They stumbled up the hill and into the big bubble Monday night. 32,229 of them.
They wore lumberjack coats, sucking every beer they could find, frowning and yelling and ruthlessly spreading the kind of boorish enthusiasm that turns into a disease. But then, isn't that why they call it the Carrier Dome?
There are fans, and there are hooligans, and then there are the good folks from Syracuse. At the end, when Syracuse University had survived Georgetown. 65-63 they went over the top of everything — and everyone — in their way. As the Hoyas and Orangemen fled for harbor, the riffraff took over the court as if it were Iwo Jima. And this is how they are when they're happy. The Syracuse experience makes you wonder if games such as this, with artists such as Rafael Addison and Patrick Ewing ought to be played in galleries, by invitation only.
The Syracuse experience makes you think there can be such a thing as a Too Big East. But even as Dwayne Washington, bedeviled into seven turnovers by his own arrogance and Georgetown's defense, rammed home the winning jumper, there was only one real star of Monday night's show.
That man was Jim Boeheim, the SU coach.
But. Monday night, Boeheim did much more than direct Syracuse's 13th win in 16 games. Because he stood up to the mob that thinks a ticket is a license to practice insanity, he stopped the ugliness in its muddy tracks. Because of Boeheim. the show was allowed to go on.
The crowd waited all of three minutes and 30 seconds to thoroughly pollute the atmosphere. Oh. sure, there were the early rituals— the banana that someone rolled onto the court when Ewing walked out. The sign that read “Ewing Cant Spell ESPN". The thunderous salutes of "Who's He? ... WhoCares?... Big Deal... So What... and Big (Bleep)" when the Hoyas, who certainly have earned some measure of dignity by now, were introduced. But when Georgetown's Reggie Williams sank a free throw, Boeheim grimaced when certain English lit majors in the student section shouted, "(Bleep), (bleep) you (bleep bleep)"
Then Ewing drew a charge from Washington, which sent even more tale into the aisle. And then Rony Seikaly fouled Ewing. The Hoya senior, who came to Syracuse with a 6-2 record against the Orange, poised for the free throw. He released it.
Just as it neared the rim. someone — obviously not a Syracuse quarterback — flung a perfectly timed orange that hit the backboard at the same time.
John Thompson, righteously angry for a good reason this time, waved his Hoyas off the floor. The PA announcer reminded everyone that the game could well be suspended. The referees took their time about resuming play, hoping the tumult would fade. When it didn't’t Thompson brought the Hoyas back to the bench again, and there was no doubt he meant business. One more incident, and Georgetown would be back into the snow and on the bus. And then we would find out just how riot-proof the foundations of the Carrier Dome were.
But Boeheim saved the day. He went right to the microphone.
"I just want to say," he said coldly, "that any time the next orange is thrown on the court, we're going to ask for an intentional technical foul. And if I hear that chant one more time after a free throw, that's going to be a technical foul, too. On us."
"With that. Boeheim took his own crowd out of the game long enough for the Hoyas . to skip out to a 30-21 lead. But he also underlined the Big East's reputation as a conference where the line between enthusiasm and savagery is thick and unmistakable.It was quite a gesture. Would Memphis State's Dana Kirk do that for Louisville? Would Maryland's Lefty Driesell smooth the waters for Dean Smith and North Carolina?
In a game where the Pearl was barely a hood ornament and where Ewing was a monument, Boeheim still got the win.
He got it because Addison, probably the nation's most underrated player, went the full 40 with only one turnover, shot 10-for-18, and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds; because Seikaly and the rest led an improbable 4I-32 victory on the boards; and because Georgetown continued to malfunction offensively.
But what about the crowd? Did Boeheim know he would have to play bad cop?
"Honestly, we have as well-behaved a group of fans as anyone." he claimed. "But I'm tired of that (foul-shot) cheer. I think it's bush, and I've wanted to get it out of this building for a long time. I hope we did that tonight."
And the orange?
"Oh. That was just one person," he said. "One thing bothered me about that."
"It bothered me that they gave Ewing both those free throws over again," he sputtered. "The orange didn't have anything to do with him missing the first one."
He was wrong there, but it didn't matter. At Syracuse, blessed is the peacemaker, even if he is Jim Boeheim.
Posted to OrangeHoops.org on 1/14/2007 by RLYoung