Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Building Tradition

Some of the best things about college football are the traditions that each school builds to make its home games a unique experience and stand out amongst its peers. Think of a big-time college football school and, more often than not, the devoted college fan will instantly think of a tradition that school is famous for. Florida State?? The Tomahawk Chop and War Chant, and Chief Osceola's flaming spear. Notre Dame?? Touchdown Jesus (OK, it's a landmark rather than a tradition, but as you'll see it goes to the same point I'm getting at) and "Play like a champion today". Tennessee?? The Volunteer Navy. Clemson?? Rubbing Howard's Rock and "The most exciting 25 seconds in college football".

The point is that, as BC aspires to join the ranks of the country's elite college football programs, the school needs to develop its own athletic traditions. BC has historically had little success in establishing long-standing traditions; this is a result of many factors.

First, the school is not helped by the fact that it has little in the way of historical rivalries. This, it has to be said, is through no fault of our own. The BC-Holy Cross rivalry, which lasted from the early 20th century until the early 1980s, was a great one; but it was forced to come to a close when Holy Cross inexplicably decided not to go D1A in football. (The folly of this decision can be seen clearly today--whereas Holy Cross was the slightly more prestigious institution before the football split, BC is now a truly national university, receiving the 4th most applications this year of any school in the country, while Holy Cross is still a regional school.) Notre Dame proved to be another promising rivalry, but after a string of BC victories the Surrenderin' French raised the white flag and the series' future after the 2010 game is in doubt (although, as Notre Dame shares two bowl tie-ins with the ACC in addition to the BCS, it will only be a matter of time before the teams meet again even if the regular season series is never continued after 2010). Connecticut might have developed into something had BC stayed in the Big East, but the fact is that New England's only other D1A program is simply not in the same class as BC at the moment. BC's best hope for a long-term ACC rival is Maryland, the conference's only other (borderline) northern school, and a school that has a similar fanbase to BC and, like BC, is located in the suburbs of a major northeastern city. All that aside, however, rivalries help build tradition, and it is difficult to build tradition without major rivalries.

Second, the general apathy towards the football program among large segments of its fan base does not help. Thankfully this situation seems to be gradually improving, but there are far too many BC fans, mostly older, who are content to go to games and simply sit on their hands rather than vocally supporting their teams. Perhaps the most obvious example of this came not in a football game but in the NCAA hockey tournament regional final against BU this year, when the DCU Centrum in Worcester was evenly split between BC and BU fans; while most of the BU fans, however, were vocally supportive of their team, BC's active support was for the most part limited to a half-section of students who had made the trip from campus. (The one time when all of BC's fans did raise their voices, during a 2nd-period goal review, the noise was deafening.) The same phenomenon is often seen in football. When the fans even show up--which they didn't against Wake Forest and Virginia last year--they are far, far too quiet. No-one's expecting the entire stadium to jump up and down for the entire game as if they were in the student section, but joining in the "Let's Go Eagles" chants and making noise to disrupt opposing offensive signals would be a nice start.

Finally, some of the blame has to fall on the athletic department itself. While they have done some nice things here--the band's playing "Sweet Caroline" during the 4th quarter of every game never fails to get the crowd riled up, and the song has become almost a second fight song for BC; the playing of the school Alma Mater after each home game with the players' helmets raised is enough to raise up the haira on the back of your neck--there are other inexplicable gaffes. The tailgating situation is unfortunate, but the best BC can do here is to work with the surrounding neighborhoods. However, BC had begun to establish a tradition that it recently abandoned. Once upon a time, the Alumni Stadium PA system blasted The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" as BC's team took the field. The connection to BC wasn't apparent but it didn't matter--it was our song, and when we heard it we knew it was time to cheer on the Eagles. Virginia Tech has Metallica's "Enter Sandman", and we had "Won't Get Fooled Again"--until BC stopped playing it last year. Why??

There are a number of things the school can do to help establish tradition. One of the major things it needs to do is actively re-connect with its Irish roots, perhaps even begin to challenge Notre Dame as the favored team of Catholic America. Second, the school needs to market itself as the only major college sports program in Boston (in football and basketball, anyway)--encourage alums of BU, Northeastern, UMass, UNH, etc. to support their respective schools in D1AA ball but unite to support BC as New England's college football team.

Just a shot in the dark here--why not bring in the Dropkick Murphys, who recorded a Gaelic-punk-rock version of "For Boston" on their album "Sing Loud, Sing Proud", to play a concert at BC's home opener each year?? In addition to fulfilling both of the aforementioned goals, the event would become a tradition in and of itself, similar to the Murphys' annual St. Patrick's Day weekend concerts at the Avalon.

