The Crossing Guard
Every day on my way to work, an amazing crossing guard navigates a stream of children, automobiles, and buses safely across a busy intersection that leads to two large schools. She is a force of nature. One does not dare creep into the crosswalk and make a quick turn after the light changes to red. Having once done so accidentally, her glare sent shivers down my spine. When distracted minds cause drivers to miss a cue to move, they are met with a flurry of hand gestures, an eye-roll, and a soul-searing stare.
It is fortunate, in this case, that my memory of people’s names is terrible. Too much familiarity with the prodigious crossing guard would ruin her mystique. This superstar officer is guaranteed to be a unanimous, first-ballot selectee to the Crossing Guard Hall of Fame! When she misses work, which is rare, the whole system falls apart. On the days when a hapless substitute is on duty, the two schools forgive students for tardiness; everyone knows that the children’s excuses are valid.
About a year ago, I noticed something atypical for our area of New York. The crossing guard was sitting in a small vehicle covered with Green Bay Packers‘ football regalia. Someone then told me that she drives the decked-out car to nearly every Green Bay Packers home football game. For those unfamiliar with US geography, Green Bay is a city in the state of Wisconsin that is exactly 1021 miles away from the best patrolled school intersection on Long Island! After learning about her intense dedication and passion for the Green Bay Packers, the crossing guard phenom became more human to me.
My first memory of a Syracuse University Orangemen sporting event (the team name has since been shortened to ‘Orange’) was a basketball tournament with my Dad in Rochester, New York. It took place during the now-storied ‘Louie and Bouie Show’ era in the 1970’s. This moniker referred to the highly touted superstars, Louie Orr and Roosevelt Bouie. As the game ended, my father and I pushed our way to the bench, walked up to the 6′ 11″ Roosevelt Bouie, and successfully procured his autograph on a grimy napkin that I had plucked from the floor.
As is often the case with family sports stories, the most memorable part was being with my Dad. In 1985, Dad suffered a traumatic brain aneurysm. If it were not for the heroics of a brilliant surgeon named Dr. Charles Hodge, Dad would not be alive. To this day, Dad’s short term memory is almost non-existent, but he remembers everything from before his brain injury. The man cannot remember what he had for breakfast, but he recounts pre-injury tales effortlessly. Such is the nature of the human brain.
Many who read this may not be familiar with Syracuse Orange sports, but the story is not complete without a few references. With Dad, I attended several ‘Louie and Bouie’ era basketball games at Manley Field House, the last football game at Archbold Stadium in 1978, the first football game at the Carrier Dome in 1980, a triple overtime victory against Villanova in the Big East tournament in 1981, the miracle half-court shot by Pearl Washington in 1984, and several others. There are no memories of purposefully learning the “Let’s Go Orange” chant, it is simply internalized. Keeping the tradition alive, my daughters are now being
indoctrinated exposed to the love of all things Syracuse.
As referenced in a previous post, I lived in London from 2001-2004 [ https://myunexpectedlife.net/2019/02/15/moving-to-london/ .] 2003 was THE YEAR for Syracuse Orange basketball fans. “We” won the National Championship! (I love the term “we” amongst sports fans.) Every team has their own version of THE YEAR. It doesn’t matter how old you were or even if you were alive to experience it. For English football fans, it is 1966. American hockey–definitely 1980. New York Mets baseball: 1986. If you are a sports fan, your team likely has THE YEAR.
In 2003, my computer was antiquated. A weak dial-up connection allowed me spotty audio reception of the basketball games throughout the 2002-2003 season. Led by two superstar freshman, Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara, and a strong supporting cast, enthusiasm grew as the year progressed. Syracuse made the “Final Four” in 2003. As fate would have it, my job brought me to Warsaw, Poland on the day of the semi-finals versus Texas. We drew the late game. Panic set in as I did the time zone math and realized the game would begin at 3:00 AM in Warsaw.
