When we were students at Syracuse University in the 1970s, my good friend, Ed Shaw, and I would dutifully attend every SU home football game at the antiquated concrete monstrosity known as Archbold Stadium.
We fancied ourselves as diehard fans (though others viewed us as somewhat deranged and masochistic) because we would sit, kickoff to final gun, through the losses that usually transpired, often in raw, inclement weather.
There was one game in particular during our senior year when we and about 10,000 other fools sat through a chilly, game-long, torrential downpour. Fortunately, our loyalty/stupidity was rewarded when Dave Jacobs somehow managed to kick a field goal in the quagmire for a 3-0 victory against “football powerhouse” Tulane. We thought for sure that ugly, muddy game was destined to end in a scoreless tie.
Ed and I often boasted about our dedication to a floundering football program that was making the painful transition from Ben Schwartzwalder to Frank Maloney and from old Archie to the Carrier Dome. Heck, we joked, anybody can follow Penn State or Ohio State or USC. But it takes real character to keep coming back for more punishment when your team is wallowing in mediocrity. It got to the point where Ed and I would razz fellow students for leaving games early or not showing up at all. "Hey, where’s your school spirit?" we’d ask.
During the autumns that have ensued, my former college roommate and I have continued this tradition of reuniting for at least one SU home football game per season. It just so happened that our schedules were open for last night’s 2011 season-opener against Wake Forest in the Dome.
The reason I bring all of this up is that we were among the 15,000 to 20,000 fans who gave up on the Orange men a quarter and an overtime too soon.
Yes, the same guys who endured so much bad football and crappy Syracuse weather through the years wound up being momentarily un-true to their school. We bolted with SU trailing by 15 late in the third, the lure of some more tailgating and two mighty fine cigars obviously stronger than our belief that Doug Marrone’s charges would somehow muster a comeback.
As we smoked our stogies – a stinky, bonding ritual we childishly partake of once or twice a year – we stood near my car listening to the play-by-play of the game blasting from the radio. As Matt Park described the cardiac ‘Cuse comeback that was unfolding, we were half tempted to snuff out our cigars and hike back up the Hill to see if we could re-enter the sauna-like Dome for the dramatic finish.
But we didn’t want to risk altering the good karma, so we stayed put and listened excitedly as the Orange men put the finishing touches on a 36-29 overtime victory against Wake Forest.
Not long after the victory, we watched hundreds of loud, orange-clad students fill the streets near M Street, the campus hotbed. The SU marching band soon joined in the festivities, playing the fight song. Cars were honking horns. The school spirit was nice to see.
We made sure we told people passing by that we were smoking victory cigars, a la legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach, in honor of the SU win.
We conveniently, however, forgot to mention that we bailed out on one of the great comebacks in recent SU history.