You guys got to see this in person!”

The best part of it all? SU didn’t use gimmicks and it wasn’t aided by bad calls, or some combination of injuries (with the understanding that Kelly Bryant’s being knocked out of the game helped Syracuse’s cause). Nope. This wasn’t beating a shaky Notre Dame team in 2004 or 2008. Or Syracuse’s overwhelming a good-but-not-great Louisville in 2007 or 2012. Syracuse went out and took care of business. The front of the defense was relentless in its pursuit of the Tigers. And the SU offense never looked like the “B Team.” It was the opposite, really. This Syracuse Orange looked like every bit as much national power as the other team in orange.

So when that fan stopped for a second and made sure we had an idea of how big that win was, I started thinking about the other times I sat on those metal bleachers and didn’t get to see the Good Guys beat the Bad Guys. I thought of times with my mom and dad, eating Dome Dogs and watching other teams like Oklahoma (1994) nip SU. The games with my then girlfriend, now wife, where I would tell her on the way home on I-81 (2002 through present), “You know, when I was a kid, SU football was great and the fall in the Carrier Dome was the place to be!”

At times that was true. Really, though, more often than not, I just want to pretend it was the place to be.

But on Friday, October 13, Syracuse got the ever-elusive signature win, the victory at the end of the rainbow that makes all the other painful past somehow feel justified. It might lead to more crazy victories and the true “rebirth” of the program. Or it might just be a great win in an otherwise “okay” season. Who knows? At this point, who cares?

We’ll all never forget. Sure, I was lucky enough to be there, like that kind and sage dude made sure we understood as I took my wife and son down to the field to jump up and down. We ran down out on the field, arms raised, screaming with thousands of other new "friends."

Still, the best part about it, to me, is that we all, whether it was in person, on TV, or radio, witnessed Syracuse finally, truly shocking the world.

It was really reality.

That “W” felt like it was for the fans who have come and stayed, for the past players who have all tried like hell in vain. For the close games and for the not-even-close games.

It was for those years, decades, of it not happening. It actually can happen and we actually can, in our own ways wherever we might be, see Syracuse football be great in person.