A Symbolic, Storybook Win for BC

I’m still trying to find the right words to describe what happened on Saturday because headlines don’t justify it.

Boston College shocks USC.

Boston College sacks No. 9 USC.

I’m reading these headlines and seeing the trends on social media. Something’s missing.

The clock hit 0:00. The field goal posts went down and on stormed thousands of Superfans. Jumping over guardrails and onto the Alumni Stadium turf or into the arms of event staff, fans shared high-fives, hugs, kisses and ‘we did it!'s’. In the midst of storming the field with roommates in tow, alumni jumping in arms of fellow alumni and current undergraduates, chanting ‘For Boston’ and ‘We Are BC’, it still wasn’t clear what just happened.

Actually, it wasn’t clear how it happened. How did BC—unranked, coming off a defeat against ACC rival Pittsburgh—soundly defeat the ninth-best team in the country, the USC Trojans? How did the mighty Trojans fall to talons of the Eagles?

You can glance at the box score and say ‘BC outrushed USC, 452 yards to 20 yards.’ The Eagles flew by the Trojan’s defense. And on the other side of the ball, the Eagles stuck their talons right into the Trojan’s ground attack. You can say quarterback Tyler Murphy learned from his mistakes last week and executed the read option beautifully. But in a game with so much more at play than a football game, we need to take a step back from the game analysis and look outward.

Saturday’s storybook night began with a red bandana. It was Service Day at Alumni Stadium and the Eagles honored Welles Crowther ’99, who saved at least 12 people in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. He perished in the collapse of the South Tower, but his story has grown over the past 13 years. Thousands of red bandanas were handed to Superfans. Covered from head to toe, the Eagles wore red bandana patterns on their helmets, gloves and feet. Head coach Steve Addazio was wearing a sweatshirt with the same pattern on his shoulders and on the BC logo. And to top it all off, Allison and Jefferson Crowther, parents of Welles, were in attendance and received a loud standing ovation.

Photo courtesy of Boston College

Photo courtesy of Boston College

Welles Crowther played lacrosse at Boston College. While he was small in stature, he didn’t let his size get in the way of how he played. “He had to scrap and fight for everything,” said James Tremble, one of Welles’ lacrosse teammates. The Eagles carried Welles' spirit onto the field and the fans in attendance did the same. Fans waved red bandanas and wore them on their heads or on their arms. Instead of the phrase “EAGLES” painted on six Superfans, the word “WELLES” was on display on Saturday. The Eagles knew they weren't favored, but with the emotion of Welles on hand, they were going to scrap and fight. And entering halftime up 20-17, they did just that.

Then, halftime.

A message from Pete Frates, who played baseball for BC and is a victim of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), played on the jumbotron of Alumni Stadium. His immediate family thanked everyone in attendance for their continued support of Frates and the fight to strike out ALS. Mike Lupica, well-known sportswriter and BC alum, narrated an update on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, announcing that over 100 million dollars have been donated to the ALS Association. Members of the baseball team read a message from Frates to the fans. And then, the video ended. A live video of Pete Frates suddenly appeared on the screen and was greeted by another standing ovation from those in Alumni.

Then, the second half began. From three years of being at Alumni, I have never seen the kind of raw emotion exuding from every single Superfan at a football game like I did during that half. The thought of upsetting a top-ranked program seemed to bring back what many deemed the 'glory days' of BC football. When Murphy broke out for the final touchdown of the game, the stadium practically exploded in an uproar, an uproar I have never experienced in any game I attended in my life. People gathered on the stairs, high-fiving, yelling, embracing.

The clock hit 0:00. The field goal posts came down and fans stormed the field while Addazio stormed into his postgame conference.

“This Red Bandana game meant a lot, Addazio said. "Talked a lot about Welles, who he was and what it takes to be a BC man."

He told reporters how the team gave one of the game balls to the Crowther family. When asked about the game, Addazio reiterated Welles’ mantra.

“It was a team effort. You got to be able to hang in there and keep battling, keep fighting and we did that tonight.”

For Welles, there was no “I” in team. And from the 1st quarter to the end of the game, the Eagles scrapped and clawed their way to defeat the Trojans.

This article doesn’t mention any game analysis. There is no way to analyze exactly how BC beat USC. They ran the ball well, yes. They played great defense, yes. But you would be a fool to ignore the factors of Welles, Frates and the Superfans gathered in Alumni on Saturday. And these factors can’t be described. That’s what makes sports so beautiful. Emotional appeal can have such a huge impact.

Games like what occurred on Saturday are rare and often come once—if you’re lucky, twice— in a lifetime. They're what Hollywood lives for. ‘Football team inspired by heroic alums and aided by raucous crowd triumphs over the mighty USC Trojans.' It may not be a blockbuster hit, but for BC, for Welles, for Frates, you couldn’t have scripted Saturday’s game any better.

It’s not kosher for a sportswriter to talk about emotional value to a game. It can take away from the players and coaches. In an age where statistics are becoming the norm, it’s almost blasphemous. But take away the red bandanas. Take away Welles Crowther. Take away Pete Frates. Take away the over 40,000 people at Alumni Stadium. Imagine how different the game could’ve been without these factors. This doesn’t mean the team needed all this in order to win, but these emotions certainly helped fuel the Eagles to soar to victory.

Saturday night was special. It was unforgettable. Not only was the win in honor of Welles and spirited by emotion, it was a win the BC faithful have been waiting ages to see. BC football is no longer irrelevant.

We’re back, baby.

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