Sports, Men's Hockey, Column

Boston College Deserves A Place Among Beantown’s Best

The chill of Conte Forum on a hockey night pervades the air, while a bigger chill runs down my spine.

It’s a Tuesday night, and Boston College is about to take on Harvard for a game Superfans choose to forget. The ebbs and flows of the pre-game routine—students filing in, hot dogs being made, and “Fiddle Kid” tuning his violin—goes on around me, but I’m in a different world.

Standing in the entranceway to the seats, my head transfixes on the big screen. A YouTube video, aptly called “Titletown,” plays on the screen, and emotions course through my body.

As a New Englander through and through, it was easy to get caught up in the sights that flashed across the screen. The individual moments of pure ecstasy all morph into one, long explosion of emotion that overwhelms me.

I’ll just come out and say it. I’m spoiled.

I can distinctly remember all eight trophies that the big four Boston sports teams—Patriots, Bruins, Red Sox, and Celtics—lifted during my lifetime, all of them coming this century. I’ve agonizingly witnessed four trips that those teams have made to the championship series or game and lost.

And that doesn’t even include the New England Revolution, the unfortunate second-cousin once-removed that no one wants to sit with at the Big Four Thanksgiving dinner table, who has made a whopping five unsuccessful trips to the MLS finals in the last 12 years.

So I watch with extreme joy as Adam Vinatieri is mobbed by teammates, as Keith Foulke flips to Mientkiewicz for the final out, as Zdeno Chara hoists the Stanley Cup, as Pierce and Garnett watch banner number 17 rise to the ceiling of the Garden, and as Koji Uehara points a finger to the sky in the pure elation as David Ross lifts him up.

Suddenly, I’m reliving memories and past glories. I’m back in my neighbor’s house for a Super Bowl party, watching Brady hit David Patten in the corner of the endzone, or I’m sitting in my living room with my dad last fall watching Koji pitch a perfect ninth inning.

A shake of the head brings me back into the present moment. And I begin to think: does BC Athletics belong in this “Titletown” video?

Looking at the size of the trophy cabinet, the answer is no, with the obvious exception of men’s hockey. Of the 12 national champions on BC’s resume, five have come from hockey, and six have come from sailing. The last comes from football, but the NCAA doesn’t even recognize that team’s claim to the 1940 National Championship.

So let’s put aside hockey for a while, although it should be mentioned that they have also looked extraordinarily average this season. We can put aside sailing as well, until the inevitable day when the sport is the only thing left to do after global warming floods the earth.

So what does BC have?

As I continue thinking, I realize that maybe BC does belong in this video. The only thing that makes me think otherwise is that its called “Titletown.” This title highlights everything that is wrong with the culture of fandom.

The phrase, “bandwagon fan,” is thrown out every day in the sports world. People want trophies, and nothing short of an ultimate victory will please them.

Especially at BC, if the teams aren’t winning, the broad student population has trouble getting behind them. Outside the campus, BC sports are not widely popular in Massachusetts and the name means less still in a national arena. The reason for this is simple: too much dust in the trophy case.

Yet BC still has a rightful spot in the video.

The video of BC football’s defining moment—Doug Flutie hurling a desperation ball downfield, the ball falling into Gerard Phelan’s hands, and Flutie jumping in the air—deserves a spot next to Brady and the Patriots.

Flutie and Brady were the small, overlooked quarterbacks who got their chance and shined, en route to a Heisman and a Lombardi Trophy, respectively. Brady put his hands to his face in a boyish expression of shock and happiness after winning his first, while Flutie jumped up and down like a kid on Christmas.

In both cases, the underdog came through.

Later, shots of David Gordon raising his arms in the air as he split the uprights to take down Notre Dame mirrors Adam Vinatieri nailing one of his two Super Bowl-clinching field goals.

While the difference is that Brady and Vinatieri got the trophy in the end and BC only had singular moments throughout their seasons, the character behind the two teams is the same.

Fans remember the individuals that played in Boston more than the titles they won. Larry Bird walked into the locker room before the 3-point contest and asked, “Which one of you guys is going to finish second?” And in response to the Marathon bombings, David Ortiz proudly exclaimed, “This is our f—ing city.” The list goes on and on.

Add to that list the fiery Steve Addazio, the witty Jim Christian, and classy Jerry York, and you know why BC belongs in this city.

Yes, I’m spoiled, but I also remember the darker times of Boston sports.

(I use dark as a relative term because I know what’s it like to be a Philly or New York sports fan.)

I’m talking about the time when Aaron Boone and the Yankees consistently ended any dreams of reversing the curse. I’m talking about the times when Paul Pierce was the sole bright spot on the C’s and Antoine Walker gambled his talent away.

It’s hard to believe, but there are times in my life when all my sports teams were bad.

Then, all of a sudden, a sixth-round draft pick led his team to three Super Bowls in four years. Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, Big Papi’s bat, and Schilling’s bloody sock rallied “The Idiots” to a miraculous comeback and a first World Series victory in 86 years. Then Celtics GM Danny Ainge pulled off a heist to collect the “Big Three” and win a championship. The Bruins followed suit and the rest is history. Who’s to say BC can’t make this turn around?

Here at Chestnut Hill—with men’s hockey looking shockingly mortal this season—it’s fair to say we are in a low point that many Boston teams have experienced. Too many programs, men’s basketball above all, are in a rebuilding phase. While football is shining in some big moments, they are just falling short against other powerhouses and losing to lesser teams.

I’ve learned that struggling is a necessary part of being a fan. Without the struggle, I would not be so struck with awe and emotion at the “Titletown” video.

Boston’s rich history of sports, from the Auerbach’s cigar and Fisk waving it fair to Orr’s cup-winning goal and the “Tuck Rule,” throws BC into the deepest shadows of the Prudential.

As we struggle through the losses to Colorado State, or losing season after losing season, we should be reminded that the characters and personalities are what make these BC teams special.

That is the reason why Boston College sports matter, even in the city known as “Titletown.”

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

December 11, 2014

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