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The moment no Syracuse fan will every forget.
April 7, 2003 was the day it finally happened. Syracuse earned their first NCAA Tournament Championship. Syracuse fans, former players, and alumni everywhere could finally rejoice and celebrate the Orangemen finally winning the big one, and finally put to rest the ghosts of Kieth Smart and Indiana in 1987. Again, John and I were apart with him getting a first hand experience of Syracuse winning, while I was on campus in the Carrier Dome, watching with hundreds of other Syracuse fans and my friends that were still on campus. John and I look back on the night magic happened for Syracuse 15 years ago.

As this was a Monday, I had class that day. I remember being very excited and probably not paying very much attention in my classes. I probably just read the D.O. in Maxwell Auditorium (I don't remember my schedule that semester but I assume I had a Monday class that was in Maxwell Aud.), counting down the hours until tip time. I decided early that day that since some of my friends were watching in the Carrier Dome that I would go buy a ticket. If you recall, I was under 21 at the time. And I wanted to be able to have a few drinks during the game. However, while the security at the Carrier Dome was a little looser than it is today, I still would not be able to just carry in a 30 rack of beer, nor was I of age to do that. The only booze I could find in my dorm room (DellPlain 7 baby!) was Amaretto, and the only mixer I had was sour mix. So I grabbed some Tupperware, filled that sucker up, and hid it in the deepest coat pocket you've ever seen between the liner. I went to the Dome, booze in my coat, and waited for the game to start. It did, and then Gerry McNamara decided to hit all of the three pointers. We got more and more excited, without relaxing because we knew there would be an entire second half coming. The Dome was also buzzing with a lot of excitement, but 1987 was in the back of the minds of a lot of people. We all knew Kansas wasn't going away. Syracuse let the game get tight. Hakim Warrick missed some free throws down the stretch (I've seen it before), and finally, Kansas was within three with the ball and able to tie the game. At least Syracuse wasn't going to lose on a last second shot. Kansas passed the ball around and Keith Langford took a shot from the corner. He was pretty open. But Hakim Warrick wasn't going to let him have a free shot to tie the game. His huge wingspan allowed the shot to be blocked. As we learned, it's not how tall it's how long, and Hakim Warrick got a piece of it. We started to get very excited. It seemed like Syracuse couldn't be denied. Then the clock ran out, Kueth Duany grabbed the ball, and Syracuse was the Champion. The team hit the court in a pile. People hopped the railing in the Dome and were running all over the turf celebrating and hugging each other. I was hugging my friends. I called my parents and it might have been a little dusty in the Dome that night. We then ran down to M Street again, and "rioted". Syracuse PD was prepared with riot cops this night. No one did anything. the only casualties were a t-shirt someone lit on fire, and a few more tree branches not taken on Saturday night. We didn't want the world to end, so we went to our friend's house on Ackerman to party for just a little bit longer. We were feeling pretty good, because my one male friend did a naked bottomless lap on Ackerman, and a female friend did a topless lap on Ackerman. Yes, it was snowing. It took a while to go to sleep. No school work was attempted. And luckily all of my professors knew so they kindly gave extensions. While we appreciated it, we wouldn't have cared. It was pure magic. And nothing was going to dampen the celebration. It was a night we wouldn't ever forget. And 15 years later, it's hard to believe we were in school for it. It wasn't New Orleans, but it was still pretty special.