The most important thing to do, however, is to hold on to those developing traditions which are taking hold. So with that said, and with the home opener against Clemson just 38 days away, we ask you, Mr. DeFilippo, to GIVE US BACK THE WHO!!!

The image “http://whitejames.com/upload/i_want_to_know_who_she_is.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

(I did a Yahoo image search of "The Who" looking for a picture of Pete Townshend and the boys, and this was the first result that popped up. Not exactly what I was looking for, but shit, I'm not complaining.)


At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Adam said...

I'm with you on this one. Personal gripe: it's either the Bruins or the Celtics, but one of them plays 'For Boston' during their games to get the fans on their feet... since the word Boston is in there multiple times. However, it's our school's song and a hell of a version too, and we don't embrace it.

I would love if the home opener would showcase the Dropkick Murphy's in concert before the game, bring back The Who to bring the players onto the field. Hell, anything that gets the fan base excited to be there and join in the cheers and be loud. (Or even be in their seats at kickoff! - another gripe for another time.)

I would also love to see the athletic dept market us to become the football team of Boston, hell, of all of New England. But since Harvard and Northeastern also play football and (sucks to) BU fans hate us, I can't really see any of their fans switching who they cheer for to us. Though within the other 45 or so colleges in the Boston area, maybe we could have good luck bringing new potential fans into the fold.

In short, the move to the ACC really moved the level of our football program up and hopefully the athletic dept can take this and turn it into tradition and passion.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger LAEagle said...

I love the Dropkick Murphy's idea. Hell, even a recorded version played before the band kicks in the traditional version as the team runs in - or maybe to start the second half.

Also (though this dates me) Boston's song "Long Time" has a great lead in and then a blast of guitar. Great psych up song we played running onto the court for our HS basketball games plus at least there is a Boston tie in.

But in general I agree - we gotta kick it up in the stadium. Hell we could play Irish revolutionary songs and get the old guys fired up - "Come out you Black 'n Tan's Come out and fight me like a man..."

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Alex F. said...

Love the Irish revolutionary songs idea. The Murphys actually also do a kick-ass version of "Fields of Athenry"

At 2:29 AM, Blogger Zlax45 said...

UNH Alum here and I have BC season tickets because they are New England's football team and plus I am a Boston guy at heart!!!

At 2:40 AM, Anonymous Will said...

PhillyBC, very well written, but you're losing me with this paragraph:

"Second, the school needs to market itself as the only major college sports program in Boston (in football and basketball, anyway)"

Why does that matter? We have professional teams in Boston in both of those sports. Many dominant and/or popular college teams play in smaller cities. Why follow college players when you can watch professionals? College sports are great, but so are PawSox games.

"...encourage alums of BU, Northeastern, UMass, UNH, etc. to support their respective schools in D1AA ball but unite to support BC as New England's college football team."

Why would/should an alum of the latter three schools care about Boston College? Not only do NU, UMA, and UNH have their own football teams, but I'd also imagine that many students at each of those schools were rejected by BC, and have no regard for the elitists on Chestnut Hill. I'm not coming down on your alma mater, but telling a Northeastern grad to root for BC is a tough sell, socioeconomic class warfare notwithstanding.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Alex F. said...

As ZLax said...BC is New England's only big-name football team. I'm sure ZLax cheers for his Wildcats as well (and probably doesn't have too many kind words for BC's hockey team!!) but refusing to cheer for BC in football because you're a UNH or UMass fan is like refusing to cheer for the Red Sox because you're a Brockton Rox or Lowell Spinners fan. Most schools have plenty of fans who aren't alums of that school, no reason BC shouldn't be the same.

At 10:21 PM, Blogger CHC8485 said...

Holy Cross' decision to go I-AA was anything but inexplicable - the NCAA rules required it! In the early 80's the NCAA raised the miniumum stadium capacity and required average atendance minimums, neither of which Holy Cross met.

Also as small, strictly undergraduate college (2800 students total - about a third the size of BC's undergrad enrollment) that had half it's student body's eligibility for football eliminated when it went co-ed in 1972 and was struggling as everyone was with Title IX compliance - was hardly in a position to make the committment to 1-A football!

Even at 1-AA with 100 football players out of 1400 male students you are talking a huge percentage. Picture a BC team with 300 players!

A frustrating decision and development for the rivalry between the schools, yes, but not inexplicable.

At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't remember where I read this, but if you want a good, solid tradition that would tie BC to its Irish roots and its community, I suggest the Boston Police Pipe & Drum Corps lead the Eagles onto the field before each home game. This a) would be uniquely Bostonian and b) would probably go a long way towards attracting "subway alumni". Let's face it, why would 99% of Greater Boston care about a an exclusive private school? Simply being located in Boston is not enough. It has to give back to the community or represent the community somehow. Simply having "Boston" in its name is not enough.


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