It’s the afternoon on the East Coast, so at least some of you (the few non-Californians among us) have already read Mark Titus’s Jim Boeheim feature on the Ringer today. It’s certainly a long one, so be sure to allot some time to the story before creating quick-twitch reactions.
Even in our own TNIAAM Slack room, there was an impulse to deride the premise of the article before even reading too far in. “How can you even insinuate he’s overrated? This is hot take-central! He’s trolling.”
But as you dove further into the article, those reactions actually align with Titus’s (accurate) characterization Or Syracuse Orange fans. We’re niche obsessives to the point where a comparison to the Rick and Morty #Saucegate incident is about as accurate a depiction as I’ve heard.
We’ve discussed this at length before — the how and why Syracuse fans are the way they (we) are. The overprotective aspects, constant fear of the other shoe dropping, the abandonment issues that bleed into football as well despite lacking the same 42-year coaching tenure... And it makes sense that we’d understand all of that. We’re discussing ourselves.
But Titus, through his extensive research on the topic of SU basketball, understands this too. Perhaps in a way that few “outsiders” have ever exhibited. While there are (slight, at best) nits to pick around the Boeheim characterization here and there, where the piece absolutely soars is in the description of the fan base and its motivations. We’re an odd bird, and not one easy to explain to others. Titus pulled that off, and for that, he should be commended.
That said, you’re probably looking for the Boeheim #TAKES. The disrespect you crave despite climbing near the sport’s pinnacle repeatedly. We’re Clemson football fans minus the hyper-recent championship, which is why the two fan bases despise each other so much. It’s like looking in a mirror, orange and all.
Titus brings those, though not in the manner you initially assume. His start with all of the lazy critiques you’ve ever heard about Boeheim will inevitably stop a lot of Orange hoops fans in their tracks. And this section — “It would be reckless to suggest that Boeheim will never coach a nationally relevant Syracuse basketball team again, but it also doesn’t take a wild imagination to envision a scenario in which that becomes the case” -- is likely to burst a few blood vessels.
However, the idea that Boeheim has been a lone wolf here and hasn’t had the benefit of learning under other “great ones” is pretty spot-on, and the first time I’ve heard the caveat added to the Hall-of-Famer’s situation. He’s self-taught, self-made, always-with-a-chip-on-his-shoulder and just like us (especially the city of Syracuse itself). Boeheim was basically MEANT to be Syracuse basketball, even before he arrived on campus many decades ago.
Titus even digs into another aspect of Boeheim I’d never considered -- the memory portion of it all. The coach has always been characterized as being thin-skinned. That may be true, but it could also be the product of a near-photographic memory shaped by (perceived and real) slights over the years. I know this because I deal with similar issues myself, and admittedly, I probably enjoy the coach so much because I see a bit of my own day-to-day in him (and vice versa).
It would make sense (read: not at all) that both he and I would go into professions that constantly beg for feedback and criticism, no?
From all of my time spent with Syracuse fans in-person and online over the years, those perceived slights also permeate life within and outside of following Orange sports. It’s hard to separate whether Boeheim developed into this because of the city and fans, or whether the fans mimicked him over time. Perhaps it’s a little bit of both because the two have been intertwined for so damn long you couldn’t try to pull them apart anymore.
(In typical Syracuse fan fashion) If there’s one thing I’d say the article fails to address is the fact that Boeheim is actually a far better tactical coach and developer of talent than he’s given credit for. The 2016 NCAA Tournament run was a masterclass in his in-game abilities, even against supposed lesser competition in the early rounds. What he’s done to get inside Virginia’s head at this point is astounding. And the number of low-star recruits he’s turned into great college players can’t just be ignored.
But if folks stopped ignoring all of that, it would probably start eroding what’s unique about Boeheim — which Titus touches on as well. The coach doesn’t need to care about what anyone thinks, but it’s essential to his personality that he does. We’re sort of the same. Hence why I just wrote 800 words about a separate article. I look forward to the comments section being just as vibrant as #KetchupGate’s.