This week, Boston is a college football town — enjoy it
There is no escape. So why not join in?
Boston College football is doing its best to do just that.
The pro sports shadow that covers the Boston area is all-encompassing, a blanket of championship credentials covering the Red Sox (most recently), the Patriots (most often), as well as the Celtics and Bruins, with one NBA and NHL title apiece earning invites to a party that’s at 18 years and counting.
Eleven titles in all for New England’s four major pro teams across that span, leaving the vast and varied top-tier college programs squeezing in for a seat at the table.
Time to make some room for the Eagles?
“It’d be nice to join the party, bring some hardware home and join the group,” linebacker Connor Strachan said this week from the field at Alumni Stadium, where Saturday night his 17th-ranked Eagles will host No. 2 Clemson in one of the marquee matchups of the weekend.
The game has riled up the campus but good, declared a sellout before the dust of last weekend’s win over Virginia Tech had settled, and drawing the crew of ESPN’s “College GameDay” for an on-campus telecast Saturday morning.
Yes, this week Boston is a college football town, featuring a resurgent ACC program against a conference rival that is a perennial national power in a matchup that has ramifications for control of the ACC’s Atlantic Division. And no matter how high the odds for an upset by the Eagles (7-2) over the undefeated Tigers (9-0), to the BC faithful we say, “Have at it.”
Hop on board the hype train and make the most of your moment, because if sports guarantees one thing above all, it is that nothing is guaranteed. Who knows when this moment will come again?
“You can definitely feel the buzz,” wide receiver Jeff Smith said. “I was going to class yesterday and there were kids asking me about the upcoming game and the last games. You can tell the students are getting into it.”
Sports remains a beautiful meritocracy, where nothing is given without being earned, and BC has earned this moment. A program that went winless in conference play only three seasons ago is in the national conversation now, a credit to leaders like Strachan and coach Steve Addazio, who has managed to push himself into a conversation so dominated by the pros.
“This is a great sports town,” Addazio said. “When you’re winning, it’s one of those places that’s super fun to be around. I’ve always felt this way.
“I was in Philadelphia at Temple, and here, I just believe that it’s a sports town. But in these kinds of places, you’ve got to win to capture the energy of it. That’s what it is.
“There are great football fans in Boston — college football, pro football, great football fans. But the difference here, some of these places, you have their entire focus no matter what. Here? You’ve got to perform to have their focus. And that’s just the way it is.”
“I think for anyone in Boston it’s very hard. That’s OK,” Strachan said. “Look at us now. We’re talking about this game but the Red Sox won the World Series last week. And it’s, like, not even a big deal anymore. In another big city, people would still be out in the streets running around screaming, ‘Go Sox.’ We’re used to it here.
“This is very exciting. Excited to play the game you love, but have a little weight behind it, you know? Play for something.”
So watch as a campus bus rolls by, the words “Beat Clemson” scrolling alternately with the “Comm Ave Direct” ID banner. Listen as students talk of 5 a.m. wake-up calls to be in the front row of the “GameDay” set, signs in hand. Prepare to get out the winter layers in defense of Saturday night’s chilly temperatures. Hear Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan (the BC record-holder in nearly every passing category) turn giddy in a midweek news conference at the notion of being so “fired up” for the game.
“It’s exciting for me and other alumni,” echoed two-time Super Bowl winner Chris Snee, who took time from his current job scouting for the Jacksonville Jaguars to get back on campus for a summer visit and a fall game, and who will be in State College, Pa., Saturday afternoon before returning to his New Jersey home in time for kickoff.
“It’s been a long time. I’d try to get my kids to sit down and watch a BC game, and things weren’t pretty for a while. Now there’s excitement around the campus. Hopefully campus is packed, recruits are on site, and this will help recruiting.
“They’re getting a team coming in that is as loaded as any team has been for years. It reminds me of a game I played against Miami. Talent-wise, they had better individual pieces, but they came to us, it was cold, windy, we took them down to the wire. This cold-weather game is something on our side. Hopefully we’re able to withstand the first quarter and hang in there.
“Clemson, Alabama, they’re the ‘it’ teams. To get a chance to knock one of them off . . . pretty much everyone not a Clemson fan is rooting for BC.
“It would be a huge, huge win for the program — you could argue one of the biggest. It won’t be easy for sure.”
But it should be fun.