Neutral, no way. I had to cheer for my alma mater over my hometown team

Football game with Syracuse and Maryland on the big screens at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill in Syracuse, N.Y.

Many of the flat screens at Toby Keith’s place in Destiny USA were tuned to Syracuse vs. Maryland, and the sound system carried the broadcast’s commentary, too.

When it came down to one lineman pushing and another shoving, my loyalty came through Saturday afternoon as dear wife Karen and I sat at the bar at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Destiny USA watching my alma mater and my hometown squad tussle on the football field.

The prior game on the MSG Network ran over its time slot, as college football contests tend to do in this age of numerous passes and long commercial breaks.

When we spotted the TV up high and behind us beaming Terps vs. Orange, Syracuse had the ball down by the Maryland goal line. I immediately felt that old, diehard-fan-familiar knot in my gut. Stop ’em, Terps!

One by one, more and more of the numerous TVs at Toby Keith’s joint switched over from other networks to join the action in College Park, Md. We ate, apps and a burger for me and smokin’ chili for Karen. I drank beer from a Mason jar but Karen went for bottled. Great place to watch a stinkin’ game.

I went into the afternoon thinking we were going to watch the contest at Dave and Buster’s. But that wonderland of food, drink, video games and flat screens had a line to get in an hour before kickoff.

We called an audible, doubling back to Toby Keith’s and two open chairs at the bar.

We settled in, and I was certain that deep down inside, I’d want Maryland to win. I’d loved and been loyal to the university that gave me my diploma longer than to the one with the dome up on the hill, to which we trek with our season tickets in hand. But my plan was to be neutral. I wore a Mets T-shirt with a Chatham, Cape Cod, long-sleeve on top. On my head sat a Torrey Pines golf cap. These were my two squads. I couldn’t help but be happy no matter what. (And be sad no matter what.)

Only I couldn’t stay quiet in my support for the Terps. I cheered. I anguished. I swore at the turnovers. I hung my head in defeat as Maryland fell 20-3 to Syracuse.

This morning, though, I indeed feel happiness that Syracuse raised its record to 5-4 and greatly enhanced its chances to pick up that sixth win and earn a bowl bid. I’m thinking ahead to Saturday, fully expecting a schooling from second-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee, but excited about the chance of playing such a national powerhouse. I like Syracuse’s first season in the ACC. I’m looking forward to closing with winnable home games against Pittsburgh and Boston College. In Scott Shafer’s first year as head coach, they are on the upswing at the end of the season.

And I feel discouragement for my Terps, even though they, too, stand at 5-4 with three games remaining. They do not look like a squad with its stuff together. Injuries have taken away two star receivers. The quarterback looks more hesitant every time a replacement drops a pass he should have caught. I am not optimistic about beating Virginia Tech, Boston College or North Carolina State to get that first bowl bid for coach Randy Edsall, in his third year. My Terps seem to be finishing their last season in the ACC before joining the Big Ten on a downswing.

By the way, curious guy that I am, I’ve been wondering how other folks have handled this alma mater vs, hometown team phenomena.

Our wonderful bartender Cady said she fit that bill. Cady is from Syracuse. She graduated from South Florida. Her feelings were mixed, she said, but on the weeks that the Orange played the Bulls, she always allowed herself one day to wear her Orange shirt around campus, odd looks and pointed comments be damned.

Anybody else?

2 thoughts on “Neutral, no way. I had to cheer for my alma mater over my hometown team

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