Syracuse Football: The differences between college and professional fans

Syracuse football (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Syracuse football (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

Recently I’ve been thinking about something regarding my fandom for Syracuse football and other teams, and it’s resonated with me in a new light. I’m a New York Mets fan, a half Buffalo Bills fan & half Carolina Panthers fan (long story for another time), and I’m a diehard anything Syracuse University fan.

I’ve always thought it was just that my fandom had levels and the Orange will always be first in my heart. And it could be that’s the reason why oftentimes I’m more optimistic and protective of Syracuse football and other Orange sports than some. However, I also believe it’s because as a 49-year-old man who had a daughter look at colleges once upon a time that maybe I look at college sports differently than I do professional sports.

Let me explain.

When my oldest daughter was in her senior year of high school, she had better than average grades. So as graduation loomed, we as a family looked at what her college experience would be like. And if you’ve ever done this, you know it’s a family experience because your kid wants to go where they’ll achieve their goals but as a parent, you want your kid to feel like they’re cared for and in an environment that will help them prosper.

Then summer rolls around and you’re moving your kid into a dorm or apartment and saying goodbye to them knowing you’ll no longer be able to check on them in their room and say good night. You’ll go to bed hoping they’re happy and working on their goals to be something they wish to be. But there’s a sadness in you as you pull away from the university because you know they’re in part on their own now and you’re hoping you as a family made the best choice for them.

As I cheer on Syracuse football, I do believe there are differences between being a college sports fan and a professional sports fan.

It’s my belief that maybe having experienced this personally, I can relate to the athletes who choose to come to Syracuse University. I can also relate to the parents who left their children there to get an education and prepare them for a better life. So maybe when it comes to collegiate athletics, I do view them differently because I can visualize my daughter in their shoes simply trying to be the best they can be and acclimate to a new environment and adulthood.

So what if maybe sometimes instead of being the fan who wants to rip into an 18-year-old athlete for dropping a pass or missing a shot, we remember these are young people simply trying to find themselves? Some may come from privilege and some may have benefited from some but not all did and many are struggling to find their identity as an adult just like my daughter did.

Maybe we as sports fans can sometimes foster a positive home-like environment for these athletes who have chosen to represent the school we love. Maybe we can make the athletes’ families feel like they left their child who grew up too quickly before their very eyes in good hands. Maybe together we can make our fandom more of a positive experience for all and for potential future athletes to see and possibly say “I want to go there where I’m respected and cared for.” Maybe we stop saying that because other fans treat their players this way that it’s acceptable and instead find new ways to be supportive.

And please understand that this is not a lack of desire to see my team be the best or lack of competition…this is coming from a realistic perspective one in which my fandom was based on the success of 44 and the 1987 Syracuse football season (Don McPherson is a man I look up to to this day on and off the field). But as competitive as I am and as much as I want the ‘Cuse to be national champions like they were in 1960, I’m also realistic in acknowledging these are STUDENT athletes with a lot on their plate and finding their maturity and place in life. And while winning does matter, what also matters is mentoring these young men and women and helping them figure out their lives and become the best citizens and individuals they’re capable of in life.

So here is all I ask, at the very least, the next time a student-athlete representing the university we love fails, let’s lift them back up. When a family is looking for the right fit for their child, let’s show them Syracuse is a place they can send their child to support them like they’re at home. Maybe even just maybe provide a positive and loving environment for athletes, staff members and family so supportive that they feel at home and feel like they can excel on the field and as individuals in life.

Let’s be that supportive network that says, “that’s okay. We know you’ll practice that again tomorrow and do better! We believe in you as you believed in us when you committed to come to Syracuse University. We work together…we play together…we die together…Orange Nation for life!” Imagine how much more appealing it’ll be if we can show them and their loved ones that they made the right choice and that we are one big Orange Familia!

dark. Next. Syracuse Football: 44 reasons that I’m optimistic about the ‘Cuse in 2022