Spring, Featured Column, Column

Finding Small Victories Hidden Underneath Disappointment

By now, the story has been told again and again: The 2014-15 year for Boston College Athletics has been weird, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and dismal. Everyone has heard about the Beanpot losses and other trophies that fell through the Eagles’ hands, the futile efforts of our basketball teams, and other shortcomings. At this point, that wide right kick in the Pinstripe Bowl has cemented its place firmly in BC folklore.

I would know, I’ve written about a lot of it. From football falling short against Clemson to the countless hard-fought basketball games and then to the ultimate realization of mediocrity in January, conveniently accompanied by winter and all its hellish fury, the year has been a whirlwind.

For all the rage of the storm that battered Chestnut Hill, Mass. this past year, I still experienced some of the forgotten fruits of BC’s labor—the smallest apples that fell from the tree but got lost amid the failures of this year’s harvest. Everyone remembers the football team rallying around the red bandanas on a rainy September night to upset USC, but there are smaller wins that should be next to that on the podium. These tiny moments, long since dropped from memory, provide meaning in an otherwise bleak world. Without them, why not just cancel everything if it all ends up coming to nothing?

The letdown (I’m quickly running out of synonyms for disappointment) is an overwhelming feeling. Every loss is a dark cloud that falls violently from above and encircles everything. But every win is a moment of clarity. While the failures feel like a blur, the small victories are a crystal clear atmosphere in my mind—reminders that it is not all for naught.

Over the past year, I have experienced two of these moments, and they need to be revived from the depths of the abyss.

October 3rd, 2014: Men’s Soccer at No. 1 Notre Dame

Friday nights on a college campus do not mean soccer games streamed from your phone, but that’s what I found myself engrossed in as BC got some airtime from the worldwide leader in sports. After sitting through an entertaining 3-2 home loss to Clemson two weeks before, I had gotten my first taste of what was to come out of BC athletics this year—that so-close-yet-so-far feeling. I was thirsty for more and looking to get over the hump, so I set up ESPN3 on my laptop in a friend’s double, with no expectation other than the possibility of a goal-filled game.

I ended up getting the exact opposite of that, but that didn’t matter after the Eagles upset the best team in the country, 1-0, in South Bend, Ind. I watched Ike Normensinu steal a horrendous back pass from the Irish defender and slot home the only goal of the game after 15 minutes. I then watched the Eagles hold on as the far superior Fighting Irish bombarded Alex Kapp with 19 total shots. As my friends forced me out to White Mountain for ice cream and I transitioned to the stop-and-go stream on my iPhone, I held on to hope.

In a symbolic moment, I was passing Gasson as a Notre Dame attacker sent a low, fizzing shot past Kapp and off the post with 16 minutes left. My imagination tells me it was the magic of those “towers on the Heights” that pushed the ball a few inches wide of finding the back of the net.

The recipe for disappointment was all laid out: the early lead—however lucky it was—looked like it would slip away under a dominant opponent, but the Eagles prevailed heroically, and BC was spared one heartbreak.

December 5th, 2014: Men’s Basketball vs. Providence

Because the game was in December, well before the grueling two-plus months of the ACC schedule, few remember the Eagles’ win over the Friars. Sitting in press row next to my partner in crime, Alec Greaney, I took in the atmosphere of Conte Forum during a regular season game for the first time. It was electric, or rather, as electric as Conte Forum can get. Providence brought a big fan base in the upper bleacher seats, but the BC fans brought a presence of their own rivalled only by the crowd at the home game versus Virginia. Before the lethargy set in for the season, fans were excited for what Jim Christian and Oliver Hanlan could do, even if some of them were only there for the free T-shirts.

The duo didn’t disappoint. Hanlan, who finished with 24 points, looked like he was going to score 50 points. The freshness of an early season game was evident, as the whole team came out hard and never let up, which they were prone to do at the tail end of the year. Left in awe, it took me a while for my brain to get back on track and analyze what had just unfolded in front of me—the ultimate compliment for a sports team in a business that needs entertaining games to draw in fans.

But because that was the third home game of the season, it has slipped out of sight and out of mind, but it shouldn’t have. Providence was ranked at times during the season, has first round NBA talent in Kris Dunn, and received a six seed in the tournament after losing in the Big East finals to Villanova. All of that means BC’s win was no small feat.

And if they hadn’t followed up that win with games against lowly Maine and Binghamton, that victory could have given the Eagles some serious momentum needed to swing a bunch of early season losses to wins and get them closer to the NIT.

What these two games have in common is that they represent incredible accomplishments that have been thrown to the bottom of the pile of heaping, stinking disappointment.

There are more, too. Men’s hockey beat Boston University in January, but fans only remember the heartbreak of losing a thrilling game at home in November. Women’s basketball beat Duke, but that upset was overshadowed by team suspensions. The list goes on.

For these games, the Eagles provided a glimpse of a resolute stance in the overwhelming face of competition, and for that, the whole of campus should keep those at the forefront of its memory box. Whether or not you were watching on your phone via shoddy wifi or sitting in the arena, relive the small victories. Sit back, take a trip down memory lane, pick the positives out of a large negative, and enjoy yourself in the upcoming summer months, because that’s what I’m doing. What else would sports be about if you couldn’t do that?


Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Height Graphic

April 27, 2015