The game of lacrosse is not for everyone. The rules are esoteric and difficult to comprehend at first blush. Moreover, many sports enthusiasts, especially those enrolled at Syracuse, may not have grown up with the sport or played the game at any reasonable level.
Sunday, the third-ranked Orange lacrosse team beat the 25th-ranked Statesmen of Hobart in a thrilling come-from-behind win; one that had the Loud House rocking. Only one problem - the crowd noise was coming from the Hobart student section, which was easily 200-strong.
We went from "CUSE HOUSE" to Hobart's House.
As I sat with what few members of the "army" of students who were there, we silently kept our seats. The Hobart students, on the other hand, were into the game every possession, and the "Let's Go Orange" that usually fills the Dome was replaced with "Let's Go Hobart."
How can we ignore the fact that we have one of the top LAX programs in the nation, where 10 of 13 of our games this year will be against ranked opponents, and not come out and support the team? The lacrosse team chose to not play in the Big East so that they could play who they wanted, and unlike other teams on campus, they don't pad the schedule with cupcakes.
The Orange plays 24th-ranked Army on Friday night at 7. The game will be over by 9:30, early enough to not interfere with your drinking schedules. So come down to the Dome and get behind the most successful athletic program on this campus. As fair-weather as the Syracuse University fans are, it's a sure bet for some fun.
These facts, however, do not adequately sustain the proposition that Orange fans should functionally ignore the Syracuse lacrosse program until Memorial Day Weekend rolls around.
Syracuse has been toiling on the lacrosse pitch for almost 100 years (the Orange lacrosse program saw its sunrise in 1916). Over that period of time, Syracuse has captured nine national championships, been home to arguably the two most important collegiate lacrosse coaches in the game's history (Roy Simmons, Sr. and Roy Simmons, Jr.), featured the likes of Paul and Gary Gait, Jim Brown, and Tim Nelson, and redefined offensive theory with its "Fun 'n Gun" offense.
And yet the program is still considered the third-most important effort on campus.
This is not to say that the Syracuse lacrosse program demands 365-day attention and passion. It does, however, necessitate similar treatment given to the basketball team and football program when the seasons overlap in late autumn and early winter. It is not just a matter of courtesy, it is simply part of becoming a well-rounded Orange fan.
Despite these significant reasons to fervently follow the lacrosse team, many simply take the approach that the lacrosse team is special and simply acknowledging that fact somehow validates their Orange allegiance. In all honesty, such a position is fatally flawed.
Would such passing attention sufficiently qualify as a solid football allegiance? Would simply following the Orange effort in late-February and early-March serve as reason for garnering Boeheim disciplehood?
Concededly, Syracuse does hold 11 of the top 15 single-season average and total attendance figures since men's lacrosse became an NCAA-sponsored sport in 1971. Further, the team has averaged north of 6,000 fans for each of its home contests since 1988. Given the dearth of discourse about the program amongst its core of mainstream fans, however, such statistics are fairly irrelevant.
Virtually every game Syracuse plays each season has national championship implications. With yearly strength of schedule values within the top three or four in country, Syracuse has the opportunity to both impact the national pecking order and, simultaneously, offer its fans a slate of games that creates anticipation and satisfaction. In short, it is the perfect storm of fanaticism.
The moral of the story is this: neglect is not abrogated by passing attention and a modicum of knowledge relating to current events. Syracuse lacrosse is too valuable a commodity to receive such underappreciation during its most trying times and such overacceptance when its heights receive bandwagon attention.
Syracuse is not Johns Hopkins (and I do not desire it to take on such a pretentious, overglorified role), yet the fact that many treat the lacrosse program as some sort of late-spring "pick me up" is disappointing.