Syracuse Fans and Jerami Grant: The Bigger Picture
The interwebs are aglow with the activity of Syracuse fans debating each other over where on the happy/sad continuum they should be relative to Jerami Grant’s NBA career. On the one hand, a program’s fans should applaud all of its alums–even if they do not receive the sheepskin promptly or stay all four years. On the other hand, how can a fan base get attached to a player that stays two years and leaves before even hitting stride? This is not limited to Syracuse–this is a phenomenon throughout college basketball.
The Confidential has already described how it is struggles to care about the NBA. Sure, a truly snazzy news title will get some attention… much like something involving the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, Malaysian planes that disappear, etc. Everyone struggles to avoid looking at a trainwreck. But when Bill Simmons starts talking about mid-level exceptions and sign-and-trade, the conversation is lost. Not because of a lack of capacity to understand–a lack of caring to invest the effort into understanding. The NBA is on par with soccer right now… a lot of people seem to like it, but… meh. And, like a good American, someone telling me to use the metric system or watch the WNBA would be better served putting their time elsewhere. So it is with the NBA and soccer. Caring cannot be manufactured.
And so it is with these youngsters that borrow a jersey of our schools for a too-short period of time. It was fun watching players go from boys to men. Once afraid to take a semi-important shot, by the time they leave school, they want the ball in crunch time. It is a metaphor for much of life. Even the ones that have no chance at the NBA are worthy of our respect, having given so much that the only possible emotion on Senior Day is one involving tears.
The guys who leave early? How often do they shed tears for leaving behind memories? Rarely. Their decisions seem made by accountants, agents, lawyers, advisors, posses, and such. There is no emotion in the decision–it is business. So can it be at all surprising that fans do not feel AS attached to these one/two and dones as the upperclassmen? Not at all.
Returning to Jerami Grant… he discarded his remaining years at Syracuse to choose an NBA (perhaps) career. He was nowhere near ready to compete at that level, but was given information that it would be worth his while. He did not err to the side of caution in choosing to work on his game for one more year to see where it took him. Instead, he sold “high.” There is nothing wrong with selling high, of course. But it does acknowledge that one is “pulling one over” on the scouts, doesn’t it? In other words, better leave now before they figure out that my flaws are real. In a world where any B level star can get a reality TV show, we are used to seeing folks who add little to society rewarded. But seeing the NBA morph into reality TV is not a good thing. And for the folks that “sold high,” we are going to have trouble caring. It is what it is.
And if you really want folks to care–accomplish something. Carmelo Anthony brought a title to Syracuse. Donte Green brought an NIT loss. Is there any doubt who is more special? Michael Carter-Williams took Syracuse to an unexpected Final Four. Jerami Grant “led” Syracuse to an upset loss to Dayton. At the very least, a deep run in March is more games… more special games. Those count much more towards the fan attachment.
All Syracuse fans remember the tears of the Seniors over the past decades. As fans, the tears make sense. We would give up anything to have one year at Syracuse (on and off the court), much less four years. And we certainly know the pain of seeing a career end–even if it just one we watched, rather than be our own. When a player cries on Senior night, they share that pain and become family.
The guy that leaves early may or may not be family. If he is not, it is a two-way street. You cannot demand to be family. You have to earn it. At Syracuse and elsewhere.