Syracuse, N.Y. — Jimmy Fallon played cheerleader. He played conductor. And, in front of good friend Tom Brady, he put together a pretty good audition tape at quarterback, too.
Fallon stole the show at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, providing the highlights that the basketball team did not in a 92-79 loss to North Carolina.
Despite the lackluster result and a home team that trailed throughout, Fallon’s visit consistently injected life into a crowd that will always remember Saturday’s shenanigans from the host of “The Tonight Show.”
Fallon was one of three celebrity guests of local businessman Adam Weitsman, joining football players Tom Brady and Julian Edelman sitting courtside off the left arm of Jim Boeheim, and he was the one that won the hearts of Syracuse fans and students.
The three men provided a huge capper on a season that included an array of celebrities sitting courtside with Weitsman. Weitsman said that he and Brady have connected through mutual friend Rob Gronkowski, as well as the fact that Brady was recently looking at apartments in the same building in New York City.
“I heard great things (about Weitsman) from a lot of guys,” Brady said. “Gronk is a friend of his. He’s a great guy.”
The connection led Brady to come to the Carrier Dome on Saturday, bringing good friends Edelman and Fallon with him. Together the group provided memorable moments in a forgettable home finale for the Orange.
“I was in New York,” Brady said. “I wanted to come up here and see all these student-athletes who work their butts off. I wanted to see a game in person. I haven’t done that in a long time.”
They arrived at Million Air Syracuse at 3:15 p.m., brought to Syracuse on Weitsman’s personal jet. They rushed to the Carrier Dome with the help of a two-car police escort, arriving at Jim Boeheim Court around 4.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim shook Brady’s hand before tip-off and spent a few moments chatting him before the second half began. They spoke to the team briefly afterward.
“It’s great,” Boeheim said. “I’m a huge Tom Brady fan. Always have been. I think he’s the best that ever did it. I’ve always admired the way he handles himself and who he is. Edelman, phenomenal football player. Two phenomenal football players. Jimmy Fallon has always been a Rak Christmas fan. I said to him when he sat down, No. 25? He knew right away. It was a great atmosphere. We just haven’t played as well as we need to at home.”
The group entered to a mix of cheers and boos, the latter of which almost certainly stemmed from the mastery Brady and Edelman have displayed over the Buffalo Bills, the local NFL team of choice. Brady is 31-3 against the Bills and has beaten Buffalo in nine consecutive games. For many of those games, Edelman has been his major target.
For a few moments on Saturday, that success turned the celebrity duo into a target of some good-natured boo-birds.
Brady was shown on the Jumbotron first to the crowd, receiving more boos than cheers.
“It’s Bills country,” Brady said, smiling, offering a few quick thoughts before quickly heading to the airport for a flight back out of town.
Next came Edelman, who was booed a little more quietly and offered a bemused look to the crowd for the negative response.
Last came Fallon, who held his name card up to the crowd, as if trying to distance himself from the previous two. The crowd of 29,312 roared and Fallon climbed up on his chair, urging them louder. It was the first of a handful of moments in which he’d have them eating out of his hands.
“Lot of people,” Brady said. “It’s pretty cool. The atmosphere is amazing.”
Moments later, members of the student section began shouting “Jimmy,” and Fallon raised his hands in celebration. They shouted “Tom,” and Brady pointed and waved. They shouted Julian, and Edelman gave no response and then laughed.
A few minutes later, Edelman would leave the floor and return shortly after wearing an orange John Wallace jersey, perhaps a peace offering to those in attendance.
Over the course of the season, many celebrity guests sitting courtside have taken time for photos with fans at halftime, but Saturday’s trio kept mostly to themselves, separated from the masses by press row barricade.
This time, security guards positioned themselves before fans got too close, urging anyone who paused near the men to keep it moving. A Carrier Dome employee brought them a tray of wraps to enjoy in the second half. If fans had been allowed to stop or if the trio tried to leave their seats during a break, it felt as if a crush of people would have surrounded them.
While a handful of big names have visited the building this year, the profile of Brady and Fallon tower over them all.
None of them seemed to enjoy the game quite as much as Fallon, his Syracuse support on full display.
He rocked forward on positive plays for the Orange. He fell back when UNC responded. He thrust his hands high in the air after Syracuse 3-pointers and spun his finger in the air after defensive stops, urging the Orange up the court.
Fallon, who grew up south of Albany in Saugerties, has expressed his public affection for the Orange repeatedly, wearing a Syracuse shirt in a promo for “ESPN GameDay.” Otto the Orange appeared on his show on Friday night. He frequently mentions how much he loves that former Syracuse star Rakeem Christmas wore No. 25 and his New York roots have frequently made their way into his acts.
In the second half, he stood up and high-fived the front row off fans as he sprinted across the floor and made his way to the front of the Sour Sitrus Society, climbing a ladder, strapping on ear protection and pretending to conduct the band. He urged the crowd louder. They happily obliged.
A Syracuse cheerleader shouted, “Oh my God. Is this real life?”
On his way back to his seat, Fallon paused his Department of Public Safety escort long enough to take photos with three fans.
With 8 minutes left in the game, he’d serve as a replacement candidate in a shooting contest, missing a pair of layups before making a basket and then a free throw. When he got to the 3-point line he fired away, missing the basket badly. He jokingly mixed badly off-target attempts and one-handed football heaves that cleared the backboard and soared into the student section behind the basket.
On a Saturday in which the basketball game turned out to be rather forgettable for Syracuse fans, Fallon delivered some moments to relish.
“That was his idea,” Brady said. “All his idea. He’s a great guy, great entertainer.”
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