As you know if you read my post about the Final Four game against Texas, I was in New Orleans with the Sour Sitrus Society for the Final Four. After celebrating the Texas win down on Bourbon Street (and making it back to the hotel safely), we were just biding time until Monday, April 7, 2003. Awaiting us was the Kansas Jayhawks. We had seen what they did to Marquette the other night, and quite frankly, had no idea what to expect. The band was escorted to a warm-up area inside the Superdome where we played a few songs and tuned our instruments (well, to the extent that we tried), and were then escorted out to the floor and to our area behind the basket. We were set up at the Syracuse bench end of the court, which meant Syracuse was scoring baskets at the opposite end for the first half. So as Gerry McNamara went on his three-point cascade, we had to see it from the length of the court. Well, I mean, some of them seemed like they were shot from mid-court, so I have to believe that Gerry did that just to allow Sitrus to get a closer view. As the Syracuse lead continues to grow, our adrenaline skyrockets. When we get a chance to play songs during time outs (and sometimes you can hear this on the TV broadcast) I think we're playing these songs several ticks faster than usual. We had to alternate playing the media timeouts with Kansas, and got to play during Syracuse-called timeouts. So if you ever wondered why Brian & I know the under-16/12/8/4 timeouts, as well as the 30 ----> full, it's because getting ready to play at those marks just became ingrained in us playing in the band. So the halftime lead for Syracuse was 53-42, and we're going freaking nuts. We had a pretty standard halftime setlist, kicking things off with Espana, and probably with some favorites like Road to the Final Four, Sell Out, Championship (Championsheeeeep?), Mississippi Mud, you know, all the Sitrus classics you grew to love that they don't play anymore. I honestly don't remember halftime. I just remember going through everything and thinking "Holy shit, is Syracuse actually going to win a National Championship in my presence?" Obviously, the second half developed much differently from the first. Syracuse was scoring at our end, which was nice (well, when they were actually scoring), and Kansas was cawing their way back at the other end. Much of the second half saw Carmelo Anthony sitting on the bench with a sore back, which made Josh Pace's performance that much more impressive and important to maintaining the lead. Credit also goes to Kueth Duany, who scored when the team really needed him; and also Craig Forth, who was a great presence down low and had the presence of mind to go right up to the basket with the ball when he got it (which is what any tall center should do, TBH). At any rate, Syracuse was holding onto a 81-78 lead down the stretch, and Hakim Warrick was fouled with 13.5 seconds grabbing a rebound under Kansas's basket. Syracuse is in the double bonus at this point, and Hak can likely put the game out of reach from Kansas by just hitting both free throws. He gets the ball at the foul line, the rest of the team is back, and Sitrus (and probably all of Orange Nation) puts their arms up, ready to swoosh the ball through the net. But the ball rims out. My heart is pounding, but hey, Hak just needs to make the second shot and Syracuse is up by four -- a two possession game. Arms up again. Another rim out. With no coverage from Syracuse, Kansas grabs the rebound and races the ball up the court, as Hak runs back. Syracuse got into its 2-3 zone, but some good passing around the top of the arc moves the zone around to where, as Lee gets the ball in the corner, there's not a defender there. Hak was virtually under the basket at this point, but sees Lee wide open with the ball, ready to put it up and potentially tie the game with a three. He somehow teleports himself close enough that with his crazy long wingspan and a perfectly timed jump, he's able to make The Block. The Block. A lot of my memory of The Block was been painted by the video, by the photos, all that. But I saw it in person. Unfortunately, it was at the opposite end of the court, so we did get a great view of it. And quite frankly, I don't think we knew or appreciated just how amazing The Block was at that point. There was a lot of confusion. Was there any time left on the clock? If so, how much? Whose ball was it? Again, with no replays in the Superdome, we were kind of in the dark as to it all. While the officials checked the monitor for timing and all that stuff, Sitrus is playing the fight song. At warp speed. Followed by the "Let's Go Orange" chant that seemingly everyone except those Jayhawk fans were yelling. They were still waiting to do their Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant (which they didn't get to do!!!!!). So anyway, 1.5 goes back on the clock, Kansas inbounds the ball, gets it to Heinrick who puts up a shot at the buzzer, which is too long, falls into the hands of Kueth Duany, and SYRACUSE IS YOUR NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! The Syracuse team collapses into a celebratory heap near mid-court. Sitrus plays the fight song at an even faster warp speed (we're probably at mach-5 by now). I literally have no idea how I was even able to play at that point. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run onto the court (like the cheerleaders and dance team did). I wanted to jump up and down. We were hugging & high-5ing each other. I don't know how any of us played. It was just truly amazing. We stayed around for the trophy presentation, and One Shining Moment. We didn't get our own natty championship swag, but like you and me and everyone else we went out and bought some. Eventually we had to leave, so we loaded onto the bus, changed at the hotel, and went back down to Bourbon Street. It was a sea of orange! Literally just one big Syracuse celebratory party. I can't imagine that Bourbon Street is typically this crowded on a Monday night. So many "Let's Go Orange" chants up & down the French Quarter. So many performances of the Hey Song. So much drinking. The team eventually made their way out as well, even Jim Boeheim, who had acquired that iconic orange hat by then and wore it up & down Bourbon Street like the pimp he was. I was doing my best to, uh, help some people get certain beads. It was like a scavenger hunt! A lot of fun. I don't remember getting much, if any, sleep, and we had to load the bus to get to the airport for our flight back pretty early. After a delay because a certain band member had been cavorting with a certain basketball player a little too long, we finally went wheels up and were back in Syracuse by early afternoon. But Syracuse had finally won its first National Championship, and I was there. April 7, 2003 goes down as the best day in my college career.

