Monday, September 10, 2007


The Orange Experience

A couple of weeks ago, I took the opportunity to experience the “Orange” for the first time. I went with a crew to Syracuse for the Friday Night football game.

I did have a previous peek inside the Carrier Dome--- the bubble on the hill. It was several years ago during the March Break, and Syracuse was hosting preliminary games for the NCAA basketball tournament. There were a couple of teams working out, but with all of the curtain work used for basketball, it was difficult to imagine the Dome as a football venue.

Syracuse has been having a difficult time of it the past few seasons. They have put some fine teams on the field in the past, and won the National Championship in 1959. They have appeared in 22 post season bowl games. They have won the “Big East” four times. There are several former Orange players in the NFL.

There are also former Orangemen currently playing in the Canadian Football League including Pat Woodcock, Jeff Pilon, and Thomas Whitfield.

There is a history of excellence. There is a tradition of success.

Recently, those ideals meant nothing to the University of Washington Huskies. The West Coast boys let the Orange put up three points to begin the game, then proceeded to pulverize the Syracuse Eleven.

The Orange defence was porous, the offence inept. Then again, this is college football. These are young adults. There are bound to be mistakes. To get to the Bowl games at the end of the season, a team needs to play almost flawless football.

(Michigan State was ranked quite high this season. They were toppled in their first game by unranked Appalachian State in one of the greatest upsets ever in college football, and again this past weekend. This will be a rebuilding year.)

Most college teams leave the locker room to begin the game in a furious, excited manner-running, jumping, high-fiving. The Orange did otherwise. They begin their entrance with the historical “Orange Quad Walk”, slowly making their way through fans and supporters to the Carrier Dome. There were almost eighty of them, and they formed a phalanx, similar to the defence position of the Romans. There were eight players across the front, followed by eight more directly behind them, and the rest of the team in the tight formation in a most imposing fashion.

The Huskies from Washington, obviously, were not all that impressed.

They were led by a quarterback who would look good right now in a Hamilton Tiger Cat uniform. He passed well, executed running plays with precision, and ran for almost 100 yards. He had enough speed to get around the corner of the defence, and scoot upfield for eight to ten yards at will.

The bands were magnificent. They performed as only American College bands can perform at half time. They broke into smaller groups and sat in the stands near us, inspiring some of the worst dancing I have seen in years. They motivated the fans, but not the home team.

When you go to the Carrier Dome, and you must, be prepared for the active noise level. The place was not quite full, but the fans really gave the old ear drums a workout. At least at the start of the game.

American universities like to recognize alumni for the efforts, and achievements. Those who have been successful financially often reward the school with nice financial gifts to recognize their alma mater. They also make decent tax write offs. Schools also pay heed to their former great athletes.

There are banners that adorn the Dome, recognizing former greats of the game who played in Syracuse. In the football media guide, a page is devoted to alumni who achieved success in all walks of life: astronauts, actors, novelists, Pulitzer Prize winners, governors, senators, and many others.

There are five individuals with ties to Syracuse who are enshrined at the Pro Football hall of fame in canton, Ohio. Four players: Jim Brown, John Mackey, Larry Csonka, and Jim Ringo. One owner has also made the grade in Ohio-the legendary Al Davis, current owner of the Oakland Raiders, was inducted in 1992.

At half time, one of the greatest football players ever to play the game anywhere was honoured at centre field. Ernie Davis was the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy, presented yearly to the top college player. He was drafted first overall in the 1962 NFL Draft.

Tragically, Davis developed leukemia at that time. He died in 1963, at the age of 23. A magnificent bronze statue was unveiled on the field, and it will be placed near the entrance to the Dome. As well, Ernie’s story is to be told on the Big Screen. Filming for “The Express” is now underway, and the movie will be released nationally in October, 2008.

Ernie also led the Orange to the national championship in 1959. The Orange would like to build for another glorious triumph on the golden anniversary of their only title. Head Coach Greg Robinson and his team have their work cut out for them.

Last weekend the Orange got clobbered in Iowa 35-0.

But they will give it the “Old College Try” next weekend at home against Illinois. And the game inside the Dome is a most worthwhile experience for all football fans. Only an hour or so from the Ivy Lea Bridge. Take your passport, although you can still get across with your birth certificate.

For les than fifty bucks, you can fill the tank with gas, get a ticket to the game, wolf down some mighty hot chicken wings, enjoy the spectacle. A season ticket can be had for $100! Or a family pass for two adults, two kids, a parking pass and a $5 concession coupon for $85! Go to for details!

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