Sit down and shut up was the line that started it all. Eighteen years ago—a time when much of the current freshman class was born—one of Boston College’s most widely known traditions began. The idea of the SuperFan came to life when juniors Jeff Bridge and Chris Millette decided that enough was enough.
Bridge and Millette had gone to many hockey games in their BC careers, but it was always the same experience. The year was 1997, the hockey team was on the rise, and Jerry York’s legendary career was taking off, but the games remained boring and lifeless. This was in no way the fault of the players; it was the disinterest that filled the stands (or didn't).
The pair would attend sporting events at other schools and see other fan sections; Bridge thought to himself, “Why can’t we be like that?” They had no plan; they just wanted to have a fan section that could compete. And after what Bridge recalls to be a relatively easy process, the SuperFan was born.
“A lot of it happened by accident and then by good fortune,” said Bridge. “It wasn’t a laid out plan.” They decided on the gold shirts and a design that would last, one that Bridge claims was meant to be ugly, and then reached out to the bookstore, UGBC, Reebok and the Athletic Offices with their idea. The BC Bookstore then subsidized the shirts and they were sold for cost (about $3) in the Dustbowl –now Stokes Hall, the quad and the amphitheater.
They began with 500 shirts, but quickly realized they were going to need far more than that. “We set up a table for SuperFan shirts. People bought about 10 of them at a time; we went through thousands of these shirts,” said Bridge, “they became literally like gold.”
Communicating what they hoped to accomplish “was not a layup at first,” Bridge recalls, since they had a limited amount of shirts to sell. Many students confused the SuperFan movement as an exclusive club, which was not the idea at all. That was when Bridge and Millette sent their open letter to the student body.
“It was such a momentous point because it went from the perception as a club to being inclusive of everyone,” noted Bridge of the letter’s release on October 5, 1998. It was due to that letter and the ‘Gold Rush Game,’ where BC Football was set to take on Virginia Tech that Thursday on ESPN, that sparked a movement.
They laid out the simple requirements: Go to a game, wear something gold, go crazy and have fun. Bridge and Millette just wanted to create an atmosphere that benefitted both the team and the fans. They clearly communicated their goals in the letter: “Think how intimidating it will be for other teams to come to Alumni Stadium or into Conte Forum and to see a sea of gold. Think about students screaming and yelling, helping BC and distracting the opponent. Think about those people watching ESPN and saying, ‘Wow, look at how crazy the fans are at BC’” (The Heights).
“Think about years from now when this becomes a tradition. It will be known all over —BC kids wear gold ... and go nuts,” they wrote to their fellow students in their open letter. But even Bridge and Millette did not realize the movement they had begun.
“It does totally blow my mind how big it has become,” said Bridge. “It’s really cool to be a small part of a BC tradition; there are a lot of people who had a hand in it to make it something really special.”
After that, everything seemed to fall into place for the SuperFans; they gained momentum and the tradition caught on quickly. A friend of Bridge and Millette’s—one of the many people who helped bolster the movement—came up with the idea for each grade to have their own slogan on the back. “I like how each grade makes it their own,” said Bridge. “That was one of the things that helped it take off.”
Once Bridge became an orientation leader, they thought about distributing shirts to the incoming freshmen and holding a pep rally to show them the true SuperFan spirit. From that summer on, the standards were set and the tradition was solidified, becoming ingrained within BC's culture.
Eighteen years later, the co-creator of one of BC’s most well known traditions currently lives in Tampa, FL, but tries to stay connected to his BC roots and the legacy that he and Millette left behind. He does his best to stream every game he can, whether it is football, hockey or basketball.
He also stays in touch with Coach York, who has been able to see the movement grow, even paying a visit to the team and speaking to them prior to their 2012 National Championship victory in Tampa. And he hopes to see them again when the Frozen Four returns to the Sunshine State this year.
As for the future of Boston College SuperFandom, Bridge has a few ideas up his sleeve; he shared his concept of painting the bleachers of the student sections yellow in order to make the area really pop. A SuperFan jersey, in the fashion that mirrors the retired jerseys already hanging up at alumni, would top the section to bring the SuperFan area together and allow it to stand out. But those are just mere suggestions that Bridge conjured up since he's left BC.
Behind the golden shirts, the tone-deaf students singing For Boston, the storming of the field following historic victories; outside of the athletic excitement of it all, it comes down to one common factor. Bridge puts it best: “If you go to BC, you get it.”
“The underlying principle here is that there are so many people that go here and love it; they light up when they hear the words Boston College. It’s such a special place. It’s probably the most special place there is.”
Follow @BCGavelSports on Twitter for the latest updates on Boston College athletics.