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The quintessential moment of the game.
It's been 15 years to the day that Syracuse played Texas for the right to advance to the 2003 National Championship. So tonight Orange::44 pays tribute to the game leading up to the game we will never forget. Both John and I were in very different places, but we both had pretty great experiences watching this game. We'll take you back to April of 2003, on the faithful night no one that watches college basketball would ever not know Carmelo Anthony or how hard someone could dunk.

I was a sophomore at the time. While I was in the Pep Band and got to go to Syracuse's Sweet 16 and Elite 8 wins in Albany that year, I didn't have enough points (allegedly) to get to go on the trip to New Orleans. I had a chance at tickets, but due to some personal obligations, I couldn't make the car/plane ride down. I was in Syracuse to watch the game. And being under 21 at the time, my only choice, really, was to go to a friend's house and watch the game. The Sour Sitrus Society only travels 30 band members by rule, and at the time we had tickets for 96 members for each men's game. But there were about 200 or so members. Which meant a lot of us were in the same boat, stuck in Syracuse to watch the game. But with good friends, there are worse situations to be in. I was invited to the corner of Livingston and Stratford. 2nd Floor. Maybe a dozen of us. We had some friends that lived further down Livingston that also joined us. We had plenty of beers, and some good food by college kid standards. And a pretty large, standard definition television. I remember being nervous for the game, but I'm never as nervous at home as I am if I'm actually there, so I was pretty calm. While Syracuse seemed to have the lead from the jump, they never really pulled away. Carmelo kept putting the ball in the bucket. And then, or course, we all remember what happened when Hakim Warrick headed to the basket with authority. Royal Ivey sadly found out the hard way that you can't stop something with that amount of force. However, in one of the most unusual plays you will ever see, the officials counted the basket, but called a charge on Warrick. Either way, that's 2 points that were earned, and to whatever photographer was smart enough to click at the exact right moment, congrats and thank you. The picture above will live forever in the hearts and minds of Syracuse fans. "The Block" is #1 for Warrick, but this was #2. I remember the whole room yelled out when it happened. I think it was at that point, that was assumed Syracuse was going to win. The game really wasn't that tight over the last couple minutes. But none of us wanted to move, or leave the room, or say anything that would jinx the game. Syracuse held on, we all yelled out as the clock hit 0:00. And without talking about it ahead of time, or planning it in any way, we all just ran down the stairs and outside. And for some unexplained reason that still is a mystery to me today, it happened on Livingston with every house full of students watching the game. And we all just started hugging each other. I remember hugging about 15 strangers and just jumping up and down with everyone in the middle of Livingston. And then someone just shouted "we gotta get down to M Street". So we all just started moving to Euclid so we could make the trek down. We got to about 20 feet before the end of the street before a SPD police cruiser pulled into the street and with their bullhorn shouted "GET OUT OF THE STREET". So we waived and moved onto the sidewalk for an orderly march down to Marshall Street. We made it. We "rioted" by just hugging everyone and watching people try and climb trees. No one smashed anything and no one did any real damage, save for a couple tree branches that couldn't handle the weight of even the skinniest college freshman. And it was amazing. Not as amazing as what Monday would become, but we didn't know that then. This was college. We were lucky that we were there and our team made it to the National Championship. I imagine it wouldn't have felt too much different from the kids there in 1987 or 1996. But it was our time, and we were there. It actually happened. Syracuse made it to the National Championship and I was in school for it. Next to many of my friends who also couldn't believe it. I called my parents, and specifically my Dad who grew up watching Syracuse games and was actually born in Syracuse. We shared a moment that could only be topped by winning it all. There were only two teams left, and Syracuse was one of them. I think we then left to drink the night away, with a less enthusiastic but still very electric walk back to the other side of campus. But it was one of those Saturdays in college that you can never forget. We knew we were lucky to have had it. And we knew that it was rare. Anthony had put up 33 points for his career high in college, and it was truly the night he became a Syracuse Legend. Hakim Warrick would follow up his big moment with an even bigger one, but for now we talked about how Ivey was owned... forever. The beers flowed heavy that night my friends. It was truly special.

