Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pitarresi: Stay in your seat!

Friday night, the Utica College hockey team was trailing Hobart 6-4 in the third period.


The Pioneers had led 4-2 in the second, but the Statesmen scored three quick goals early in the third, then added another. 


However, with 1:57 to play, Hobart was penalized. UC coach Gary Heenan pulled goalie Anthony Luckow to give the Pioneers a two-man advantage with a faceoff in the offensive zone.


And, at that point, scores of fans were seen filing out of the stands and leaving the Utica Memorial Auditorium.




Yeah, it was unlikely that the Pioneers were going to tie the game, but not that unlikely. They get a goal going 6-on-4, and now it is a one-goal game, which means the issue is in doubt till the final horn. It didn’t happen, but it could have. You’ve seen it happen in hockey games more than once. I’ve seen teams score at the end of a period off a faceoff with under two seconds to play. Where were those people going?


I don’t understand that at all. It happens all the time at Syracuse University football games, and it happened even during the Orange’s win over Akron this year. You paid the money, you made a time commitment. Why would you take off, either with your team headed for a victory, no matter the opponent, or still having a chance for an upset win? You’ve got a hot date? Okay, maybe. Otherwise, even if you’re late for work, stay in your seat.


The classic example occurred in a 2002 football game at the Carrier Dome. SU, 3-6 at the time, and 8th-ranked Virginia Tech were tied at the end of regulation. On the first possession of overtime – it might have been the first play – SU’s Troy Nunes threw an interception. In an instant, thousands of “fans” began sprinting to the exits as if they were fleeing the Johnstown Flood.


I remember hollering down to people I knew from the open press box, “Where are you going?” They just shook their heads.


The problem was, the game went on for another half hour, with a couple of dozen plays and tons of excitement. And guess what? SU won, 50-42, a notable upset of a team that was regarded as one of the very best in the nation. The announced crowd of 48,239 was the largest of the season at the Dome. Not half of those people were there when the game ended. Too bad for them.


I’ve been going to games since I was four years old. I'm pretty sure I’ve ever left one early. I hope I never will.





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