The scoreboard at the scene of the crime.
Syracuse is doing extremely well this year. I'm guessing you've noticed by now. They were undefeated heading into their biggest game of the year. #7/6 Syracuse traveled to Tampa for a "neural court" game against #11/10 Florida. I was in attendance. These are their stories.
We start my trip on a flight from Elmira, NY to Detroit, MI. Sadly my tiny airport only flies to Philadelphia or Detroit, and seeing as I flew Northwest I was off to Michigan. Because there was a blizzard in the vicinity of Michigan we were delayed on the runway for 20 minutes before taking off, forcing me to sprint down one concourse, across a connecting tunnel, and down the next in the course of 20 minutes to make my connecting flight from Detroit to Tampa, FL. Luckily I made it, and luckily the trip was far better after this. I was lucky. The last time I flew from Detroit I had even longer to make my connecting flight and I ended up in Portland, ME, whereas my bag stayed in Detroit for the night. This time it made it to Tampa with me.
The next day was gameday. We made our way to the St. Pete Times Forum, my friend Dave and I. My best friend from law school, Dave was a Cortland graduate and originally from Oneida, so he, much like myself, grew up on Syracuse basketball. It, as the kids say, was on. We got there around 6:00pm in plenty of time for the Mississippi St. v. DePaul game. Despite the quality of game this was going to be, free basketball is still free basketball, so there we were. With a bar just outside of our section, and pretty good food all around the arena that is home to the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL we were pretty set. All we had to do was wait for the headline game of the day to start.
We suffered through the dreadfulness that was DePaul's effort on the floor. Wow they are going to have a bad year in the Big East, despite being better than they were last year. Anyway, with about 20 minutes before our game was about to start the arena started to fill, most decked in orange. It was both Syracuse and Florida orange. By the time it was said and done it was just about 50/50 Syracuse and Florida fans. Save for the two sections of UF students courtside, the Florida Pep Band, the Florida Dance Team, the Florida Cheerleaders, and Albert the Florida Gator. Oh yeah, this was a "neutral" game.
The warm ups started, and the tension in the building instantly rose. The tension got even higher when I saw that Jim Burr was in stripes. If you are a moderate to large college basketball fan you know who Jim Burr is, as well as his prowess to call a terrible basketball game. He did not disappoint. Then the game started.
Syracuse played a hell of a game. The quick but entertaining recap from rusty Orange::44 correspondent John Brennan can be found here. You can find the box score here as well. Check it out if you missed it, because it was big. But I'm here to talk about what I saw and you didn't.
At the half, after slugging down several adult beverages, the Florida student section got frisky. Several students, pictured, were wearing suits. They had bottles of orange juice they were banging, and several signs that were about as clever as a Family Circus cartoon. Most of it was just aggressive pointing and a lot of loud, incomprehensible yelling. All we did was drink more beer. Oh yeah and show how dumb they were. We did this by pointing at the scoreboard showing we were on top and showing that we were ranked higher. Even a stupid Florida student can see that 6 > 10. They also kept yelling about 2006 and 2007. Nither of those years is 2009 or 2010. I loved 2003 as much as any SU fan, that that was the past. Time to move on Florida. As I stated before, Florida basketball fans seem to be more annoying and act more entitled than UConn fans. It's awfully close though. They were quite annoying and seemingly delusional as to how good their team actually was. But statistics do not lie folks. This win was an easy call for me to make.
So the game continued, we won, and those same UF students in the suits that were all bent out of shape didn't even stick around until the final buzzer. They left with about a minute to go. Unfortunately they talked enough jibba jab that some rather beefy SU fans on the next section decided to chuck some half finished beers at them in the heart of the Florida students. Much like last year's Georgetown game in the Dome, while I find it hilarious to see someone that deserves it get a beer in their grill, it is not cool, not classy, and should not happen under any circumstances.
After the game, it was a sea of depressed Florida fans everywhere, which was awesome to see. Dave and I decided to just sit in the concourse for a minute, because several fans were more than likely about to throwdown. Keep in mind since the game ended we were despensing high fives like it was going out of style. All of a sudden we see a guy in a navy hoody with a UConn visor on. I said something like "check out this guy coming." He heard me say that and said, without skipping a beat, "we'll see you guys around." By far the most unexpected moment of the night. We then exited the arena, giving out more high fives, made our way to the car, and then headed home, to then watch the DVR'ed game. Because... why not?
I later headed to Universal Studios the next day, which was fun but had nothing to do with the game. You can check out my photos of the day as well. The Florida Resident discount is quality.
So that was my game experience. I tend to make it to one away game a year during the basketball season, and this was it. I couldn't have picked a better one to go to and see. While I was not able to go to the St. Francis game this past Sunday because I was still in Tampa I can't help but feel that I made out ahead of the deal. It was a great game to see, a better game to be at, and a good five days in Florida with some good friends away from the cold of New York State.
To view my entire photo album of my trip click here, it's well worth it. I'll be back with a preview of this weekend's game, the postgame wrap up, and a wrap up of the football season coming most likely next week. Additionally, if things go as planned, some brand new audio delights for you on Thursday, so stay tuned.