At halftime of Saturday's game, Boston College led Maryland 10-0. Sitting in the student section, my roommate joked that we should all storm the field if BC held on for the victory. It would probably be the last one we’d see before graduation.
I laughingly agreed until the full implication of what he said sunk in. The odds say that the team won't win another home game this season. And to a senior trying to milk every moment left in his college career, this matters. A lot.
You know how people measure their lives not by their daily routines, but by individual, memorable events? A marriage, the birth of a child, whatever. That’s how it is for many of us here (at least the sports-obsessed ones like me) with the football team.
Our freshman year kicked off with a beat-down of Northeastern (welcome to BC!), featured a miracle overtime fumble recovery on Parents’ Weekend and climaxed with Montel Harris having one of the greatest games of all time.
Sophomore year started with Mark Herzlich’s incredible return, nosedived with our quarterback lining up behind the wrong lineman on the first play of the year, saw us embarrassed us on national TV against our biggest rival, turned around on Montel’s birthday and finished with Thomas Claiborne conducting the marching band as we partied in the stands after a come-from-behind victory on Senior Day.
Junior year was messy – the missed field goal against Duke, the Thursday night massacre versus Florida State – but there were bright spots, too, including our soft-spoken superstar Luke Kuechly ending his incredible career with a pick-six in the last game of the season. His Carolina jersey has replaced the Matt Ryan Falcons jersey in Alumni. He may be a Panther now, but he will always be an Eagle.
Senior year, however, has sunk lower than where we ever imagined rock bottom could be. Prior to Saturday’s win, watching this team play was physically painful. It wasn’t just that we were getting demolished. It was that watching lackluster performance after lackluster performance by a team led by a coach who seemingly checked out weeks ago spat right in the face of everything that BC football stands for.
When you’re a freshman at BC, especially a freshman guy, you might feel a bit unwelcome on Lower Campus during the weekend. That stigma disappears on Game Day. Even if that stranger you high-fived after Johnathan Coleman’s touchdown doesn’t necessarily want you crashing his Mod later that night, in that moment, your age, your year of graduation and the size of your alcohol stash doesn’t matter.
Wearing that yellow SuperFan shirt isn’t just about supporting the team. It’s about coming together to celebrate our university, the sense of community to which we all contribute while we’re here and after we’re gone, the bond that separates Boston College from schools whose students graduate, leave and never go back.
Just look at the alumni tailgating before and after the game. Not only are they reuniting with their old friends, they’re bringing along their husbands, wives and children. Those early memories that serve as the foundation of a relationship between parent and child are made here six Saturdays every year. And in a few years, after we’ve lost contact with some of our roommates and completely forgotten what our class ranks were, many of us will be back here forming those same memories with our own families.
The reason that many of us have been so vehement in calling for Frank Spaziani’s termination (myself as much as anyone), is that his failure to win games is undermining the core of this experience. You can’t celebrate the school while some no-name program is slapping it around.
And so, until Saturday, watching BC football had become a distorted experience – instead of rooting for and expecting the team to succeed, we simply hate-watched every game, every miscue and mistake providing the opportunity for us to vent our anger and our frustrations (check the #FireSpaz hashtag on Twitter if you're not convinced).
Saturday was different, though. Yes, Maryland started a fourth-string QB, and yes, this game would have been a rout only a few years ago. Still, to see the players on the field encouraging the student section to get loud before a big third down play, and for the students to feel like the play actually mattered was a glorious blast from the past.
The game-winning drive had Chase Rettig looking, dare I say, Matt Ryan-esque, and Johnathan Coleman’s touchdown was easily the highlight of the entire season. That indescribable, incomparable feeling of celebrating a close victory with a bunch of yellow-clad strangers, who aren’t really strangers in the moment, was something every senior needed to experience one more time before L.A.G. (Life After Graduation).
In fact, it also injected a shot of optimism into the rest of the season. BC probably won’t make a bowl this year, but that doesn’t mean the remaining games mean nothing. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are currently undefeated, ranked one of the top five teams in the country. Twice before, in 1993 and in 2002, BC took on a top-five Notre Dame team. Both times, BC emerged victorious. I’m not saying that BC knocking off an undefeated Notre Dame is likely. I’m just saying it’s possible. And if it does?
Maybe we’ll finally storm the field.