Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: 100 Things Syracuse Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die (2014)

By Scott Pitoniak

Triumph Books has come up with an idea in recent years that's pretty much fool-proof. Pick a team or university, select 100 aspects of the history and tradition involved, research, bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, and serve to a hungry fanbase.

The author, or cook if you prefer, of this particular version is Scott Pitoniak. He's well suited for the job, having written other books about Syracuse University athletics and covered many events there in his former job as a sports columnist for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. He has whipped up "100 Things Syracuse Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."

Stretching the cooking analogy a little further to close to the breaking point, the recipe has become more or less standard. Most of the 100 topics jump out rather quickly. It's just a matter of researching the obvious ones, and then adding a few obscure items that even the biggest of Syracuse diehards might not know. That's more challenging than you'd think.

As you'd expect, football and basketball dominate the proceedings here. Jim Boeheim, who has been on the campus essentially since the fall of 1962, gets the leadoff position as the first item in the book. He's followed by Jim Brown, football uniform number 44, Ben Schwartzwalder, the 2003 basketball team, Ernie Davis, the 1959 football team, Dave Bing, Floyd Little and the Carrier Dome fill out the top 10. As you can see, this is a flexible list in mixing players, coaches, teams, a building, and some laundry.

Other sports don't get overlooked, though. There are some lacrosse items, and some tributes to champions in some of the other sports. From there, Pitoniak jumps into such items as the team colors, mascots over the years, restaurants, and even a movie. You might argue about something else that deserves to make the top 100, but there are no obvious omissions. Some items overlap a bit, but it's not much of a problem.

The surprises might not be many to students of all things orange, but there are a few. Who knew that the man who designed the New York Yankees logo went to Syracuse? Or that actor/producer Sheldon Leonard was a member of Syracuse's swim team? The trip to Lockerbie, Scotland, by the lacrosse team after the plane explosion over that city is also relatively unknown. Several Syracuse students died in that terrorist act.

With 100 chapters, there's hardly time to become bored with any of the subjects. Yes, whole books have been written about some of the players and championship teams, but the goal here is to give quick looks at each subject. Pitoniak obviously knows what he's talking about, and he keeps things moving right along. There are a few sidebar stories, charts and photographs with some of the chapters that are useful.

Obviously, books like this don't carry much interest to non-fans of the particular team. In other words, you might have trouble finding this at the bookstores of Georgetown or Duke. But for those in upstate New York looking for a quick course on Syracuse University's athletic history, "100 Things Syracuse Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" should work very nicely.

Four stars

Learn more about this book.

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