The photo is one of a button that the old Merchant’s Bank used to distribute before all Big East games. They would have a contest and choose a winning phrase for beating each opponent in the old Big East conference. Back in the day, I had my own season tickets to Syracuse U. basketball games. In the upper row of the second level, on the corner of the court behind the benches–I needed a Sherpa guide and oxygen to make it to the seats. But it was great. Late 80’s thru the early 90’s. The small-time eastern basketball program that I watched in Manley Field House had morphed into a national power–playing in the mighty Big East conference and dragging in crowds that sometimes topped 30,000 for our most heated foes–especially Georgetown.
I write this today, because 35,012 fans will jam into the Carrier Dome tomorrow to watch the final Big East game against the hated Hoyas. I will not be among them. I long ago lost the passion I had for spectator sports, and I no longer obsess over SU hoops. I will watch their tournament games–but I no longer have the ability to debate the vagaries of their strength of schedule or the relative talents of their players versus other teams’ stars. I have no context because I watch so little sports. I have gained what I used to disdain in others–perspective. I have a family, a career and a home. SU hoops is no longer the most important facet of my life–it doesn’t even make the list!
This is the final Georgetown game because Syracuse is moving into the Atlantic Coast Conference and Georgetown will be attempting to put together a basketball-only conference with the other small, largely Catholic, colleges from the remnants of the Big East. Football–and especially the contracts that television networks will pay athletic conferences for the broadcast rights of those football games, have killed the Big East and whatever illusions I may have had about a corrupt system that has warped the academic missions of universities. Big time college sports is a business–and a seedy one at that.
But I still hope that Syracuse crushes the hated Hoyas. When John Thompson (pere not fil) and his team won the final game before SU moved the show from Manley Field House to the Dome–and then intoned that Manley “was officially closed” he kicked off a feud that included some of the most exciting college basketball games ever played. The series may be over, but the memories are wonderful–even the losses! Let’s Go Orange!