Ok, I know this seems really weird, but just hear me out. I know I’m just some American who latched on with Newcastle United five years ago. I don’t know anything (yet) of the struggle that comes with being part of the Toon Army. I have not been there through all of the agonizing Mike Ashley dealings and failed Frenchmen. I joined just at the end of that. But trust me I know how you feel.
I started attending Syracuse University in the fall of 2014. That year, the basketball team self-imposed a postseason ban on itself for violating NCAA rules. Not that it mattered, as we would have missed the tournament that year anyway. It was certainly a disappointing season for my introduction to Syracuse basketball.
The following season was something out of a fairy tale. Syracuse limped into the NCAA tournament and earned a 10 seed. Most expected them to exit in the first round. Instead, the Orange went on an incredible run to reach the Final Four. Of course, that game with North Carolina ended in an absolute blowout, making it clear that Syracuse did not quite belong.
I liken this season to Newcastle in 2011-12, finishing high up the table at fifth to earn a spot in Europa League play. And the following season for Newcastle definitely mirrored what Syracuse did this season.
Following an incredible year, capped by a Final Four appearance, the Orange returned for 2016 looking like a top-25 team with a chance to make another run to the national semifinal. It didn’t quite go according to plan, as Syracuse got off to a very poor start and never recovered, missing the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. The disappointment was clearly felt by the fan base.
Just like Syracuse, Newcastle ended up in a season-long relegation battle after that top-five finish, landing 16th, barely able to stay up. A Europa League quarterfinal appearance lessened the blow, but it did not undo the poor domestic results from the year.
It is not a perfect comparison by any means, but both of these teams manage to disappoint fans every year. Whether it be from general poor performance, or from a promising start that fizzles out to an underwhelming finish. Even the weather is the same. Neither of these two cities see sunshine more than like 75 days a year. It is constantly snowing or raining.
Yet, despite all of the disappointment, loyalty runs deep. There are Syracuse fans that have been here long before the glory of the 2003 National Championship run and have stayed true well after that glory has faded. Syracuse probably has had more intermittent success, but the ending always seems the same. And I know there are Geordies that have supported Newcastle long before the days of Shearer, staying well after he left.
It isn’t perfect, but supporting Syracuse has definitely prepared me for the long haul as a supporter of the Toons. You don’t give up when things are tough, and when things look great, you know it’s only a matter of time before it all falls apart.
Some things will never change.