A good way to support the Orange in the Final Four? Buy a T-shirt!
It’s a big week for sports fans around the region, as the Syracuse University men’s and women’s basketball teams are each headed to the Final Four this weekend. One of the ways fans like to show their support? Buying T-shirts.
The smell of ink and new T-shirts hung in the air Tuesday as Orange fans waited patiently to buy shirts in an empty Erie Boulevard storefront that’s turned into a T-shirt factory and pop-up store. Workers carried the newly branded shirts to tables where they were immediately snapped up while still warm. Holy Shirt, a Syracuse-area T-shirt provider, set up the pop-up store so fans can easily pick up the shirts to show their Orange pride.
“This is bedlam,” said Chris Groat, vice president of Holy Shirt. “This is more excitement for the team going to the Final Four than we’ve ever seen in the 25 years we’ve been doing this."
Groat thinks the excitement comes from the fact that both teams weren’t supposed to make it as far as they did.
“I think it’s just been a year that pundits have beat on us, and we feel like underdogs and we’re excited to be where we are,” said Groat.
The most popular shirt, says Groat, is called “Double Trouble” because it includes both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. And everyone was in a good mood, even though traffic was backed up, it was hard to find a place to park, and the line snaked outside into a stiff March wind.
“One of the things I like here is that we’re total strangers, we’re chatting,” said one Orange fan who asked not to be identified. ”We can be friends and we’re chatting. We’re not strangers who just happen to live within ten blocks of each other. We’re orange.”
The Orange men’s basketball team plays North Carolina in the national semifinal Saturday night. The scheduled start time is 8:49 p.m. Villanova and Oklahoma will play in the first semifinal, with the winners meeting for the national championship Monday night.
The women’s team will play in its semifinal Sunday night around 8:30 p.m. against the University of Washington. Connecticut and Oregon State play in the other semifinal.
The university will hold a pep rally for both teams Wednesday at Manley Field House on the SU campus. It is open to the public and doors open at noon.