Op-Ed: Time To Burn Down The Fraternity

Syracuse University and its bastion of....education?

In 1994, I was a member of a fraternity at Syracuse University.

It was one of the more popular fraternities on campus. If I could send a text message back to my college self, I would probably suggest not check-marking “popularity” as a top criteria for choosing essentially your friends and lifestyle at college.

My time as a “frat guy” existed all of two semesters of living in “the house” (as I would imagine most frat guys refer to their beer-soaked-covered-splashed-with-bleach domain that they inhabited more than could really call a home).

It was a unique time for our fraternity because there was a stated goal to bring good guys into the house. Many of the older guys in the house were either freeloaders, drug users (or petty traffickers), or just downright not nice people.

I was 19, I was impressionable and–while it’s true that many of the aforementioned attributes of senior guys in “the house” were concealed upon first review–I probably would have selected the house anyway. It was, in fact, not my first choice, but as impressionable youth goes many of my friends were taking this route so I took it to.

For one year, I lived in this house and beyond all the poor traits and poor grades that were accumulated, perhaps the worse part about it was I took a year off from defining my person, my voice. Devoid of proper role models and a culture of learning–as many college freshmen, sophomores find–thank goodness I had a scholarship so my parents didn’t foot the bill of precisely….what was I doing?

This is not denigration of fraternities mind you. Mine just didn’t even have a smidge of the civic, charitable or aspirational goals that many of the better ones have; just wasn’t one of them.

In my sophomore year at school, my best education came in subjects like NBA Live, late night trysts, curing hangovers and “how to manage to get to class late though you knew you had two hours to get there.”

There was an incident involving a friend getting shot with a bb gun in the ear that resulted in a full-on house-vs.-house melee and the ultimate final event of livestock being released in the house as a prank. This was not higher education; it was high (pathetic or naive) comedy.

That last incident drew the attention of both the local firehouse–there is still a picture floating around of a pig being removed from the house by a fully-clad fireman–and the school board and our nice little den of inequities was now homeless; kicked off campus.

Probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Thankfully.

The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse

While I still had my friends, now with more personal space and a found rejection for the past culture, with teachers who provided the direction–Professor Bob Lissit bless your heart–I started to discover that getting funded to learn and take advantage of a vast amount of resources all within walking distance was better–mostly better–than Bloody Mary’s and breakfast at noon.

The next two college semesters–split out over two years because of two internships at ABC News–allowed me to thrive and understand who I wanted to be. It didn’t happen over night and many bad habits had to be undone.

The right role models, the understanding and satisfaction that comes with accomplishment is really the ultimate college experience.


Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream will likely both start this evening when the New York Red Bulls square off with Philadelphia Union needing a win to insure just a playoff spot–not homefield, not first in the East.

After Saturday’s game, Agudelo issued this tweet–a seemingly innocuous tweet except for the fact that the Red Bulls had just lost a critical match on the road to Sporting KC.


For months, Tim Ream has been carrying himself poorly,  struggling to find himself after his confidence has been shattered by defensive mishaps this year for club and country.

Agudelo has just six goals on the campaign; Ream has probably given up about six goals through poor fundamentals.

Their role models: a red card-carrying Thierry Henry who avoided early season cross-country road trips and MLS 2011 Chief Pariah Rafa Marquez–who Ream once spoke quite highly of in a blog for a media outlet. Ouch.

For the sake of club, league and country, but most importantly Agudelo and Ream–win or lose this evening–they need to burn that fraternity house down in New York in a hurry.

More on TSG:

Mike Petke: Heartfelt on Tim Ream

14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John on 2011/10/20 at 9:27 AM

    Rafa Marquez is your captain tonight. Way to send a message there Backe.


  2. Posted by dth on 2011/10/20 at 9:48 AM

    Agudelo’s development has not been as quick as we’d like, and I think the coaching/mentors have likely got a big role. Some people have complained about minutes, but it’s certainly not that–he’s gotten more PT between MLS and USMNT than Brek Shea did last year, for example.

    I wonder if the trouble is partially system-based too: both Agudelo and Henry want to be in the same spots.

    Too bad Backe’s back next year…by the way, did we ever figure out how Backe went from being a really good coach last year to bumbling this year? No one has answered this convincingly.


  3. Posted by crow on 2011/10/20 at 10:55 AM

    Excellent post. Excellent analogy.

    I love seeing the Red Bulls in trouble but as a USMNT fan I worry about Agudelo and Ream.

    A good post to promote some self-examination as well.


  4. Posted by kaya on 2011/10/20 at 11:05 AM

    I don’t know enough about the reasons behind the NYRB poor season to be asking this, but do you really think it’s a frat house mentality that’s gone off the rails? I’ve always assumed Backe just lost it after losing to San Jose in last year’s playoffs and hasn’t recovered.
    I’m willing to believe that Rafa is the druggie in the frat house, but not Titi (in my book, there’s a difference between nasty after the game and doing stupid stuff on the field.)
    In any case, I like the comparison and insight.


  5. Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/10/20 at 2:54 PM

    Wow that Petke intvw was pretty over the top in praising Ream and his performance backed it up last yr. Now each one of those natural fluid attributes seems to have, not deserted-too strong, but failed him in almost every way this yr.

    Is it Rafa-itis maybe? Having someone next to you who has zero confidence in you can be very unsettling and destabilizing. But to look like he’s forgotten how to mark in open play with no other decisions to make other than stay goal side of your man?
    Truly mysterious and unsettling. Hopefully Rafa moves on next yr and Tim get an opportunity to stretch his wings again. He just can’t have forgotten how to play something else has to be amiss…


  6. Posted by 4now on 2011/10/21 at 3:48 AM

    Classic TSG piece. Well done.


  7. Posted by Idaho Vandal on 2011/10/21 at 11:55 AM

    Interesting analogy. Who you choose to associate yourself with is a big deal. I will add my fraternity experience to the fold, albeit the complete opposite of yours. We had our crazy times, and family spats, but at the end of the day honor, integrity, teamwork and loyalty were always the foundation. I still consider those guys my brothers to this day. Sadly, the house was closed recently by the national fraternity due to a lot of the things you mentioned in your experience. The guys in the house are what matters, for better or worse.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: