It was a sea of orange in the Carrier Dome on Saturday night when the number one ranked (at the time) Duke Blue Devils came to town. It was announced weeks before the game that tickets were sold out. So going into the game, I knew that the Dome was going to be in a way I have never seen before, and I have gone to the Dome for a multitude of different events.
As soon as we arrived in Syracuse, it had a different feel. There was a sense of excitement filling the air as we walked towards the Carrier Dome. Walking with thousands of fellow Syracuse fans, I couldn’t think of anything else besides how much the city of Syracuse loves their Orange.
After a bit of waiting, I finally got my ticket scanned to enter the Dome. I couldn’t help but to look around and just smile and laugh. Just looking around a quick glance, I knew that this was a special event. The massive crowds of people, the overwhelming amount of Orange (never a bad thing in Syracuse), the music combined with people shouting, yelling, and chanting; it was all amazing. Even a few celebrity sightings to added the controlled chaos of the event with NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski and sports analyst Steven A. Smith in attendance.
It didn’t take us very long to find where our seats were, section 319. We got to our seats about 45 minutes before tip-off. So I sat near one of my good friends, and we just talked about the enormity of the event we were at. We watched the players warming up, the fans filing towards their seats, the student section going crazy (which had over 6,000 students in it), and watched as the clock got closer and closer to tip-off.
As we approached tip-off, activity started to pick up. When Duke took the court, boos rained down from the sold-out crowd, but it didn’t take long to switch that, because as soon as our beloved Orange took the court, the crowd erupted into a cheer. And the loudest cheer of the night came when Hall of Fame coach, Jim Boeheim, walked out of the tunnel and onto the court. Boeheim walked to the other side of the court to Duke’s coach, and longtime friend of his, Mike Krzyzewski to meet him with a hug. Jim then walked back to his own bench, still to a standing ovation. He needed the support, given the “roller coaster” last few days before the game.
As the national anthem finished, and the crowd erupted again. When the starting lineups were announced, the visitors went first. As each of their five starters’ names got called, they got their varying amounts of boos from the Syracuse heavy crowd. And once the Syracuse starting five was announced, each player received massive cheers. It was finally time for the game to start.
The crowd was electric throughout the entire game, especially the first half. Syracuse looked amazing in the first half, actually going into half time up five points on the Blue Devils. But, I was worried during half time. I knew that Duke was going to come out hot in the second half, especially since it was a revenge game for them, given that Syracuse beat them on their own turf at Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke back in January.
And my fears became reality fairly soon into the second half. Duke came out playing like they were a top team in the nation, and sadly, Syracuse came out flat. But there was something else that all us fans were there for. We wanted to set a record. The record for the highest attended on-campus college basketball game of all time. And partway through the second half, they made the attendance announcement. 35, 642 people. That is a new record. This got a standing ovation from the crowd, and the last one, because Syracuse could not recover in the second half and sweep the Blue Devils on the season.
Even with the Orange unable to come out with the win, this game just added to why, at least in my mind, Syracuse has the best college basketball fans. Even though this season hasn’t gone how we would’ve wanted it to at times this year, we still show our support for our team. So much so that we break world records when we are doing it. There is a saying in Syracuse, that “We Bleed Orange”, and that statement will be true until the end of time, I can assure you of that.