This past Wednesday I went to the Syracuse – Georgetown game, expecting a war and of course an Orange win. I really haven’t been to a ton of games over the past 20 years, and especially no games against a major rival. So I was expecting some major league intensity for this one.

I had a feeling early on that things might not be what I was expecting. i went with some friends of mine, and we showed up early, parking at Manley Field House and taking the bus to the Carrier Dome. I have no idea where we were dropped off; that part of campus seems to have changed from back in the day. Because we were early we decided to try to find something to eat inside, instead of fighting crowds at the Varsity, which I love, and possibly then have to fight crowds to get into the Dome.

I didn’t remember the Dome ever having, well, entertainment, shopping, and the Salvation Army bell ringers down on the floor on the opposite side of where the court sat in the past. That’s because they didn’t used to do that; I found it oddly fascinating, although one couldn’t necessarily say there was a crowd yet. It’s amazing how fast one can put over 25,000 people in one space, but early on, very few people.

After we ate we went down to the floor to watch the Syracuse players shoot around. And they weren’t making many baskets; I had a bad feeling about the game if they were shooting so badly early on. Scoop wasn’t shooting at all, but getting stretched; I wondered if that was a common routine or if someone was hiding some minor injury he might be suffering, but far be it from me to start any new rumors. 😉

Then the Georgetown players came on the field and some of the crowd booed… barely. I booed, then noticed no one around me was doing it and I stopped. What the hey? Didn’t we hate these guys anymore? I mean, they were our hated rivals from way back in 1975 when John Thompson Sr declared “Manley Field House is officially closed“. We hated them ever since, through the early 80’s when there were almost riots, fights, hard fouls, him and Boeheim in each other’s faces almost coming to blows, rushing the court… nope, nothing like that on this night, at least not this early.

Finally we went up to our seats. I asked if we were in the last row and was told no. Okay, that was accurate; we were in the next to last row. Coming off a 48-hour stomach flu, not only hadn’t I been in an eating mood, but I didn’t quite have all my strength back, so I didn’t make it all the way up without a couple of rest breaks. Suddenly this part reminded me of why I’d stopped going to these big games back in the day. There was just no way to get better seats than these without being a student back then, and I knew these games would be on TV and that I’d have a much better seat and feel more like I was a part of the game at home. I mean, let’s be realistic; if you’re in a large crowd and you can hear yourself clapping, you’re not really part of the game.

Finally the game began and the crowd came alive, but there were only spurts of energy from the crowd. Nothing like back in the day when we yelled at Ewing through an entire game or screamed hateful things at Michael Jackson (not the musician but the point guard) and vilified Allan Iverson whenever he touched the ball. In essence, we were downright polite by comparison, although we did get on the referees that took the game away from the ‘Cuse in the second half. The Dome is always a unique experience, and I had fun, except that we lost.

On the way back to the car after the game, I mentioned how the energy seemed so different from what I remembered for our most hated enemy. Then my friend Scott’s daughter Allison, the young one in the picture of me at the top of the Dome, said that in her life Connecticut was more of the hated enemy than Georgetown. I asked why and she said that when she first started getting into the game UConn was the good team, as Georgetown was having issues and had a much different coach, and UConn was the standard that everyone was being measured against.

Frankly this made me start pondering things a bit. It suddenly made sense why we got more than 33,000 people for Villanova and only 26,904 for Georgetown, still a large crowd, but not quite the same crowd, even if it was a Wednesday game. In a much larger league with so many strong teams and so many years away from what the Big East started out as, the enemies of the state, as you will, would have to have shifted from Georgetown and St. Johns to Villanova, Pittsburgh, and of course Connecticut.

Yet I’ve never hated any of those teams; I just wanted to beat them. I really hated Georgetown. And now I’m left wondering if, even with this latest loss, if hating Georgetown makes sense anymore. Maybe Dick Vitale was right earlier in the week when he said the greatest rivalry in the country is Duke vs. North Carolina. In the ACC, it’s really still only those two teams, as other teams might rise, but they immediately fall back into line. How sad if that’s true.

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