COLUMN: Seventh-Wheeling It, On The Field And Around Boston
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 01:10
When it comes to going out with friends, nobody enjoys being the third wheel.
Now imagine what it would feel like to be the seventh.
I’m not talking about that person who flies solo to a party with three other couples (but really, bless his or her perseverant soul). Rather, I’m referring to Boston College Athletics finding a maintainable market in a city with six professional sports franchises.
If that doesn’t sound daunting, then add in the caveat that you’re the college competing for attention with teams that have combined for countless playoff appearances and eight championship trophies in the 21st century. Still wondering who you are?
It’s easy to attribute empty seats in Alumni Stadium on game day to BC football’s second-banana status in the greater Boston Area—despite being one of the only FBS team in New England. Just sit along press row at a Saturday gameday on the Heights and you’ll hear writers talking about the Red Sox playoff run, the upcoming Pats game, or the Celtics’ latest preseason matchup.
Yes, I said preseason matchup.
The argument isn’t only made for the gridiron. After all, BC basketball has the task of trying to make noise in one of the country’s toughest conferences. Then how can the Eagles keep pace with a Celtic squad that has tallied 17 NBA titles? And as good as head coach Jerry York’s squad has been for the past two decades, could it ever fill TD Garden like the Bruins do every home game?
In other words, “How can BC overcome being in a pro-sports town?”
This is the question that athletic director Brad Bates responded to in Tuesday’s edition of “From the Desk of the AD” on BCEagles.com.
He doesn’t use BC’s seventh-wheel status as an excuse for being slighted by media coverage, or an impediment standing in the way of the Eagles’ notoriety. Rather, Bates frames it as an honor in a blunt question to fans.
“Why would we want to overcome something that distinguishes us?”
Being a Jets fan, I’d love the excuse to blame Bill Belichick for stealing attention away from my school’s football program. And it’s enticing to imagine how much bigger a deal BC sports would be if its campus were situated in the sticks somewhere (yeah Notre Dame, I’m looking at you) instead of right outside a major city.
But I still stand with Bates.
The BC athletic director is understandably diplomatic in his positive spin. After all, what college athlete wouldn’t want to “share a common vision of excellence” with professionals?
As a typical junior in college whose greatest athletic achievements have come in backyard wiffle ball games, I may not be the most qualified when it comes to interpreting a Division I AD’s words or give advice to college athletes, but I’m going to do it anyway.
If you want to make a name in a city that’s crowded with professional teams, then win.
There’ll always be the diehards in gold Superfan t-shirts who keep the faith through 2-10 seasons and heart-breaking losses, regardless of the sport. But those dedicated individuals are few and far between.
Filling the empty seats and generating the absent energy means winning over the crowd that’s chased away by losing. It means delivering in front of a national audience that doesn’t have the stomach for games decided by a last-second foul shot. I know it sounds shallow, but it’s true.
And the Eagles can fight their way into the conversation by winning.
Take a look inside of Alumni Stadium during the 2007 season, when Matt Ryan’s BC squad reached the program’s pinnacle with a 7-0 start and a No. 2 national ranking. See a lot of empty seats? Didn’t think so.
Don’t get me wrong—the fan who expects every season to result in a national title is delusional, and every collegiate powerhouse goes through ups and downs at some point. Yet when winnable games are won and those last-second shots rim in instead of out, it won’t matter how many Tom Bradys and Big Papis run this city.
BC will have its place at the table, and will remain there for all to see.