Hail to the buff and blue!
For the first time in my life I will be actively rooting against Syracuse.
Let me set the back story. It’s 11 p.m. on April 30, 1998. My college acceptance papers are due tomorrow, and I have a decision to make. Yes, last minute and I have not chosen a college. My decision-making skills are subpar. However, I have been able to narrow it down to two schools.
The first was the natural choice. Syracuse University. A fine institution of higher learning. My old man’s beloved alma mater. I had been going to Syracuse games since I was seven years old. I crutched my way up to the hill from a parking lot on Adams Street with two broken bones in my right leg to go to the Miami football game in 1994. I skipped school…err, got a stomach bug, for the first round of the NCAA Tournament every year. There was no school I loved more or knew better.
The other was the most expensive school in the nation that everyone confused with Georgetown. The George Washington University.
Guess which one I chose? I think I could see a tear run down my father’s cheek as he clutched his wallet.
Now, I love college sports and was excited to start following my new powerhouse. Mike Jarvis had led a team of almost all international players to multiple NCAA Tournament appearances and a Sweet 16. My first exposure to the school was actually a GW victory over Syracuse in the 1996 preseason NIT. I was looking forward to seeing a great basketball team.
And what a basketball team I got.
I don’t even really know where to begin with my GW teams. Our star point guard and best player I saw in college was Shawnta Rogers, who listed as a truly massive 5’4. To put that into perspective, he’s shorter than any girlfriend I have had since I was 14. We lost games to such powerhouses as Detroit Mercy, Siena—twice—and a pre-Big East South Florida. Our coach, “Turnaround” Tommy Penders, got fired for overseeing a phone card scam that almost placed us under NCAA sanctions.
Finally, and this really is not funny so don’t get confused here, our starting center went to prison for sodomizing a prostitute with a broomstick and stealing her roll of quarters. A true and tragic story that I would decline to mention but for the fact that if you ask any Colonial graduate about what the basketball team was like during his time in school, this is the first story you’ll hear.
Luckily for me, I got my Syracuse redemption.
After four years at GW, I managed to forget about the 900 feet of snow Syracuse gets every winter, got blinded by the young love of a Syracuse co-ed (Hi Stacey!), looked at the financial aid package I was receiving and decided to pursue my legal education at Syracuse University. After all, if it’s good enough for the vice president, it’s good enough for me.
What a time to go to school. My first year of law school was 2002 to 2003. Right in time for Carmelo, GMac and that great National Title run. April 7, 2003 is a night I’ll never forget. Years of struggle and unrealized expectations were finally gone. Exorcized were the demons of Keith Smart, Richmond and Lawrence Moten’s timeout call. It was truly great.
So, this brings me to Friday’s game. You’d think with my childhood love of the Orange, my time at my second Alma Mater and my experience rooting for a crapshack of a college basketball team at GW would have me driving the Syracuse bandwagon. Hell, I am currently writing for a Syracuse sports blog.
Not that simple.
I have the problem a lot of people have today. Dual fandom. For many young sports fans, academic pursuits and athletic teams don’t go hand in hand. You eventually have to do what’s better for you in the long run, and that can mean choosing a school other than the one you spent your whole life rooting for. For me, my dream of becoming a diplomat (which lasted all of two semesters) made me select an international affairs program in a truly international city.
After you make your college decision, you will learn all of the things you need to know about your new team. The traditions, the fight song, the cheers. They become an essential part of your college experience — or at least the only thing you’ll get out of freshman orientation.
But, can they truly ever replace your old love?
Now, there is an easy way out of this sporting conundrum. I could root for both teams. But this isn’t seven-year-olds playing soccer. I’m not going to root for both teams to have a good time. There are no participation ribbons in my world. In fact, I don’t really know what type of person thinks l like that.
On second thought, I actually do. Wimps. I’m a fan, in the classic, short for fanatic, sense of the word. I have picked my side, and I’m sticking with it.
I’ve seen people root for their childhood team because of loyalty. I get that. You can root for your old team because of geographic loyalty. I get that as well. You can root for the team that is actually better. I can see that too, though I vehemently disagree with that idea.
That is not how I roll.
I like Syracuse. I’ll follow the Orange throughout the season, write some posts on the team, and cheer loudly for it come tournament time. But there is only one school I love, one school that gets my undivided college basketball loyalty. That school is my alma mater GW.
I know what you’re saying, Syracuse is also my alma mater. You can easily root for them.
Non-factor for me.
Graduate school doesn’t count in this equation. Your college fandom doesn’t apply to advanced degrees. Fandom is formed in the dorms with your friends. You always choose your undergraduate school, your true alma mater, because of what it meant to you and your growth as a person.
Honestly, as awesome as the National Title was, and as insane as this sounds, the memories I have at the Smith Center in Washington are truly irreplaceable.
Watching Tom Penders get thrown out of the Siena game for making a fat belly gesture toward a rotund referee. Placing bets with my buddies on how many shots SirValient Brown would take in a game (think about what would happen if Scoop was given free rein to take as many shots as he wanted and you get SirValient Brown era), and winning with a correct answer of 29. Bringing different nations’ flags to the games because only two of the players were actually Americans. Going to happy hour before the games so we were in good “cheering mode,” which normally involved heckling our own starting center. These are the memories I cherish.
My Darwin’s was Froggy Bottom Pub. My Faegan’s was the Brickskellar. GW is my team.
The memories of past college glory are why I place my allegiance with GW.
It’s why I’m a season ticket holder with a group of the same guys I went to the games with a decade ago.
It is why I bleed buff and blue. Yeah, you think orange is a cool color? One of our colors is buff. You don’t mess with that.
It doesn’t matter how good the team is (we aren’t), what the prospects for this year are (not good), and whether it can win the game (it can’t). Loyalty lies deeper than that. GW got four of the best years of my life, just as I’m sure Syracuse got four of the best of your years, my dear reader. And the love you share for the Orange is why I can’t disown my alma mater come Saturday.
Memories are something you don’t throw away for a win in December.
So, for one time only, Syracuse sucks. Boeheim is going to try to whine his way to a victory over our mighty Colonials. However, no amount of complaining is going to save him from the whipping the the boys of DC are going to lay down on the overrated, underachieving chumps you got up on the hill.
Hail to the buff and blue!