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Living and Dying – Orange Basketball Style

I’ll be 51 in 2 weeks. For most of my life, I have been a fan of Syracuse University sports – namely basketball and football, and more recently (only for half of my life), lacrosse. I would like to say that it began as a casual interest and grew from there, but that would be a lie. I have always been a “fanatic”. I remember as a child watching the then Orangemen on TV, but it was nothing like today. Games on TV were too few and far between, unlike now where it is quite the opposite. It was 1975 where my interest really kicked into high-gear. Syracuse was in the NCAA tournament for the 2nd consecutive year, and while I didn’t know it then (and couldn’t comprehend it even if I did), the modern day era of the Syracuse Basketball program was born. Back then, the NCAA tournament only welcomed 16 teams – a far cry from the current 68 teams! Anyway, in those days, most people didn’t know what or where Syracuse was, so it was a big, big deal. The Orangemen unexpectedly made it to the Final Four that year, eventually losing to Kentucky in the National Semifinals. All of a sudden, the winters of Syracuse provided more to do than ski or toboggan. Two years later, Jim Boeheim became the Head Coach, two years after that, the Big East Conference was born, ESPN was slowly catching on, and, well, the rest is history.

I remember with great affection attending games with my parents at Manley Field House, enjoying the Louie and Bouie Show and the birth of the Big East.

Jim Boeheim in his first year as Head Coach.

The experience was awe-inspiring to me. Since I was a local (or “towny” as my friends call me), there wasn’t a lot of “big-city” things to do in Syracuse, so when the basketball team began it’s trajectory to national prominence, Central New York was fully on-board. The Carrier Dome opened in 1980, and that was a HUGE deal. It was the only domed stadium on a college campus, and was one of only a few in the nation. The fans came out in droves, and it was an event every game. Not to diminish the football team – it was slowly building a brand as well – but at that time, Syracuse was a basketball town.

Over the years, the basketball program flourished for the most part, and the fan base grew. Since my first time attending a game at Manley Field House, I knew I wanted to go to Syracuse University. Looking back (hell, even at that time), I knew this was not the best reason to choose a college, but I didn’t care. I was going to be a part of that!

The “Concentration” style Haffenreffer bottle caps provided lots of drunken fun.

1982 was my freshman year at Syracuse, and I was “all-in” in terms of basketball and football. I bought my season tickets and never missed a game. We had a group that went to each game together, and there were many Haffenreffer beers consumed prior to every game. The obsession grew, and my freshman year became a blur as I became an “Orangemen Major”. It’s a small wonder that I didn’t flunk out of Syracuse, but that’s a story for another time.

Fast-foward to 1989. The Syracuse newspaper exposed violations and the NCAA imposed penalties. Fast forward to 2015 and history sort of repeats itself. As a die-hard Orange fan, I think this round of violations were quite minor, although rules were broken, and the penalties were very harsh. When you are as big a fan as I and many others are, it is a lot more than a slap in the face to SU, it’s a punch in the gut to me and the many die-hard fans like me. You have to remember – I’ve been a fan over 80% of my life, so it really hits home.

I know in my heart and through some personal encounters with Jim Boeheim that he is not a cheat. Nonetheless, the buck stops here as they say, so Jim will pay the price. Syracuse basketball has just come out of its best 5-year stretch in school history (in terms of wins, a run to the Final Four, etc), and despite the penalties, still has the best recruiting class coming in since Jim Boeheim arrived. So while the penalties will hurt, they certainly won’t derail the program, which makes me happy. Hopefully when Jim Boeheim does retire (he is 70 years old, after all), the program will continue on its enormously successful path, and continue to provide me and its many fans years of excitement, and another National Championship!

You see, I do live and die by Syracuse Basketball, and for that I make no apologies.

Benny getting his daily exercise

The Dog Routine

So, the other morning it was a downright tolerable temperature out, so I decided to walk to work. On the way, I needed to drop off my cell-phone to have a broken screen replaced. While waiting for the shop to open, I did some people watching. For you non-New York City folk, there is no better place to watch people. A man approached where I was standing with his beautiful chocolate Lab. Being from NY, you tend to think the world revolves around you, so of course I thought he and his dog were coming to say hello to me or to ask me a question. The man and his dog get to within approximately 5 feet of me when the dog just sat down. I say hello (to the dog) when the man said “there is usually a bowl of treats here and he won’t leave the spot until he gets his”. The man then proceeds to pull a treat out of his pocket to trick his four-legged friend. With that, the dog got up, and off they went, leaving me with a big smile on my face.

This encounter got me thinking about my dog, Benny. I have known that Benny had his routine that he adhered to (with the help of his humanoid companions), but did not realize that most, if not all dogs are the same way. Being slightly OCD myself, I get it, and probably contribute to it. Every morning after my shower, Benny is waiting for me outside the bathroom door. As soon as I open the door, his tail begins wagging, thumping as it hits whatever he is sitting near, and he howls in glee. After all, it has been 10 or 15 minutes since we last saw each other, so its understandable! Why is he so happy you ask (work with me here, folks)? He knows what awaits him in the bedroom as I dress – that being the 60 – 90 second long tushy-scratch. Benny just lives for his tushy-scratch. After that, he leaves the bedroom and awaits his walk. Here is where the routine gets really exciting! We walk down W. 74th Street towards Columbus Avenue, head north on Columbus to the Chase branch on 76th Street. He leads me into the branch to the small end-table where a tray full of Milk-Bones awaits. I say hello to my local branch employees while Benny woofs down his daily treat (and watch out on those rare days when the tray is empty, but I’ll save that for another blog post!). From there, we continue north on Columbus Ave another block and a half where Benny likes to “do his business” in the 2nd plant/tree bed. Next up is his daily frolic at the Bull Moose Dog Run. Of course, Benny could do all of this without me, however he needs me to keep him safe from vehicular traffic. An hour later (sometimes less), it’s daddy’s time to pick up an iced coffee and a bagel (yes, Benny gets some of the bagel), and again, Benny leads the way.

This isn’t his only routine either. On those rare occasions that both Marla and I are home, Benny isn’t happy (and lets us know) unless we are both in the same room. When it’s time to leave the city for a day or more, Benny know’s where the car is and prefers the same walking route to the garage.

Finally, my favorite routine of Benny’s is his insistence on sleeping on Marla’s side of the bed. Guess he knows that I need my sleep!

I would love to hear about your pet’s routine below!