When Clemson comes to the Carrier Dome every other season, it’s a big deal.
The Tiger are the class of the Atlantic Coast Conference, a national championship winner, a mainstay in the four-team playoffs, a fun game to watch because the hometown Orange plays up to the challenge.
My dear wife Karen and I were psyched for Friday night’s game. She had the whole day off from work. I got out from my job at the library early. We celebrated her birthday with happy tailgating, the rain stopped so we could walk up from our parking lot to the dome, we enjoyed watching the teams warm up and come to the field.
Close game. No score in the first quarter. Exciting.
Then, a commotion to the right of our seats. Up from the ramp came a parade of young folks, students maybe, wearing SU clothing. Wait, many carried beer or hard seltzer in their hands, must be seniors over the drinking age of 21? Up the aisle they went, blocking our view of a good quarter of the field to the right side. Dozens spied empty seats to our left and immediately behind us and they thought nothing of climbing right over us.
None paid any attention to the usual etiquette of waiting for a stoppage in play to move up, down or sideways.
Into the seating they continued for five, 10, 20 minutes. The first quarter gave way to the second and the parade of new spectators did not halt.
The season ticket holders around us were not pleased.
Yes, this distracted us from the No. 1 game on this season’s schedule.
Karen decided to go down that ramp to ease her anxiety with a beer purchase of her own.
She returned with a tale of a skirmish she witnessed on the beverage line between a mask-wearing older customer admonishing a younger customer who was wearing a mask around the neck.
We watched as numerous people complained to the poor Carrier Dome worker always stationed at this particular entrance and heard him proclaim, hands raised, ”There’s nothing I can do!”
I looked across the way and noticed that our sister section on the other side of the stadium, also previously spare of filled seats by season ticket holders in the bottom rows, now too had a big crowd of what appeared to be students suddenly filling the upper seats.
My frustration grew.
If Syracuse University officials were intent on building crowd size by bringing in students for these seats, why did they not tell them to be ready to come into the stadium before the game actually started so they would not distract those already there trying to watch the game?
Did they think of us and the money we paid for our season tickets at all? Did they think of us and decide we didn’t matter as much as a filled stadium for the TV audience? Was it just plain, old, bad management, a boondoggle at the biggest game of the year?
Our good-time mood had been fouled, and we could not get it back.
Karen and I left at halftime, Syracuse trailing, 14-7. We decided we’d be happier watching the second half at home. I was not happy when Syracuse missed a late field goal and lost 17-14.
A decision has been made. The easy thing to do would be to let it go. More important things in the world to worry about in the world, and all that.
Not this time.
We will not be returning to the last two home games this season. I won’t spend any more of my money at the dome. I’ll still root for the team, from home, watching on my living room TV. When that season ticket renewal form comes in the mail, well, now I’m pretty certain our answer is no thank you. Sad, really, since we’ve held football season tickets a dozen years.