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Scenes from Syracuse University’s Final Four fan buses: Day 1

Published on April 1, 2016 at 5:04 pm Contact Sam: [email protected] | @Sam4TR Facebook Twitter Google+ WHITE HOUSE, Tenn.—David Gutic wasn’t paying attention to the more than 160 students behind him, most dressed in orange. He joked about fearing orange because to him, an 18-year veteran of Yankee Trails bussing, it means construction and delays.The Syracuse University students from the three-bus caravan are stood in a spacious empty parking lot outside a Wal-Mart. Baton twirler and bus one rider Meghan Sinisi led them in a chant of, “Let’s go Orange!”Gutic, a gray-haired Croatian who fled his country in 1992 after war erupted, just wanted to enjoy his smoke break.The students stopped cheering and walked to one of the six restaurants nearby. The most popular choice was Zaxby’s, where the line of more than 50 students trailed out the door.“The bus ride really hasn’t been bad,” Bryce Clark, an information management and technology sophomore, said in Zaxby’s. “It doesn’t feel like it’s been (15 hours). And I had to go. To go with a bunch of other students to your school’s Final Four game? Once in a lifetime.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThat’s how many of the students on this trip feel. The free buses to Houston for Syracuse’s Final Four matchup on Saturday night, provided courtesy of the Student Association, were the reason that many people came. Many students said they couldn’t have afforded the trip otherwise. Three buses left around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday and a fourth bus, added late by SA, departed around 11 p.m.“I respect them a lot now for putting this together,” Lucian Earle, a junior civil engineering major, said of SA. “… And I totally underestimated this ride. First three hours were the toughest. I wasn’t organized, not the right setup. The anxiety pill helps.”Chase Guttman | Staff PhotographerEarle’s friend Steven Lisowski, also a civil engineering junior, agreed. The two are on bus one, meaning they showed up the earliest to Schine Student Center on Wednesday morning to get their bus tickets.Even students who didn’t arrive first were happy to be on the buses at all. Lenn Brown, a management sophomore, is a manager on the basketball team who wanted to travel to the game anyway. But when he received the email about the buses, he canceled his plane ticket that he said cost more than $1000 and got in line.“We don’t have working outlets (on the left side of the bus) and the WiFi is bad,” Brown said, “But YOLO. It’s worth it.”The faults of the bus did not escape many as it pulled away from Schine. The cheering had stopped, before the bus’ motor switched on, just after the TV camera had switched off its light and soon you could hear the grumbles.Some people had anticipated this and took steps to prepare. A girl in one row downloaded “close to $50” worth of movie and TV downloads. Two guys played the card game gin rummy. A group of sorority sisters went to sleep on their Otto the Orange pillow pets. Four fraternity brothers had come prepared with multiple boxes of Franzia wine.The more they drank, the louder their conversations of conquest became. They found excuses to shout out “Four!” and “Final Four!” whenever they could.It took 25 minutes to drain the bag. Then they produced a speaker, blasting old school Kanye West and the newest album from Kendrick Lamar, who is performing at the Final Four Fan Fest. The frat leader yelled along with most of the songs and asked everyone for requests. His sentences always ended with “Bro!”No one seemed to mind the music, with parts of the bus even singing along to “Blood on the Leaves” by Kanye West, and other songs. The sorority girls laughed, put in headphones and went back to sleep.Around Buffalo, the first stop, the frat leader yelled out, “Only 21 hours left!”A voice from the dark: “What’s 21 minus one divided by five?”Silence.“Wha-?” a girl began.“Four!” the voice yelled. “Final Four!”The fraternity brothers, suddenly catching on, belted out a raucous but slightly confused chant: “Final Four! Final Four! Final Four!” that lasted for 30 seconds.After Buffalo, darkness melted away anything distinguishable outside and the bus sped across a small swath of Pennsylvania, across Ohio and students woke up to the flat, rural landscape of backwoods Kentucky. By the time the bus stopped in Tennessee at noon central time on Friday, most students hadn’t had a real meal in 17 hours.Chase Guttman | Staff PhotographerAnd then Zaxby’s was over. The students walked single-file back on to the bus. Gutic took a long last drag and clapped his friend, bus two’s driver, on his back.Gutic then crushed the cigarette beneath his foot, stretched his arms and climbed back on the bus. Comments

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