No, I'm not talking about Brett Favre, Tony Dungy, or any boxer - I'm talking about retiring jerseys. There's a lot of talk about in Syracuse today about jersey retirement and the fact that Billy Owens may be the next guy to have his number plastered to the wall of the Carrier Dome. Axe thinks Billy is at the top of the list, but Gerry McNamara's number should be the next to be retired.
While Axe's reasoning on Gerry makes perfect sense, here is where I stand on the issue as a whole - ENOUGH. STOP IT. GIVE IT UP. Retiring jerseys is a gimmick the current athletic director likes to use to "honor the past" so he can conveniently ignore the fact that the present isn't going so well (more so in football, hoops will be fine in time). Look, I have no problem honoring some of the great players that have worn orange, but retiring a jersey in college sports is unnecessary and creates more debate than it does goodwill. These are college kids that wore the a particular piece of laundry for a maximum of 4 years, sometimes less.
The fact of the matter is that while some very, very good players have passed through town, other than Jim Brown and Dave Bing, we're not talking about retiring the numbers of sports immortals. Let's put this in perspective, the Yankees have retired 15 numbers, but that's appropriate since they've won 26 championships and had guys like Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio in pinstripes. Currently, Syracuse has retired 7 basketball jerseys and 3 football jerseys. At this rate, in a few years Gross will have passed Yankees and there won't be any room left on the Carrier Dome walls.
The other bone of contention I have with the practice is where do you draw the line? The Jim Boeheim era alone has produced a ton of very good, many times similar players. From Wendell Alexis to Hakim Warrick, there are guys who contributed in different ways in different eras. In looking at the Syracuse web site and a few others, I've seen people make the case to retire the jerseys of Etan Thomas, Dennis Duval, and Stevie Thompson to name a few. Now don't get me wrong, these guys were all GOOD PLAYERS, but come on man, there's no objective way to draw a line as to which jersey gets retired and which ones do not. What does that say to the players who will "just miss" getting their jerseys retired?
The University has done a nice job of honoring it's past players without retiring every other number they see. Go to any home basketball game and there's a good chance you'll see a former player or two being honored at halftime. Look at the contributions of guys like Carmelo Anthony and George Hicker, who have given millions to the new basketball practice facility. If they thought they weren't being properly recognized do you think they'd be ponying up that kind of cash? You can honor players without retiring the number of every guy who had a few good years.
Here's my by bit of advice, let's work a little harder at improving the product on the court and the field, because if you don't, 15 years from now we'll be debating whether we should retire the numbers of Flynn, Greene or Devendorf because others who had similar careers have their jerseys "immortalized forever." In football the only talk will be of retiring Rob Long's number, because punting will be the only thing anyone remembers from this era.