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Column: Give ESPN, not Syracuse, a warm welcome

Sports Editor

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

When ESPN's College GameDay held its first ever basketball show on Jan. 22, 2005, it was in Storrs. The matchup between No. 13 UConn and No. 17 Pittsburgh at Gampel Pavilion was the first and only time the UConn men's basketball team has hosted the event.

Until now.

Although the Huskies have played in three other "GameDay" contests and the women hosted the show two years ago, it's still perplexing that it took ESPN to take this long to come back for a men's game. After all, the trip from Bristol to Storrs saves time and costs. I've questioned the seven-year Storrs hiatus, along with a few other "decisions" made by the network. No matter, it's great to have the crew back at our lovely New England campus. Be sure to give ESPN a warm welcome on Saturday morning.

But when the lights go on at 9 p.m. Saturday night, give Syracuse fan-friendly, sportsmanlike hell.

With the Orange leaving the Big East for the ACC at an undetermined date, this could be the final time these two marquee schools square off at Gampel Pavilion. In a sense, it's a very sad day. I feel as though Wes Mantooth's feelings towards Ron Burgundy in the movie "Anchorman" mirror the way I feel about Syracuse.

"From deep down in my stomach, with every inch of me, I pure, straight hate you," Mantooth said. "But... I respect you."

The mutually respectful rivalry between Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun started before I was born, but I still managed to keep a somewhat level head about Syracuse until my freshman year in Storrs. The Huskies' loss to Syracuse in six overtimes in the Big East quarterfinals was the straw that broke the camel's back. Judging from the reception form the orange-clad hecklers on the Metro North platform, you would think they had just won the national championship. And those stupid "Marathon Men" shirts for one game was bush league. In the words of Ron Burgundy, "What is this, amateur hour?" Luckily, UConn showed who the real "Marathon Men" were last season.

Another gripe against ‘Cuse stems from two years ago at the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. The Orange beat Kansas State in a 36-34 shootout that was mired in controversy. Adrian Hilburn scored a late touchdown to bring the score within two. The Wildcats' wide receiver gave the crowd a simple salute following the score and the referee flagged him 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. The yards cost K-State the two-point conversion and Syracuse won. Hilburn supposedly brought too much attention to himself, this after an Orange wide receiver motioned to the crowd after a first-half touchdown.

The icing on the cake? The referee had the audacity to tell Hilburn, "Wrong choice, buddy," before throwing the flag. Now I don't know where that ref gets off, but I'm not going to veer off topic here.

The Orange won the game and now a Pinstripe Bowl banner hangs in the Carrier Dome. I'm not saying I wouldn't love to see UConn in that bowl, because I would. And I'm not saying that I'm not jealous that all the New York City-based ‘Cuse alumni with high-paying jobs can buy luxury suites at Yankee Stadium while my brother and I struggle to get bleacher seats without an obstructed view for a mid-week night game against Toronto, because I am. But Syracuse's football program has had a Heisman trophy winner and a national championship, yet the only bowl banner commemorating one of the schools 12 postseason wins is the Pinstripe Bowl one.

Another reason to strongly dislike Syracuse is their politically incorrect former nickname: "Orangemen." In 2004, Syracuse switched its nickname to the gender-neutral Orange. But the seeds of offensive nicknames didn't start there. For close to 50 years, the school's mascot was a Native American warrior named "Saltine Warrior" before the racially insensitive mascot was scrapped.

From the Aggies to Huskies, UConn has always had uncreative, yet politically correct nicknames. And our school's mascot, Jonathan, is named after a Connecticut governor. Although, my personal favorite nickname for UConn's teams is when Norm Peterson refers to them as the "Fighting Insurance Salesmen" in the show "Cheers."

I still can't stand the Orange. The nickname reminds me of a color that used to be cool in the ‘90's. It reminds me of the fruit that makes my fingers smell weird for two days. It reminds me of orange juice, the pulp-filled drink that I chugged before throwing it back up in my high school's hallway. And orange juice reminds me of O.J. Simpson.

It reminds me of the Orange Bowl, a game Syracuse will never make again. And their mascot, Otto, reminds me of "Rocket Power." There are countless other reasons why UConn fans shouldn't like Syracuse.

Hate them because of Gerry McNamara. Hate them because Andy Rautins was somehow allowed to play in five NBA games. Hate them because I guarantee there are Syracuse fans who think UConn doesn't have two more national championships than they do. And most importantly, hate them because they have a really good basketball team and a win against them would greatly improve UConn's chances of making the NCAA tournament and defending its national title.

There is, however, one reason not to hate Syracuse. For that, you have to look back to 1984 in the Syracuse alumni directory. That's the year Sean McDonough graduated.

Good announcer, great last name.  

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