As Cole Murphy's kick sailed straight through the uprights and Syracuse ended its ten week wait for a victory, I like many of you, felt justifiably happy. But with the backdrop of Scott Shafer's dismissal, Riley Dixon's final punted ball in an SU uniform, and the reality that we just completed our ninth losing season in the last 12 years, I also felt weary... weary of losing so many and winning so few. Weary of the uncertainty that comes with a change in staff. Weary of seeing the crowds in the Carrier Dome growing smaller and smaller. Weary of feeling once again like I survived the season more than I enjoyed it.
But most of all, I'm weary of the fact that I find myself leaning on "the good old days" of Syracuse football far too much when what I really want is to experience and share that thrill of success for real with all of you and a new generation of SU fans... even if it is for a brief, fleeting moment.
For some reason while thinking about the season and reflecting on my weariness, Billy Joel's "The Downeaster Alexa" started playing on the Sonos system in my home. For those of you not familiar with the song because you aren't a fan of Billy Joel's music (shame!), are under the age of 35, or are by most objective measures probably a lot cooler than I am, "The Downeaster Alexa" is a beautifully-written and emotional song about the downtrodden fishermen of Long Island who are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet due to a lack of fish, a changing regulatory landscape and the rapid conversion of Eastern Long Island from an agricultural-based society to a playground for rich outsiders.
"The Downeaster Alexa" accurately describes the fisherman's frustration with the lack of fish in the ocean ("there's fish out there, but where God only knows"), a resentment of the outsiders colonizing the island with expensive homes ("there ain't no Island left for Islanders like me"), and a general sense that they are a dying breed of honest people that hope for better but acknowledge that things may never come back to how they once were.
And in listening to the song, I realized it is a perfect analogy to being a Syracuse football fan in these modern times...
Over the past 15 years, save three just-better-than mediocre seasons under Doug Marrone and Scott Shafer, we've come back to shore as a fan base with little to show for our effort and passion. We've watched others achieve prosperity and crowd-out our success as our facilities aged, our leadership failed, and our results floundered. There's been no shortage of effort, and I take pride in the hard-nosed approach that we try to apply on the field. But one can only point to the distant past as our defining era... with entire generations of fans only knowing about the great joy of being an Orange fan through the stories of their elders (like me), or YouTube. It's enough to keep us warm at night, but it's sad and depressing knowing that our past defines us more than our present (and possibly our future).
The future holds reason for optimism with a pending change in leadership, and I have no doubt that those athletes that will represent us will do so with effort and passion for this team and this school. I still dream of a future where our stadium is filled to capacity with our fellow fans screaming on The Orange as they once again rise to belong among the better teams in college football. But as I wipe the brine off another rough time at sea, I know two things to be certain: 1) that future success will not come immediately or easily, and 2) that I'll be right back in that boat tomorrow ready for work, thankful as hell that all of you are in it with me. For like those fisherman, being an SU football fan is all we know and all we're prepared to be. I'll keep thinking of the good old days until the Fall to pass the time, but will also hold out hope that despite everything we're currently up against, there is a better future for us all.
I know there's wins out there, but where God only knows.