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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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#70. I’m a huge fan of Syracuse University sports, for no logical reason whatsoever.

It all started back in 1987. I was sixteen years old, and generally cheered for the local university team. But they were pretty hit and miss, and not even Division I at the time in football, so my allegiance wasn’t really all that strong. Besides, why cheer for a team, just because you were born near where they play? Where’s the logic in that? I wasn’t going to go to this school. I didn’t know anyone that took classes there. My parents weren’t alumni or anything. And the cheerleaders weren’t particularly hot. So why not find another team I liked, for a real reason.

It was about this time that I started watching college basketball. I was a late bloomer in that regard — since I was so horrifically bad at playing hoops, it took me a little longer than most to get into watching it. Plus, I liked the pros better at the time. Don’t ask me why now — it doesn’t make any damned sense to me, either. I was a kid, all right?

So, anyway, I started watching the NCAA tournament that year. And I learned two things. One, I hated Indiana. Bobby Knight was an ass, all their players were white-bread corn-fed crew-cut gym monkeys, and they played boring, slow basketball. Snoozers. And two, Syracuse had a pretty exciting team. Sherman Douglas, Derrick Coleman, even goofy-looking Rony Seikaly. They had flair, and pizzazz, and style. I started cheering for them — and two or three other cool teams — in the first or second round.

But the other teams lost — their weaknesses were exposed, and they fell out of the tourney. (Our local team, who probably got me watching in the first place, lost in the first round.) But the Orangemen kept on winning, and playing close, entertaining games. Leading up to the Final Four, three of their four wins were by six points or less. This is what basketball was supposed to be about!

Meanwhile, those harpy Hoosiers kept winning, too. They squeaked past UNLV — another team I was pretty fond of at the time — in the semifinals. Syracuse handled Providence fairly handily, and moved on to meet Indiana in the final game. Well, that was it. Bobby Knight was the antichrist as far as I was concerned. It was up to the white knights from upstate New York to take this loudmouth petulant prick down a peg or three. I was behind Syracuse one hundred and ten percent.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. After an exciting, back and forth game, Keith Smart — Keith fucking Smart, of all people — launched a prayer, falling out of bounds along the baseline with a hand in his face, with time running out. It hung in the air forever, and then slipped through the hoop. Good guys 73, Assholes 74. Game over.

So, I guess the whole three-week tourney experience gave me a taste for the sport, as played by teenagers still in school. And I had my team. Screw the locals; any schmuck can emerge from the womb and ‘rah-rah‘ for the geographically closest team. Where’s the personality in that? The originality, the balls? Nah. Too easy. Me, I was an Orangeman fan, and I have been ever since. No matter that if they hadn’t met Indiana that year, I’d have probably forgotten about them. Or if UNLV had won in the semis, they might have been my new team. And forget the fact that I lived a thousand miles away from New York state, and had never been anywhere near Syracuse. (I did go to Buffalo later that spring, but that’s as close as I got. I still haven’t been, which is starting to feel more and more like an issue I should take care of soon.)

And eventually, I realized that the ‘cuse had a pretty good football team, too. Marvin Harrison came out of there, and Gary Anderson (though he was before my time), and later I watched Donovan McNabb and Keith Bulluck and Qadry Ismail and Olindo Mare and Kevin Johnson and James Mungro and a couple of dozen other players launch successful NFL careers on the heels of their Orangemen triumphs. Plus, Jim Brown played there. Jim Legendary Brown. How fuckin’ cool is that?

So, that’s how it happened. More chance than anything, but once I made up my mind, I stuck with it. I took shit for four years of college, and even today, people ask, ‘Did you go to school there?‘ No. ‘Did your parents go there?‘ No. ‘Grow up near there?‘ No. ‘Visit the school? Have a friend there? Pick them in an office pool one year?‘ No, no, and no. Well, okay, yes to the last one, but that was after I became a fan. So, people find it hard to understand. But it’s very simple — I decided to choose my team, based on the style of play I like, and the personality of the team, and the evil teams that they strive to vanquish. So how did you pick yours? Oh, you were born in the hospital thirty miles away from the stadium. Oh, well, yeah. That makes perfect sense. Right.

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