I say it every year:
The day after Syracuse is ousted from the NCAA Tournament is the longest day of the year.
This year, though, there was a twist that has made things bittersweet and more difficult to process.
Personally, this tournament had a storybook feel to it. I had tickets for the Final Four since last year. When Syracuse made its run on the second weekend, the fairy tale story had me hooked.
The Orange made its way down to Atlanta to join me at the Final Four. They had to win it all, right?
But they didn’t follow the script. The clock struck midnight on the fairy tale and Saturday’s loss has still left me numb.
On the one hand, the joy of being at a Final Four is an experience I’ve always wanted to check off the bucket list. The fact that my team was a participant in the festivities makes it sweeter. Add in that it wasn’t me chasing Syracuse to the Final Four and getting tickets after they had advanced. I had been sitting on those tickets for almost a year and fate led the Orange to me.
To us, I should say. Taking in the games in my hometown with close friends and family was something that may never happen again and something that I will always hold dear.
But Syracuse lost. That wasn’t the way things were supposed to turn out. Not with all the stars that had aligned leading up to the weekend.
The next day wasn’t as bad as it normally was, though. It wasn’t like the aftermath of watching it on TV. Having been there gave me a different perspective and appreciation for the game while still being disappointed.
Now, I didn’t watch the game on TV afterwards. Probably never will. That will just make me more upset.
But, being back at the Georgia Dome on Monday night for the championship game, it hit me a little more. Walking into the stadium, hearing all the Michigan and Louisville fans getting amped up before the game was in stark contrast to my attitude of “I just hope it’s a good game to watch tonight.” My attitude quickly switched to “It really is hard to be here when my team isn’t playing.”
Luckily, the game lived up to my hopes. A really good game played by two really good teams. But neither one of them was Syracuse.
And here we all sit now. Trying to come to grips with another season being over.
Lately, the expectations have been considerable for Syracuse. Arinze Onuaku went down and severely damaged Syracuse’s title hopes in 2010. Fab Melo becomes ineligible last season and may have cost the Orange a spot in the Final Four.
This season’s squad was on the same pace until a mid-season swoon lowered those expectations. The success in the Big East and NCAA tournaments reminded us just how good this team could be.
The Final Four has still left me numb. Maybe after some time goes by, I’ll be able to process things a little better.
The weekend will be something I always remember. I’ll look back at it for what it was as a once-in-a-lifetime experience I was able to share with those closest to me. But it will also be a memory of what could have been, which would have been one of the greatest weekends of my (and our) lives.
But instead, once again, Syracuse basketball disappears, leaving me to watch New York Mets baseball. Maybe that’s why there is a bitter taste in my mouth.