Monday, October 3, 2011

Centrally Isolated: Therapy for a Syracuse Fan

Denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These are the 5 stages of loss and grief. Typically this process is associated with the loss of a loved one and I fortunately have not suffered that and do not wish to make light of anyone who has. However, this process can also be associated to losing anything that has been a big part of one's life.

I am sure everyone the reads The Collective knows by now I am from Central New York. Being from CNY is a rusty badge of honor. Central New Yorkers like to say we are "centrally isolated", just far enough from New York City to not feel any true allegiance and 4-6 hours away from about 6 major American cities. For the most part CNY is pretty neutral territory in the sports world except for one thing; Syracuse Orange Basketball. We own 'Cuse basketball. Jim Boeheim is our whiny, grumpy Uncle that we love because he paid for our college tuition. We don't see Derrick Coleman as an underachiever. We laugh when other schools talk about having "good crowds" as we pack 35,000 people into The Dome. Year after year 5-Star recruits pass up smart weather and dumb girls to play in front of a community that makes them feel like they never left the comfort of their high school gyms. Although Syracuse, New York is a worn-out notch on the Northeast's rust belt, we have a top flight Division 1 basketball program and everyone in the country knows it. We may be in the middle of nowhere to some, but to the basketball world we were in the heart of something special; The Big East.

Denial and Isolation
When I first heard about Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving the Big East and joining the ACC I thought it was joke. Literally, I thought it was a joke headline because of all the shuffling in major conferences someone was trying to be funny. When I realized it was for real I shut down for a day. A whole day. I didn't even think about it

Pure, unadulterated, dropping F-bombs to my Mom anger. How could this possibly be happening. For football?!?!? Are you serious....FOOTBALL!! Don't get me wrong I respect the SU Football program and I understand the revenue it generates, blah, blah, blah. Whatever. I should have know something like this was going happen when they hired a soft, west-coast Athletic Director from USC. I was seriously considering ending my relationship with SU cold-turkey.

I started to tell myself "hey, this could be sweet, I hate Duke...and UNC would come through every year, that could fun" and "The ACC will be an unbelievably good basketball, awesome". I started to convince myself that when UConn got accepted to the ACC it would be all good, we would have BC, Pitt, UConn, it would be like nothing ever happened! Hey we don't want to be left in the cold for football. Mega-Conferences are where all the cool kids will be!

Then it hit's over. Big East basketball is all I know. I only know bad-ass, punch-you-in-the-mouth, attack the rim basketball. I only starting shooting jumpers when I got to college and realized I was 6'1 and 6'1 guys have to shoot jumpers. I hated it. When I started coaching my teams defended hard, attacked the rim and didn't take any shit (even if they were in 7th grade). I thought about it and realized that even though I love Syracuse at different times of my life I owned apparel from Pitt, Georgetown, St. John's, PC, and UConn. When John and I saw Ryan Gomes and Donnie McGrath court side at the Mohegan Sun I was just as excited as a Providence native would be. They were OUR guys...Big East guys. When the Big East added those weirdo Conference-USA schools it was strange at first but to me it just meant the gang we started got bigger and stronger. It's over now. Growing up there was only one thing I knew for certain about my life. I would NEVER live south of the Mason-Dixon line...EVER. You could never pay me enough money to live in the South and now because of the move to the ACC I feel like I have duel residency. To make matters worse, PC and St. Johns are getting good again and I am not going to be able to enjoy it with them. And to make them even worse than that the conference championship is in Greensboro, North Carolina. Not exactly a hotbed for Syracuse alumni.

Acceptance This past Saturday I went online and bought season tickets for the 2011-12 Syracuse Orange basketball season. Two seats to all 21 homes games and a parking pass. I have never had season tickets before and no one in my family has either. They weren't cheap but I had to do it. For the first time in 20 years I am not playing or coaching basketball on an organized level and this will be the first opportunity I've ever had to truly submerge myself into a season with the Orange. I will enjoy it with my friends and family, for better or worse, and then it will be over. Syracuse will more than likely be gone from the Big East next year and join the ACC.

I will still love Syracuse basketball and support them no matter what. I will never support ACC Basketball and we don't need them to support us. We will still be a tough gang but it will never be like it was. In the Big East we are a tough gang with our own turf but have always felt an allegiance to a larger organization, our own gang culture. Now we are on our own, much weaker and in a different world...centrally isolated.


John Hendrie said...

Incredible post Mahanna. I'm so sad now. The times they are a changin'in the Big East and i hate it.

I would have paid good money to see you in the anger stage.

Charlie Widdoes said...

I'm a little late on this, but great post indeed. As a basketball fan this just didn't feel right, even more so than all the other absurd super-conference shenanigans. There will be even more great games to watch, but the Big East feeling is certainly gone. That's not a completely bad thing because it might trickle down to the New York City playgrounds where people might realize that ball movement is better than pounding the rock and open jumpers are better than contested runners in the lane. But Northeasterners like you guys support a Big East identity that stands for all the right things aka Ryan Gomes and Jeff Adrien and that is awesome. The Big East tourney won't be the same, and even though it will be cool to see 'Cuse and UNC, two of my all-time favorite programs, do battle annually, it just won't be the same.

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