The Holy War Reignites in Boston

Boston College vs. Notre Dame. The Holy War. What’s better than that?

Since they first played against each other at Foxboro Stadium in 1975, Boston College and Notre Dame have met for a total of 21 times. Notre Dame holds the edge in the Holy War series with a 13-9 overall record, including victories in the last four meetings between the two teams.

Saturday night’s highly anticipated matchup between the Eagles (3-7) and Fighting Irish (9-1) will take place at Fenway Park, marking the iconic ballpark’s first football game since 1968. While the game will take place only a few miles away from Alumni Stadium, the Eagles are not the home team. Instead, the outsiders, the Fighting Irish, will play host at Fenway.

You read that right—Saturday’s Holy War matchup is in Boston, and Notre Dame, not BC, is the home team.

With 11 national championships and seven Heisman Trophy winners, No. 5 ranked Notre Dame has a considerable edge over BC in terms of success and tradition. Indeed, few college football teams rival the Fighting Irish when it comes to overall brand recognition. After all, since 1991 Notre Dame has had a private deal with NBC Sports, making it the only college to have its own national television contract. With an estimated overall team value of $117 million, Forbes ranked Notre Dame the second most valuable college football team in 2014. The Fighting Irish certainly retain a notorious reputation in terms of overall brand and national prominence.

Consequently, since 2009 the Fighting Irish have played one off-site game each year as part of the “Shamrock Series.” The series has allowed Notre Dame to play home games at major market sports facilities across the country. Past locations have included Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis), Soldier Field (Chicago), and Yankee Stadium (New York). However, this year's Shamrock Series game presents an especially noteworthy matchup between two premier Catholic institutions in perhaps the most Catholic U.S. city—Boston.

There’s no secret that come Saturday the spotlight will be on Notre Dame. Accordingly, the entire weekend will feature a host of promotional events for Fighting Irish fans, including a Shamrock Series Fan Fest in Brookline and a 5k race through Boston Common.

Yet there’s something off-putting about seeing the words “Notre Dame” and “Fighting Irish” adorning the end zones of a stadium that is just a short Green Line ride away from BC’s campus. While the 2015 season has surely been marred by disappointment for BC, there’s a rare glimmer of excitement amongst the student body surrounding Saturday’s game. However, as BC is not the home team, only 5,000 of the roughly 38,000 seats have been allocated to Eagles fans. Instead, Notre Dame bears home-team priority, allowing Fighting Irish fans to pack Fenway in a sea of green and gold.

There’s certainly something frustrating about watching a rival opponent fly in for the weekend and assert its presence in our territory. However, it’s not as if Notre Dame is stealing the metaphorical spotlight away from BC this weekend. As a matter of fact, Boston does not seem to be BC territory at all.

Perhaps Saturday’s game reflects an even more widespread disconnect between the city of Boston and Boston College. For a city with such a rich sports history, Boston oddly does not have the reputation as the big college-sports town. Besides alumni and the student body, few locals seem to wrap their support around the Eagles.

The premier college fan bases, including the likes of Alabama and LSU, all have one thing in common—consistent support from their respective towns. Boston simply does not provide the same consistent local support as Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Baton Rouge, Louisiana or better yet South Bend, Indiana. This can partially be attributed to a regional difference; college football simply matters less in New England.

Even if Saturday’s game is mainly a promotional event for Notre Dame, it nevertheless provides an exciting opportunity for BC to play on National TV. Have you seen those sleek 1980s throwback white jerseys? (As a side note, well done Under Armour). Whether you’re lucky enough to actually attend the game or not, you won’t want to miss 2015’s Holy War matchup this Saturday at 7:30 PM.

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Ryan Fennell