I’ll be honest: sometimes, being a sports fan is just plain exhausting. Sometimes you get beaten down and burned out, and while you still root on your teams, you just can’t bring yourself to talk about them with the same passion and vigor you usually have.
It’s not because you’re not a “real” fan or that you’ve lost that passion. It’s just that, sometimes, when negatives begin to outweigh positives… why bother to dwell? Why try to come up with talking points that you and others have made over and over, diving deep into why things are so painful from a fan experience?
I’ll be honest, the last couple of weeks, despite Syracuse basketball giving us some real, genuine excitement, that kind of sums up how I’ve felt, and it’s a big part of why there hasn’t been a ton of new content on this site (also, the fact that I’ve written nearly 1,000 articles in the last few years on this site on top of my day job, and a side-gig as the editor of one of those listicle sites just plain old has be burned out, and I wanted a break).
But goddamn, if you can’t bounce back to talk about Syracuse’s win over Duke last night, what the hell can get you out of a slump like that?
No matter how this season winds up playing out, no one can say that this Syracuse team hasn’t taken us on one of the wildest emotional roller coasters in recent memory. Somehow, a team that lost by 33 points to St. freakin’ John’s on the Carrier Dome floor managed to, just a couple months later, beat Duke at the buzzer on that very same court. Amazingly, the team that lost to UConn and Georgetown and Boston College has also beaten Virginia and Florida State, as well as a couple other very respectable teams, to get to 9-7 in ACC play.
Remember when we lost that St. John’s game, and there were folks wondering if we’d even win a single ACC game? If things play out the way they probably should over the last two games of the regular season, Syracuse will head into the conference tournament with a 10-8 record in ACC play.
At the end of the day, that’s pretty remarkable considering where this team was, even a month ago. And it’s not outside the realm of possibility for the Orange to knock off Louisville, a team they took to overtime in the Dome, though playing on the road has been difficult all year. Syracuse is 15-3 in the friendly confines of the Dome, and just 2-9 playing anywhere else in 2016-17.
Still, when this team was sitting at 11-9, how may people would have jumped at the possibility of ending the year with a record of 18-13, with three wins over teams ranked in the top 10 in the nation? I know I sure as hell would have.
But man, do I wish that Syracuse could put together a full, complete, decidedly strong game, from start to finish, just once this year. I said right up there in the headline that this team is bad for your health, and I sure as hell mean it. Even last night, in a game that was mostly a joy to watch as a Syracuse fan, there were such violent emotional swings (exacerbated by the presence of the ever-annoying Dick Vitale) from one moment to the next, with moments of sheer bliss countered almost immediately by confounding frustration.
And that’s the way it’s been over the last month and a half as Syracuse has started to find its way toward the NCAA bubble, and hopefully after last night, firmly onto the right side of it for the selection committee. It’ll be hard for the committee to leave a Syracuse team out that’s going to have, hopefully, at least 10 wins in the best conference in America, as well as three wins over teams ranked in the top 10 nationally.
Let’s be honest, here: no other bubble team boasts a resume as strong as Syracuse’s, even with those bad, early season losses. This is an imperfect team that still has enough pieces to, on any given night, beat just about anyone in the country if shots are falling and the zone is active and aggressive.
It’s going to be a fun ride if (or should I say when?) Syracuse gets into the NCAA Tournament this year. But be warned: if you have a heart condition, proceed with extreme caution.