I’ll be honest that back in 2016, I never thought I’d be writing a piece like this about the Dino Babers era of Syracuse Orange football. Hell, after the 2018 season, I thought there was absolutely no way for it to happen.
And yet, we’re here. As Syracuse (football) fans, we should probably be a bit more used to this sort of predicament.
Coming off a 2020 season that saw absolutely everything go wrong en route to a 1-10 record, the head coach many were once extremely high on is now seemingly on the hot seat. The extension he received a couple years ago is now a source of derision from naysayers. Even those that still believe like myself are starting to wonder if this is going to truly turn around under Babers.
That’s stunning to think about when discussing a coach who went 10-3 in 2018 and has hung tighter with Clemson than nearly any repeat Tigers opponent but Alabama since 2017. But those successes and an improved rate of getting players to the NFL don’t just erase the struggles, and the angst we’ve felt about it all over the course of this offseason (and really, the past two seasons).
It’s that angst and the rancor about the state of Syracuse football that’s fueled a constant state of disagreement among the fan base (self included), a feeling of uncertainty and even a waning interest for some. The quote atop this piece, from Marvel villain Thanos, is less about Babers or even Syracuse’s destiny on the football field. But about ours as fans.
We care deeply about this team, of course. But between the last two seasons on the filed and all that’s happened off the field in the world, we’re all bound to be a bit on edge, no? And when your most recent Orange football reference point is a largely hapless 1-10 campaign, excitement usually gives way to nervousness pretty quickly. And that nervousness makes for dread without much/any additional effort.
Regardless of how you or I might feel about this upcoming season, however, it is here and we’re gong to get through it together. With luck, it’ll be enjoyable to watch. And if it isn’t, perhaps Syracuse fans will be able to get along with one another along the way. As we’re all very much aware, sports isn’t something that really rewards all that often. It’s a sick bet we all make — sometimes not even by choice — that we’ve picked the right card in a deck of many different outcomes. Since we all selected the same card, might as well be rooting for each other along the way, no?
Before that conclusion, I’ll be anxious about what’s to come, and pondering what’s destined to be. Is Syracuse football and the fandom around it destined to be Sisyphus, forever rolling a boulder up the hill? Or is Babers destined to turn this ship around? Are the lenses I’m applying here more a romantic view of something simple and random, and the outcome more likely to fall somewhere in the middle?
Orange football is what it is; sometimes worse and sometimes better. The “worse” has been a prevailing theme for much of the last couple decades, and some of the reasons for that are well beyond fans’ or the program’s control. But standing on the doorstep of yet another SU football season about to start, I’m trying not to get concerned with how we got here anymore. Destiny arrives all the same, after all.