I once sat in enemy territory—in a sea of gray amid a chorus of “Hoya Saxa” chants. And. It. Was. Miserable.
It didn’t help that Syracuse didn’t come to play. It was March 9, 2013, and the Orange lost 61-39 at the Verizon Center.
It was the last regular season game the teams would play as Big East foes, and my wife and I managed to convince one of our friends—then a grad student at Georgetown—to get us student section tickets. Our friend didn’t want to join us, so we didn’t have a buffer from those rowdy, passionate, obnoxious students.
Knowing the kind of treatment we might receive had we donned our full Syracuse gear, my wife and I dressed with subtle pops of orange—a watch strap, an undershirt, etc. Somehow, none of the students around us noticed or cared that we didn’t cheer on the Hoyas or join in on the “Lord & Taylor” taunts directed at Michael Carter-Williams.
There wasn’t much to cheer about for Syracuse fans that day, and while it was a miserable experience, I’m glad we were there to say goodbye to the famous Big East rivalry.
As it picks back up on Saturday for the second of four scheduled home-and-away contests, it’ll be the first time Jim Boeheim patrols the sideline for the rivalry game since 2013; Mike Hopkins filled in last year.
The game may not have the same meaning anymore, but I can only hope the Dome faithful rekindle the passion that made this matchup so special, especially on a day that honors late Orange legend Pearl Washington. Along with Boeheim, John Thompson, Patrick Ewing and others, Washington helped cement the rivalry in history.
All the players, coaches and, yes, fans like me have stories to tell about the rivalry. The teams deserve a worthy, new chapter.
Just six days after the embarrassment in D.C. in 2013, the Orange got last laughs against the Hoyas as conference foes, beating them 58-55 in overtime in the Big East Tournament.
And a few week after that, Syracuse returned to the Verizon Center in the NCAA regional final, besting Indiana and Marquette on the way to the Final Four. I was back in those seats for that Marquette game, dressed in full Orange gear and feeling oh so much better about the experience.