I have unique memories of the 2003 Final Four, because I was lucky enough to be in New Orleans with the Sour Sitrus Society. Brian wasn't. But that's another story. We flew in on a charter on Friday morning. Our flight was very much delayed, because the plane we were flying in on had to come from (Boston I think?) and because of weather, didn't leave there when it was supposed to. So, we had some quality time at Hancock. But we eventually got to New Orleans and once checked into the hotel, convinced the charter bus to bring us to Bourbon Street. A smarter John Brennan would have paid closer attention to the route from hotel to Bourbon, but I was 21 and wide-eyed and had other certain things on my mind. Miraculously, and with the help of some great Syracuse fans, later that night I made it back, repeating that "I just wanna go to my room!" Again, another story for another day, if you've never heard it. But the next day was game day, and I needed to get my sh*t together. A pregame pep rally at the hotel conference room really psyched us all up for the game. I remember Coach Mike Hopkins taking to the podium -- probably at the height of adrenaline in his life -- bragging about his "hot wife" and how we could beat Texas. I remember Kenneth "Buzz" Shaw, the greatest Chancellor Syracuse has ever had, taking the podium and showing us the Texas "horns" hand sign -- and then flipping them over and saying "Hook 'em and Cook 'em!" Whatever fogginess I had from the night before had dissipated. Had I gotten my sh*t together? And that I did. The bus dropped off the band at the Superdome, we went in, and were brought to our seats courtside. The first game was Kansas vs. Marquette, so we sat there and watched that one while anticipation built. The Golden Eagles had Tom Crean at the helm, and Dwyane Wade at guard, but stood no match for Kansas. That game was out of reach in the first several minutes. I think I spent that entire game just taking it all in -- the Superdome, the Final Four -- I had been to New Orleans my senior year of high school, but I was 21 now and it was totally different, and the enormity of everything seemed to fall on me during that first national semifinal. So after the Kansas blowout of Marquette, there was the 30-minute gap between games, and Syracuse came out to warm up and prepare for its game against Texas. By now it wasn't a secret that for the Orangemen to win the title, that road would take them through the heart of the Big 12. Texas tonight, and then Kansas on Monday if things fell the right way. Sitrus played our normal pregame, and the teams were ready to tip. In all honesty, I don't remember much of the game. I mean, I do, but in the 15 years since, I've seen the TV previews, the media pictures, and all that -- and it sort of rewrites your own personal memories of the event. You all know that the most memorable moment from that game was Hakim Warrick dunking on Royal Ivey -- which has been memorialized in a picture-turned-poster in my office signed by Hak as the "Texas TBag Dunk" (see below). At the time, I remember it being a monster dunk, but didn't really think much of it -- probably because they didn't show replays in the Superdome so I didn't know just how epic it was. Plus -- and this is probably lost to time -- Hak was called for an offensive foul. It was one of those rare calls where the basket counted but the offensive foul was called. But really, who remembers that? Certainly not the poster in my office! Syracuse, as we all know, won that game 95-84. Carmelo Anthony was a beast, and had his best game of the Tournament with a career high 33 points. That effort probably wrecked his back more than he realized, as he struggled during Monday's title game, but we'll let that slide. After the game, the band, cheerleaders, and dance team filed back onto our charter bus back to the hotel. On the bus, Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" came on the radio. For whatever reason, we were all so high on good feelings that we did the best and most memorable singalong I've been a part of. Literally every time I hear that song, my mind goes right back to that bus in New Orleans. I'm not mad about it. So yeah, Saturday, April 5, 2003 was a pretty, pretty, pretty good day. Beautiful, you might say.

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  • This About Sums It Up

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  • - Anonymous Georgetown supporter.
  • You are an idiot...
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  • Congrats on not being very good at what you do.
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  • You are a dweeb, my friend. Grow a backbone.
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  • ...vacuous, asinine, and mind numbing...
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