A Syracuse Basketball Fan Remembers the Past and Prepares for the New Season to Begin

At this point I think most aspects of the main page of this blog have been explained.  The artichokes represent my dreams of being an artichoke farmer named Chuck when I was a small child.  And the name of the site represents my recent vacation to Cleveland, and the fact that there was no one else from out-of-state on vacation there (just ask Joakim Noah, it’s a fact).  But I haven’t yet explained the image in my headliner, which is Hakim Warrick coming out of nowhere to block a Michael Lee shot with 1.5 seconds left in the 2003 National Championship game, just in case you didn’t know.  This image represents both the most underrated play in NCAA tournament history in my opinion (I’m not biased at all) and one of the greatest moments of my life.  I was born and raised a Syracuse fan, my parents both went to college there, and I used to go to a game every year at Christmas time while we visited my mother’s family.  I’ve rooted for a lot of teams in various sports in my life, but Syracuse men’s basketball has always been number one, and as a new season is about to begin I wanted to take the time to look back at the 5 moments that stand out to me the most in my time as a fan.

Moment #1: 12/30/92 L 93-94 to Boston College at Carrier Dome

So I know most people wouldn’t select a loss, especially a heartbreakingly close one like this as one of their favorite moments in the history of their team. Billy Curley hit a game winning shot to send us home in defeat.  However this is the first game I ever went to, it’s also basically the only good game I ever went to in person as most of the time during Christmas break we got to see Syracuse play the likes of Maryland Eastern Shore and Hartford.  I also know this isn’t a picture from that game but Lawrence Moten was my first favorite player for Syracuse (and still one of my all time favorites).  I wore high socks when I played on my grade school team in an attempt to be like him, which let me tell you is a great look for a 10-year-old slightly chubby white girl.  I feel it’s also worth noting here that Conrad McRae was my other favorite player on this team, and in 4th grade I won a goldfish to take home from the classroom tank at the end of the school year.  I named that goldfish Conrad Lewis Petrovic (ask anyone this is absolutely true).  Reggie Lewis and Drazen Petrovic both died that summer, there’s also always been a strong belief in my family that the goldfish also died that summer while we were away and our neighbors replaced it with a new one.  But I loved Conrad Lewis Petrovic (possibly Conrad Lewis Petrovic II) and my life as a Syracuse fan had begun.

Moment #2: 1996 NCAA Tournament

I really have two moments to share from this tournament but I decided to include them both in one moment.  I missed the Indiana game in 1987 (I was only 4) I have seen the replay about a billion times, but this was my first taste of defeat in a championship game.  But before we get to the title game I want to include the one of my favorite videos of all time:

I still watch this every year before this NCAA tournament (along with many ‘One Shining Moment’ videos). Now on to the title game, (with a brief stop at the Georgia game just to see this great ending again, in not so great video quality).

Syracuse’s run to the title game was unexpected this year, unlike the team they faced for the championship, an absolutely stacked Kentucky team (Kentucky sent 9 players from that team to the NBA).  This championship also marked my one brief departure in support for Syracuse.  I loved that Kentucky team, I still love Rick Pitino  (even if he and Boeheim aren’t getting along so well) and I’m ashamed to admit I rooted for Kentucky in this game.  What most people in my family remember from this game is that this was also the time I called my father a fucking bastard while we were fighting about who would win the game (I was 13, it seemed like a good thing to say).  For anyone who is doubting me as a fan now I did feel badly after Syracuse lost, and I hate Kentucky now if that makes people feel better.  I also felt for my parents after this loss, I think they started to have some doubts about ever seeing Syracuse actually win the title game.  But we continued on, now as a solid family unit in support of our team.

Moment #3: 2003 NCAA Championship

This is pretty obviously the greatest moment for any Syracuse basketball fan.  We had a horrible season by the standards fans had come to expect the year before (finishing 23-13, 9-7 in Big East and ending up in NIT).  There are only a few things I really remember from this season: 1. I totally called that Syracuse would win the title this year after I found out they got Carmelo (no one believes me and I was kind of full of shit but I did, I swear). 2. Losing that first game to Memphis and my mother refusing to believe this Carmelo Anthony kid I’d been telling her about all summer was really going to be that good. 3. I was a sophomore in college this season, and I watched every game of the NCAA tournament alone in my dorm room while eating Domino’s pizza and cinnastix (a real hardship since Domino’s pizza sucked at the time but I always stick to my game time rituals when we’re winning).  The only things I really remember from the game are feeling like I might throw up the entire time, and that block at the end, with a few other details thrown in here and there.  Now that almost 10 years has gone by I can look back at this ‘One Shining Moment’ video and remember this game as my greatest night as a sports fan.

