Every year, my friends and I make the trek back up to upstate New York to catch a basketball game at our alma mater, Syracuse University. While the cast of characters changes from year to year, there are five of us who are always up for the trip, regardless of what's going on in our lives. And while the experience itself is "fun", I'd be lying if I said it wasn't also a tad depressing.
If you're an alum at a big-time sports school, you know what I'm talking about. Things are different when you go back - especially the first time. Sadly, many of my college friends actually avoid it, out of fear of nostalgia.
If you're thinking about heading back to your old stomping grounds to catch a game, here are the eight most depressing things you'll experience.
1. You have to actually buy tickets
No more student ticket package/discount. Nope, you've got to log onto ticketmaster.com like the rest of the world and fight for your seats. And if you've chosen a big game, like Georgetown, you'll be lucky if you succeed. Otherwise, it's off to StubHub to pay some ridiculous premium for your nosebleeds. Of course, you'll also want to sit together with your friends, so one of you has to bite the bullet and buy a block of eight and hope to be paid back in that same calendar year.
2. You can't pregame in your apartment or dorm room
This one hurts. One of the most fun aspects of attending a big game is having a few adult beverages (assuming you're 21) beforehand. My friends and I used to play hours of beer pong (I never said I was a role model) prior to each home game. Can't we just tailgate and do the same, you ask? If you've ever been to Syracuse in February, you know the answer. It is possible to find a bar before the game, but it'll be standing room only, if you can even get in.
3. You aren't sitting in the student section
Let's be honest - sitting in the student section is a ton of fun. There are songs, signs, and big heads. There are fans so crazy that they've painted their chests. The students don't sit down. It's one of the best parts of college sports.
Then, there are the rafters, where things are a bit different. People get mad if you stand. You can barely see the court. As you can see, I had a tough time catching the action at this past year's game.
4. You probably have to get a hotel
The first time you go back on campus and realize that you don't have a place to sleep, it's weird. For four years, you've always had a dorm room or apartment to crash at - it was your home. Now, you have to actively search for a place to stay overnight, and then pay for it. If you were in a fraternity/sorority or have friends who still attend the university, you might have this covered. But eventually that will end, unless you're some bizarre character who has tons of friends who are still in college regardless of your increasing age.
5. The turnover
In Syracuse, the main drag is named Marshall Street. The street itself and the surrounding area contains almost every bar, eatery and shop that the students frequent. And every year that we go up, there are so many changes to the lineup. Since I graduated in 2006, more than half of the establishments have either gone out of business or moved. Last trip, my girlfriend (who is two years younger than me) commented how she remembers when Augie's, a pizza place, was still on Marshall. Sadly, I remember when that same spot was Konrad's, a bar. Blah.
6. The look the bouncers give you
Bouncers are used to seeing 19-year-old students hand them fake IDs that show that they're 28. So when you're actually 28-years-old, they take a hard look at your license, which makes you start to second-guess yourself. You start having flashbacks about memorizing fictitious birthdays and addresses.
Then you start wondering what the heck you're doing trying to get into a bar that a bunch of underage kids are hanging out at. Then the bouncer looks at you with that "come on in, old man" face.
7. The students look...young
When you were in college, did you ever take a trip back to your high school to see teachers or old friends? If so, you probably noticed how young-looking all the kids were. Well, it's the same when you are in your mid-to-late 20s and you go back on campus. The students look young, and it makes you feel weird - not in a creepy way, but more of a "man, I'm getting up there" way.
8. It's just not the same
College is the best four years of your life. If you don't realize it during that time, you certainly will afterwards. And while going back for a game or a weekend is fun, it's just not the same. Your friends aren't all there. The place looks different. You feel old.
Personally, as a die-hard fan, I still think it's worth it to make the trip. But it's hard to argue that you can ever really replicate the college experience - even for one game.