I attended the B.C. vs. Wake Forest game this year and if that game was any indication, the game day experience has declined, if that’s possible. Being a Friday night game and on ESPN, I at least thought the students would come out in full force. Wrong! The stadium was half-empty and the fans that were there were not into the game. There was a total lack of genuine interest in the game and most of the support the fans gave was when they dutifully cheered when urged by the special effects scoreboard; which was totally out of time as well. So the new game experience consisted of a few courses of “Sweet Caroline” and “Shipping Up To Boston.” Even these songs are hand-me-downs from Boston’s favorite sports sons.
I felt cheated as I sat among the uninspired crowd! B.C. football represented the height of my life’s athletic achievement, as well as the achievements of every player that ever strapped on a B.C. helmet. It was insulting to witness this degradation of spirit. We lit a fire when we beat Texas A&M, and we built upon that fire when we knocked Texas out of the national championship in 1976.
Who put this fire out? What happened to all that passion? Girls texted, boys tried to pick up girls texting, and old alumni sat like corpses, motionless and subdued. I was surrounded by indifference. I felt abandoned and powerless like a discarded old trophy that collects dust in an attic.
The game was approaching the end of the first half and B.C. was in punt formation. There was a noticeable lull in the crowd; my football instincts sensed trouble. My seats were a few rows behind the B.C. bench and I stood up and yelled “watch out for the blocked punt.” Apparently, no one listened because Wake Forest broke through and blocked the punt. The ball was heading for the B.C. end-zone but it made a strange turn and spun around on the B.C. three yard line where Wake Forest recovered it. The B.C. sideline was stunned and they scrambled to get the defense on the field. The crowd looked up from their cell phones. This was a critical moment not only in this game but in the season. I had to do something. “Hell with it!” I stood up and at the top of my lungs yelled out “PUT A WALL UP!” I shook off the smug looks from a couple of snobs in front of me and yelled again. “PUT A WALL UP!” Apparently, my message resonated with some of the B.C. defense because they stopped Wake Forest on first down. Again I yelled out, and this time I was joined by a kid in the row in front of me. Again B.C. stopped Wake Forest cold. So I yelled even louder. “PUT A WALL UP!” This time more fans got the nerve to join me and again B.C. held at the one yard line. Fourth down, now the stadium was on its feet. B.C. held and ran into the locker room as the half ended.
So, where do we go from here? Where do we get the passionate fans so that we can create a game atmosphere that will motivate the players and attract top recruits? How do we turn the City of Boston into B.C. country?
Most sports fans watch college football for entertainment. For me, college football is much more. It reaffirms my belief in American values such as hard work, sacrifice, and teamwork. I love the underdog and I need to believe that if we try hard enough anything is possible. I need to believe that the size of a player’s heart, and not his muscles, is the true measure of his character. I need to believe that, unlike most things in life, money can’t buy a young man’s heart and soul. While a lot of college football teams are built on the almighty dollar, Boston College still holds firm to those good old American values.
When I see B.C. players putting their hearts and souls in an effort against a national powerhouse, I forget about all the wrongs in our society and I’m invigorated. When I think that these players do all this without the support of their own community, I am deeply saddened but at the same time overwhelmed with respect for them. B.C. has to scratch and claw for every inch it gets. As a B.C. fan, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I gladly trudge this road with them because when BC finally gets to the top of the hill, it will signal a triumph of the American spirit. I have faith that some special day all B.C.’s struggles will be rewarded like they were on that magical day when a last second David Gordon field goal twist and turned and somehow found its way over the cross bar to knock Notre Dame out of the national championship.
B.C. will get its chance to realize another magical moment this week when it plays Clemson in South Carolina. Clemson will march into the stadium of 96,000 worshipers like victorious Roman Legions entering the coliseum. Imagine how the B.C. players must feel witnessing this colossal display of loyalty? How do these seventeen and eighteen-year old kids withstand the weight of 96,000 enemies roaring at the top of their lungs? Where do these kids find the strength, courage and confidence to face this huge challenge?
That’s the beauty and mystery of Boston College football.