While most of Syracuse nation remains abuzz over the football team’s unexpected demolishing of West Virginia — and I remain in that state as well — I’m also still reveling in the afterglow of the most entertaining piece of Syracuse basketball writing I’ve come across in years. I’m referring to Ben Detrick’s hilarious, erudite, and eloquent piece in Grantland, delightfully entitled Why Syracuse Will Win the National Championship.
Notwithstanding Mike Waters’ exasperating and dumbfoundingly dismissive coverage of the article — for which I will not even deign to provide a hyperlink — Mr. Detrick’s entry onto the scene of Syracuse sports-writing is an extremely welcome development. I have no idea who he is or where he comes from, but the dude writes like David Foster Wallace, and he uses his powers to write about Syracuse.
So without further ado, here’s the ten most exquisitely formed sentences or sentence combos from his opening salvo; in other words the ten lines that killed me the most:
1) Regarding SU finally winning in 2003:
…And most important, the victory exorcised the phantoms that hung in the Upstate air like Scott Norwood’s errant field goal attempt. Not all of our hopes were destined to be smashed on the sidewalk or booted wide right. We were not, as it happily turned out, Cleveland.
2) On why the lineup looks good this year:
They are not reliant on a single transcendent talent slumming in his pre-NBA pit stop, nor the collective socialist efforts of a flock of unremarkable seniors. Instead, they are a model of interconnectivity.
3) On SU’s secret karma weapon:
Unlike Duke, Kentucky, or North Carolina, Syracuse lacks a repulsively privileged fan base, a sleazy coach, or a tiresome reputation as a cradle for virtuous manhood.
4) His entire explanation of Scoop Jardine:
He’s a player capable of creating a spark when the Orange’s offense slips into sodden stagnation, but he’s also an arsonist who can engulf the entire building in the hellfire of mayhem. An adequate 36 percent shooter from deep, Jardine nevertheless regards any successful trifecta as a sign from the basketball oracles that his moment as an omnipotent Sun God has arrived. He’ll squander the team’s next three possessions, hoisting up long-range prayers and committing acts so sinful that Boeheim will twitch like a Pentecostal snake-handler. Or maybe Jardine’s faith is rooted in cold, boring mathematics: He just understands that cranking out two misses gets him closer to another swish.
5) On Kris-Jo:
Now healthy, Joseph has an opportunity to join Drake and the Weeknd in a forthcoming think piece in “The Walrus” about three intrepid young men who are redefining Canadian urban identity on American soil.
6) On MCW:
The depth chart for guards and wing positions is fleshed out by an array of shooters and scorers, the most alluring of which is freshman Michael Carter-Williams, a lanky, baby-faced guard who devours passing lanes and regurgitates them as dunks in your grill piece.
7) A less-appreciated reason to be optimistic about Fab:
Also working to Melo’s advantage is his Brazilian heritage, which means that an oddly enchanting quirk will emerge in his game — like Leandro Barbosa’s duplicity, Anderson Varejao’s cartoonish hustle, or Nene’s glorious shit-eating grin.
8.) A helpful explanation as to why this year’s deep roster will be such an advantage:
Boeheim, by choice or necessity, has often resorted to using a shortened, seven-man rotation; this season’s team goes nine deep, with an arsenal of destructive tools to wage war on any type of army. They can carpet-bomb zone-playing opponents with outside shooting. They can trade bayonet thrusts with foes who choose trench combat. They have the mobility and speed to outflank insurgents hoping to cause havoc with full-court terrorism. If you are a follower of Duke, Kentucky, UConn, or Ohio State, you should hate their freedoms.
9) Regarding the Big East and all it stands for:
This season, the minds at Grantland have beckoned me aboard to cover the Big East with unapologetic bias and tearful romanticism. Together, we’ll unspool the frayed strings of Lou Carnesecca’s handsome sweaters and analyze Patrick Ewing’s blotted sweat stains like Rorschach tests. Without further introduction, I’ll begin rhapsodizing. More than any other conference, the Big East is associated with a specific orthodoxy. This style of play has the elegance of a hatchet fight on public transportation: suffocating defense, high-elbowed rebounding, maiming fouls. Distinctly blue-collar in spirit, Big East basketball is best discussed by fat men in rumpled suits who gnaw cigars and speak as if hiding golf balls in their mouths.
10) Outing the incongruity of the notorious blackness of Georgetown’s basketball team given the reality of the university they represent:
During the ’90s, Georgetown, an exclusive Catholic school, was so defined by coach John Thompson’s bruising teams — who won by equal parts attrition and intimidation — that it almost possessed the proto-militant cachet of a historically black university. They even had piping with African print on their uniforms, a cultural feint that could be countered only by giving Grambling State the logo of a mayonnaise jar jamming out to Hank Williams Jr.
There are more gems, plenty more in fact — including a couple of hilarious stories about being a non-Jew playing JCC ball and how it led to an encounter with Dolph Schayes, and a John Wallace anecdote worth the price of admission alone — but the ten above are the standouts, and I want to leave you something to chew on. It’s safe to say that whatever this guy Detrick has in store for us this season on Grantland, I’ll be devouring it.