Moment #4: 2005 NCAA Tournament vs. Vermont

(For some reason I decided to include the video from overtime of this game, mostly just to torture myself I think).

This game took place during my senior year of college.  College was a great sports time for me, Syracuse won a championship, the Red Sox won the World Series, and the Patriots won 3 Super Bowls, it really couldn’t have been much better.  I was feeling great about our chances headed into the tournament this year. We’d been nationally ranked all season, and even though we were facing everyone’s favorite upset pick, Vermont, I didn’t feel overly worried.  As an added bonus I went to college in Worcester Massachusetts and not only was Syracuse playing there in the opening rounds, they practiced in my schools gym before the game.  Unfortunately I had to leave the practice early to take a midterm, and didn’t get to meet the players like my friends did, but I still felt like being this close to the team was a good omen, turned out I was wrong.  My friends convinced me to watch the game against Vermont in a bar,   I still blame myself for this loss as this totally went against my normal viewing arrangements.  I insisted on taking my own car in case I needed to leave, and was gone by halftime.  I suffered through the rest of regulation and overtime alone in my apartment, and decided to take my frustrations out on a lot of our furniture after the game.  This game was a huge gut-punch, the only thing that softened the blow was Kansas losing to Bucknell shortly afterwards so my friends could stop focusing on me and take some time to harass our friend from Kansas.

Moment #5: 3/12/2009 Syracuse-UConn 6 Overtime Game

Box Score to the Game

I was noticing that a lot of the moments that stand out to me as a fan are kind of a bummer, so I thought we’d get back with some happy memories.  This is without a doubt the greatest sporting event I’ve ever watched.  I remember needing to get up at 5:30 am the next day (I was substitute teaching at the time) and thinking I would go to bed after Thabeet fouled out.  Ultimately I just couldn’t turn the game off and ended up calling in sick the next day.  Somehow Johnny Flynn played 67 minutes in this game, and only committed two fouls, possibly the most amazing stat in a game full of great statistics.  I watched this entire game again the next day with my mother (both my parents went to sleep) it was that great, and like most Syracuse fans, I’ll re-watch it anytime it plays on ESPN classic (this is really only a great game for Syracuse fans, if I was a UConn fan I’d hate seeing replays of this game).

I know I’m leaving out many other great moments from my 20 years as a Syracuse fan. McNamara taking over the 2006 Big East Tournament (and Boeheim’s post game press conference) and the entire 2009-2010 season (I’m still sure we would have won the championship if Onuaku hadn’t gotten hurt) come to mind, but I’m going to stick with these five moments for the time being.  Last season was incredibly difficult, from the Bernie Fine scandal, to Fab Melo’s academic issues, to reports of player drug use, it felt like every time I looked at ESPN.com Syracuse was involved in a new scandal (not to mention leaving the Big East, which I still haven’t completely come to terms with).  I think the player’s displayed incredible focus last season, not many teams could only lose 3 games and be ranked in the top 5 nationally all season with those kinds of distractions.  I watched every game last season, I sat in my room and spoke to my mother through the door following big plays and important moments (the only game my father watched with in the house was the lose to Ohio St in the NCAA tournament, not a coincident we lost, I tried to tell him he was ruining the ritual for the season).  (Also, yea I know I’m a little old to live with my parents, times are tough ok, plus it’s hard to find Syracuse fans around here).  I’ll be in my room watching this Friday when Syracuse takes on San Diego St. (my mother is going to be in Florida, could be a hard ritual to maintain if they win).  Like every season I feel full of hope, despite all we went through last season, and all the talent we lost, I feel like this could be our year, (or like we could barely finish .500, Boeheim is our leader it’s hard to be overly optimistic).  Whatever happens I’ll be ready, and posting my views on Syracuse.com message boards after the games, hope to see you there.

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