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Notre Dame brings excitement to Fenway Park

Here’s a short look at the long history of football being played at Fenway Park.
Here’s a short look at the long history of football being played at Fenway Park.

Hanley Ramirez must have thought they were playing football games all season at Fenway Park. That would explain why he looked like Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower's stunt double stumbling around left field for the Red Sox. Hanley was a few months early.

Boston College could use a hulked-up Ramirez when it takes on national title contender Notre Dame Saturday night at Fenway Park in the most significant contest on the Boston sports calendar this weekend (the Patriots don't play until Monday night). Sorry, I'm not provincial enough in my sports fandom to value the Bruins' 19th regular-season game on Saturday or the Celtics boosting their own draft pick cause against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday as more worthy pursuits.


Boston is an unabashed professional sports town. For some, big-time college football is a foreign culture only suitable for the Flyover States. Maybe a pair of Catholic institutions can convert a few more sports fans around here into believing Saturday is a holy day of sorts.

Notre Dame is trying to do what the Patriots did last February — play for a championship in Glendale, Ariz., the site of the second annual College Football Playoff national championship game Jan. 11.

Like all the other Football Final Four hopefuls, Notre Dame is walking the weekly tightrope of the regular season. One more slip-up for 9-1 Notre Dame, currently fourth in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, and its playoff dreams come crashing down like the Charlie Weis era. This is as close to hosting a playoff game as fabled Fenway has been since the Sox won Game 6 of the World Series in 2013.

That's why the sold-out matchup is an Event beyond the novelty and curiosity of playing football on the hallowed emerald lawn of Fenway Park for the first time since 1968, when the Boston Patriots played there. (A college football contest hasn't been held at Fenway since BC lost to Holy Cross, 7-0, on Dec. 1, 1956.)


Notre Dame will be trying to wake up the echoes and shake down the thunder on what is shaping up as a Shakedown Saturday on the path to the four-team College Football Playoff.

The Hub is a hot spot on the college football map Saturday, locked in arms with locales such as Columbus, Ohio, Stillwater, Okla., and Norman, Okla. — the sites of Michigan State-Ohio State and a pair of Big 12 showdowns (Baylor-Oklahoma State and TCU-Oklahoma), respectively.

If Notre Dame loses to BC, they'll be doing backflips in Big 12 country.

BC is looking to derail the championship chase of a top-five-ranked Irish team like it did in 1993 and 2002. But David Gordon, who hit the memorable game-winning 41-yard goal in 1993, isn't walking through that door for BC, neither is Mathias Kiwanuka, a member of the '02 Eagles.

Notre Dame is the home team for Saturday’s game vs. BC at Fenway Park.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

This has been a season of lows and low scores at the Heights. BC (3-7) has lost six straight games. The Eagles' defense is ranked first nationally, surrendering just 236.5 yards per game, and third in scoring defense (14.4 points per game). They're also No. 1 in rushing yards per game (71.7).

But BC's offense is anemic, failing to score more than two offensive touchdowns in a game since Sept. 12 against Howard. The Eagles have used four quarterbacks this season and will start walk-on John Fadule.


A BC win would be an all-time upset — and sweet (Caroline) revenge.

Treated as Notre Dame's distant Catholic cousin, BC is taking an obstructed view backseat to the Fighting Irish for this game at Fenway.

Baseball's grande dame is all about Notre Dame. It's the Green Monster going for the Gipper.

Even though it's located less than 4 miles from Alumni Stadium on BC's campus and Boston College's football offices are in the Yawkey Athletics Center, as in the Yawkey Way Yawkeys, Fenway Park is dressed up like Notre Dame Stadium East.

It's technically a Notre Dame home game. As the "visiting team" BC only got about 5,000 tickets.

The game is the seventh installment of the Shamrock Series, which takes Notre Dame home games across the country to spread the Golden Domer gospel and satiate the Subway Alumni. The Fighting Irish have won the previous six home games away from home.

Fenway's Notre Dame-ification is a sore point for BC backers, including coach Steve Addazio.

"It will be a great venue. I was over at Fenway. Quite a cool way to set the field," said Addazio. "What's not so cool, though, is to see all the Notre Dame slogans all over. But you still see the skyline of Boston and you realize where you are — and we are Boston College — in Boston."

At least the Prudential building, visible from Fenway, will be illuminated in BC's colors.


Playing a home game in someone else's backyard is either really cool or classic imperiousness of the Irish.

One of the most recognizable, decorated, and polarizing institutions in North American sports, Notre Dame is both revered and reviled for the same reasons.

The school is college football royalty, even if it hasn't been crowned champion since 1988, and its fans and alumni never let you forget it.

Notre Dame has won 11 consensus national titles and produced seven Heisman Trophy winners. It's .733 winning percentage is the best in major college football history.

Having Notre Dame in the title hunt is tremendous for college football.

But if you still need a local angle to care about college football's intoxicating playoff chase, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is One of Us.

He was born in Everett, raised in Chelsea, attended high school at St. John's Prep in Danvers, and went to Assumption College in Worcester. He was at the 1975 World Series.

He has probably rued the play of a certain ex-left fielder.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.