The American School of Warsaw was the host for the 2003 International Honor Band. I was there to chaperone my students. Based on an overheard conversation and a little digging, it came to my attention that the Principal’s husband was from Lake Placid, New York. “By any chance is he a Syracuse fan?”, I asked. “Actually he is. And we also have a few teachers who are from Vestal, New York and they watch the games at his house on satellite television.” Amazing—I had to get myself invited. About an hour later, after a brief introduction to the Vestal natives, directions to the promised land were in hand. My unexpected Syracuse vs. Texas semi-final game watch party was in the outskirts of Warsaw, Poland at 3 AM. We won handily and talked as if we had known each other for years. “Let’s Go Orange!”, clap clap clap-clap-clap…
Madison Square Garden (MSG) in NYC is known as “The Mecca of Basketball.” Syracuse now plays there or at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn at least once a year. About five years ago, after watching the ‘Cuse win a game at MSG, my friend Andrew and I headed to the Blarney Rock, which was an unofficial meeting place for Syracuse fans. I was an avid participant on a Syracuse sports internet message board. At a side table, there was a young man with a dark beard that I recognized from “the board.” His username was CuseTroop and his online persona was great. My courage to introduce myself wavered. Andrew, who I adopted into the Syracuse sports world, had no such fear. He walked over and said, “Hey. Are you CuseTroop?”
Adam (CuseTroop), Andrew, and I hit it off and we were introduced to some others who were, until then, only known by their usernames. This included well-known alumni, family, and friends of the team, as well as average fans like myself. We talked about the win, upcoming games, and the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, we learned about each other as people. Three years later when Syracuse came to town, Adam brought some Alaska friends, as well as other fans he had met at a previous tournament in the Bahamas. Since I was the local NYC guy, we decided to get together for an evening out a day or two before the game. (As a side note, Adam was featured in the Syracuse paper this past Thanksgiving morning in an article about his travels. I have a small cameo appearance: [https://www.syracuse.com/orangesports/2018/11/from_alaska_to_nyc_for_3_losses_lunch_with_a_boeheim_and_an_epic_weekend.html .])
New Friends in New York City
The place that immediately jumped to mind for the out-of-town visitors was the picturesque Empire Rooftop directly across from Lincoln Center. The general manager of its restaurant group and I were well-acquainted through my good friend Andrew, the aforementioned Syracuse-fan convert. We had a fantastic time! There were about ten of us, including myself, Adam and his girlfriend, as well as others from Alaska. I also met Marjorie and Mark from Syracuse for the first time and we have become closer and closer friends.
Many more games have been attended and my wife and I continue to meet great Syracuse Orange fans: Eric from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, who has run twenty-eight consecutive New York City Marathons. Steve, an educator who shares similar opinions as me on Twitter. Bridget and Todd, who travel to games from Austin, Texas. Bridget is famously injury-prone and showed up one snowy night with a temporary leg boot after twisting something or another. Todd is cool and calm and always lands great seats! Last year, the duo amazed me by booking a flight to NYC less than twenty-four hours before a game, even though there was an impending blizzard.
A New Phase
I was in a bit of a funk this past year and decided that attending more games would be a great pick-me-up. It has worked. Looking forward to seeing my Syracuse friends has provided a jolt to my spirits when needed. With Mark and Marjorie’s encouragement, Syracuse Orange football season tickets were purchased for this upcoming September. A few vacation days have been set aside for spur-of-the-moment trips. Many of us keep in touch on various social media platforms and we root for Syracuse even when they struggle. Our Team is not just about the athletes or the history. It is about a continuously growing group of wonderful people, enjoying each other’s company, and escaping the daily grind.
It is understandable why the World’s Best School Crossing Guard is so intense and focused on keeping everyone safe at her intersection. Regardless of the ups and downs of every day life, she is a sports fan, and she knows that she will always have HER Team!
I can relate. Can you?
In My Unexpected Life: Travel, Food, and More, I will share stories, thoughts, and simple ideas to entertain and maybe even inspire others to engage with new food, travel, and more…no matter how big or small those experiences may be.
Even if my writings do not produce the desired result—please enjoy the blog!