* You know how Syracuse basketball is somehow never the underdog, even though it’s seemingly always the underdog? How it’s always crashing the party, even though it was invited? Welp, that “I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry” mantra applies to other teams, too.*.
The sharpened steak knife of Malachi Richardson sliced through the hot butter that was the Virginia defense. A freshman, and one hell of a press defense, were keys to Syracuse completing an improbable comeback on one of the biggest stages in men’s basketball. The player, the game and the entire NCAA tourney run in 2016 captured the hearts of the Orange’s worldwide community of followers. Yet, those days also made Syracuse a rarely seen hated-underdog by the rest of the nation.
At the time, Syracuse, that “lucky to be there 10 seed,” suffocated the life out of the “We’re one guaranteed win from the Final Four” Cavaliers in the Elite Eight. SU went from losing to Pitt in its first game of the ACC tournament to winning four straight in March, which was culminated with a beat down of a top seed in Chicago. An expected NIT bid *POOF* turned into Syracuse being of four teams left playing real basketball.
However, because SU wasn’t a typical Cinderella, and because Syracuse’s fan base is…aggressive, and because its coach isn’t a TV-ready laugh-riot, everyone seemingly wanted a clockmaker to make it strike midnight early on those loveable, hated Orange men.
Syracuse didn’t just crash that dance, Syracuse basically busted out the best moves on the floor, got your girl’s number, and then bounced early in order to go to a cooler party no one else knew about. The response wasn’t pretty. Just about the entire college basketball world was losing its collective mind. “SU shouldn’t even be here?! Lucky SOBs!” Not that it matter to the Orange fans. Actually, the blowback got so bad, Sean Keeley had to write a brilliantly sarcastic apology letter to everyone not glowing Orange back in that March of ’16.
Ultimately, Syracuse came up short. Still, the mere fact the Orange made it to the Final Freaking Four kind of summed up why we all watch. You just never know what to expect and all of the heartache, all of the heartburn is eventually worth it. It might take forever and not last long, but it’s worth it (there’s a “that’s what she said” somewhere in there). Sure, the rest of the world might not give a damn, or maybe the rest of the world just hates your team’s guts, but, dang it, that’s kind of fun, too.
Being the unintended bad guy has its benefits. Just ask Philadelphia Eagles fans right now.
I should know I am an Eagles fan.
You’re thinking, What? Philly has never won a Super Bowl. Or you’re pointing out that Eagles have had jails in the basement of their stadiums because the fans are so damn crazy. How about the time the Eagles fans threw snowballs at Santa Claus?!
You’re thinking, Eagles fans are the worst.
I’ve heard it all. We’ve all heard it all.
You know what, though? We don’t give a damn about what you have said or what you’ve written online.
It’s not like those Philly fans before me fired bullets at Kris Kringle. Snowballs? At Santa? That’s a bad thing? I mean, I’m not saying the Eagles fans threw the snowballs, but if they did, isn’t that a little like throwing water to a land-bound fish? Really, if the “Santa incident” happened, one could make an argument that the fans were just trying to make him feel at home. Bringing the North Pole to Philly.
Either way, whatever fables and legends are being passed on, Eagles fans don’t give an eff. I think we stopped caring years ago because we’ve all learned at some point in our lives that it takes a special kind of crazy to “bleed green.” There isn’t a person alive who can be accused of being a bandwagon Philly fan. Ha! This shit isn’t easy, watching Philadelphia.
That’s the part when every Syracuse fan smirks a bit. Hell, SU is the team national talking heads love to nitpick because it’s the lowest hanging of college hoops’ fruit. “Bah, Syracuse doesn’t have a lead man to take over late in games!” “That 2-3 zone is a gimmick.” “ Boeheim is a whiner.”
Philly and Syracuse aren’t so different. Just maybe one is a little more violent than the other?
Seeing the birds beat the Skol out of the Vikings last weekend, though, flashed me back to Richardson’s toying with the vaunted Cavs defense. From Vegas to Bristol, Connecticut, no one saw those two separate outcomes coming.
Syracuse limped into that tourney, and then needed some luck and good matchups to become World Beaters for a couple of weeks. Even though everyone saw it all live, no one believed it was happening. A lot of people tried to act like it didn’t happen at all.
Philly’s backup Nick Foles Swiss-cheesed one of the best defenses in the NFL. Nick. Foles. He went Malachi on those stunned
Cavaliers Vikings to get his team to the biggest game of the year in any sport.
Which, by the way, when starter Carson Wentz tore his ACL against Los Angeles in December, Eagles fans everywhere, after collecting themselves, all made some version of the same joke. “Of course Wentz is hurt. Of course this is how our dream season ends.”
Has there ever been anything more “Philadelphia Eagles” than being an underdog in every playoff game despite having the best record and home-field advantage throughout the NFC draw? Is there anything more apropos in the world of sports than Philly having one it’s most complete and talented teams ever only to have expectations sunk by injuries? It’s March 2016 all over again for some.
The sky might be cloudier and snowier, but the skies in in Central New York and down there in Pennsylvania are always both seconds from falling through.
Even right now, Philly, despite the two-straight Ws over very good teams and being more than worthy of playing in the Big Game, the Sharps wasted no time in installing the Patriots as 5.5 to six-point favorites. It’s the largest opening spread for a Super Bowl since Pittsburgh beat Arizona back in 2009. Yup, New England is great. Still, don’t the Eagles deserve some respect?
Actually, forget that last question. The answer to it doesn’t matter to any of us anyway.