A Michigan Wolverine in Jim Boeheim's Town

This post is adapted from an article published earlier this morning on Here's the link to the original article. It was intended primarily for a Syracuse audience, but I think it gives Michigan fans some perspective on the Syracuse fan base, too.

I’m a 2006 graduate of the University of Michigan, I grew up in Michigan, and I moved to Syracuse about eight months ago. I am one of a small but spirited group of Michigan fans who get together in Syracuse each week to watch Michigan games.

Upon arriving in town last August, I set out to learn all I could about Syracuse sports. Michigan and SU have rarely crossed paths during my lifetime in football or basketball (except for that football game, in 1998, of which Michigan fans do not speak), so I figured I could safely adopt the Orange as my second team.

After attending three Syracuse football games last fall, I quickly confirmed what I'd heard from many sources: Basketball is Central New York's true passion. Having grown up in a football-centered universe, I decided to try to figure out what made Syracuse tick — what made this SU basketball program so special.

A few games into the season, however, I was surprised to hear nothing but criticism from all those around me billing themselves as ‘Cuse fans. I wondered how they could be so upset, why they were constantly cursing their third-ranked basketball team, especially when it had experience, was led by a sure lottery pick and was anchored by two incredible wing shooters.

I attended and watched as many games as I could, but after tough losses like in the Big East Tournament championship affair with Louisville, I often found myself sticking up for the Orange when its own fans said things like: “This just isn’t their year. They’re gonna go out in the first round.”

Before trying to figure out why these SU fans were so pessimistic, I decided to collect some raw data, Here are some of the things I’ve learned and observed from Syracuse fans:

  • If Rasmussen or the Gallup ran a poll gauging Orange fans’ opinion of Michael Carter-Williams over the season, it would fluctuate more than President Obama’s numbers.
  • Jim Boeheim is the greatest coach of all time, but people around here will always criticize his rotation and his X’s and O’s.
  • Six and a half months of pure and unrelenting pessimism can turn into total confidence after one convincing win over the Indiana Hoosiers. And what a win that was.
  • The 2-3 zone, as orchestrated by Boeheim, is absolutely terrifying. And, frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it.
  • Doug Gottlieb is the worst.

But as any armchair anthropologist worth his or her salt will tell you, the first step is to observe and collect; Step No. 2 is to attempt to understand or explain.

So why was this fan base so disappointed and pessimistic about its season while my own was absolutely ecstatic about a similar one?

The answer, if one exists, is simple: The standard for basketball in this town is so high that a single loss can be demoralizing. Syracuse basketball fans have been “there” before. And when you’ve been “there” before, it’s not enough to make the NCAA Tournament or to win a few games in it. You want a championship.

For a fan of a rebuilding, up-and-coming team like Michigan, that’s a little difficult to understand — especially a perilously optimistic fan like me. In any case, despite having taken different routes, we’re both riding pretty strong waves of confidence into Saturday’s game, the Orange from its defense and the Wolverines from their offense.

My first eight months in Syracuse have been excellent. The city and its fans have been incredibly accepting of a naïve and curious sports fan from Michigan. Thank you very much for being so welcoming and I wish you all the best of luck on Saturday.

My only advice is not to sleep on my Wolverines. We may be young, and we may not have been “there” in a while, but we’re hungry, too. And as good as your win over Marquette was, ours over Florida was pretty darn good, too.

I’ve borrowed part of the title of this essay from Mark Twain, so I might as well appropriate and adapt this from him, too: “But how treacherous is fortune! In a little while (say, four days) will happen a thing, which … but I have no heart to write that. Let the record end here.”

Or maybe I do have the heart: Michigan by five.

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