Well, it’s been another boring week for the Clemson faithful. You know, it’s weird being a team with so little drama. Everything moves smoothly along as Clemson quietly racks up win after win. As a writer, what I wouldn’t give for just a little intrigue. You know, something to fire up fans and pump up the page hits. I guess that’s not going to happen this week, so I’ll have to focus on Syracuse instead.
In the past, I’ve written off Syracuse as a non-entity in the ACC, and you know what, I was wrong. Since listening to Dabo preach on the importance of love, I’ve started looking for the best things about our opponents, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Syracuse. It’s amazing what happens when you stop looking for reasons to hate your opponent and instead focus on love.
I, for one, feel like a changed man, and I invite you to join me in this world of love. This is why I love Syracuse.
Just as the battle cry “Remember the Alamo!” propelled the United States Army forward in the Battle of San Jacinto, “Remember Syracuse” is Dabo’s battle cry against all inferior opponents.
When you’ve been on top for as long as Clemson, complacency, not your weekly out-manned opponent, becomes the biggest obstacle. Sure, 2016 saw Clemson lose to Pittsburgh, but let’s be honest, that was a damn good Pitt offense. Eight players from that team currently play in the NFL, including James Conner, who is a certified bad ass.
Yes, the Pitt loss was bad, but Clemson got into a shoot out with a good offense and made some mistakes down the stretch. It stung, but at the end of the game, you just shook your head and left impressed with Pitt. The loss to Syracuse, on the other hand, is inexcusable, which makes it the best possible motivational tool.
It will be useful this week, as the team that derailed Clemson’s perfect season last year rolls into Death Valley under, *ahem,* interesting circumstances, but you know the team will be eager to dispose of the Orangmen after last year’s debacle. The boys shouldn’t need any reminders or motivational speeches this week, but they might a little later on in the season.
Take the Boston College game for example. Clemson travels to Boston College on November 10th and the (very likely) undefeated Tigers will be playing in front of a 1⁄2 full stadium in frigid temperatures against a bad team with a great running back. I could see Clemson having a hard time getting up for that game. It’s easy to play when the crowd is screaming and you’re balling out under the lights, but it’s tough to play in a quiet stadium at noon with the sun reflecting off the empty bleachers. But that’s why I’m thankful for the Syracuse loss.
Dabo’s pregame speech has become much easier for games like Boston College. All he has to say is, “remember what happened in Syracuse” and that’s enough. Losing to a team like Syracuse is scarring. It leaves a permanent impression in your psyche. If you can lose to a team like Syracuse when you don’t show up to play, you can lose to Wake, Duke, B.C., or even (under the worst possible circumstances) South Carolina.
Last year, the loss to Syracuse didn’t hurt us in the long run, but it gave Dabo a key motivational tool for this year, where we may not be afforded a slip up, and that’s one of the reasons I love Syracuse.
One thing all the Clemson fans I know (and I know quite a few) have in common is a respect for Dino Babers. Dino works hard, compliments his opponents, runs a fun offense, and is doing about as well as anyone could expect at Syracuse.
I can’t lie, watching a Dino Babers speech is impressive. He’s a charismatic leader that gets total buy-in from his players. Those players might not be good, but they’re willing to put it all on the line for their coach. You can question the talent level at Syracuse, but you can’t question their dedication under Dino. I can only imagine the success Dino might have at a school that actually attracts talent. Dino is basically coaching with one hand tied behind his back and doing a damn good job. The fact that he has managed to squeeze back-to-back four-win seasons out of Syracuse is actually pretty impressive.
At most self-respecting football schools, back-to-back four-win campaigns would put you directly on the hot seat, but not at Syracuse. Unlike real football schools, four-win seasons don’t even get you a seat next to the fire. Dino is sitting on a block of ice right now. ‘Cuse fans sat through the Greg Robinson and Scott Shafer eras. They’ve seen some of the worst football possible. Babers winning four games with a fun offense is on par, excitement wise, with a normal team making a New Year’s Day bowl game.
If Dino wins six this year (which appears likely) they will name a concession stand after him, like they did for Paul Pasqualoni when they opened the Pasqualoni Chili-dog stand during Donovan McNabb’s heyday. If he wins eight, they’ll put him in the ring of honor. If he can some how pull off nine wins or more, they’ll memorialize him in bronze and put him in front of the stadium. When expectations are low, small achievements are glorified and big achievements become legendary. If you’re a coach, that’s not a bad place to be.
I love Syracuse because they love Dino, and he seems like a nice guy. While other fan bases might become frustrated or restless after two four-win seasons, the Orange stand behind their coach, because they know that even though Dino isn’t winning many games, he’s much better than they deserve.
Syracuse, New York
You might wonder what I could possibly love about Syracuse, and honestly, I’m having to use my imagination for this section, because Syracuse isn’t exactly a destination location.
From everything I’ve read, it’s a place where you move, get stuck, and then sit straight up in bed one frosty morning twenty years later because you realize that you’ve spent a huge part of life living in Syracuse, wondering how it happened and what you can do to change before it’s too late.
Regret is real and life is short. I spent seven years in College Station, Texas, and that’s seven years of my life I’ll never get back. I understand what it feels like to be stuck in a place you don’t like. I can empathize with every Syracuse resident that has looked in the mirror and thought, “How did I get here? My life seemed so promising. Now I’m sitting in Syracuse, New York wasting away the hours and eagerly anticipating the sweet release of death. This can’t be what life is about.”
You may think that I’m hating on Syracuse, but that’s not true. As legendary painter and Drewtigeralum hall of fame member Bob Ross once said, “Gotta have opposites, light and dark and dark and light, in painting. It’s like in life. Gotta have a little sadness once in awhile so you know when the good times come. I’m waiting on the good times now.”
My friends, Syracuse is that sadness. The fact that people live in a place known for driving snow, cutting winds, and the 2-3 zone lets me appreciate Clemson all that much more.
Famous Victorian art critic John Ruskin observed, “Beauty deprived of its proper foils and adjuncts ceases to be enjoyed as beauty, just as light deprived of all shadows ceases to be enjoyed as light.”
I’m thankful that places like Syracuse exist in this wold. A warm southern breeze wouldn’t be as enjoyable if you didn’t have frozen, soul piercing winds blowing off Lake Ontario. Clemson’s bucolic setting wouldn’t be as inviting if you couldn’t juxtapose it with the industrial decay of Syracuse. In fact, I’m not sure I could appreciate our time at the top of the college football landscape as much without the knowledge that Syracuse fans are huddled together in Central New York desperately yearning for an eight win season.
I love Syracuse because they are the darkness and we are the light.