In his latest Sports Illustrated feature, Dan Shaughnessy takes a giant, highly publicized dump on college football interest in Boston:
"The college football season is underway and nobody cares in New England.
OK, I'm exaggerating. There are plenty of parents and girlfriends of local college gridders to care about the football fortunes of Boston College, UMass, UConn, Harvard and Holy Cross.
But outside of New York City it would be hard to find a place more apathetic toward college football."
There are certainly bits of truth to Shaughnessy's argument. Boston is a pro sports town where BC football -- and college football in general -- tends to get overlooked. But you also have to consider the source -- a Holy Cross grad who has made his living as the often-times pessimistic Globe beat writer for the Sox and the Celtics (though he did send his son to BC).
The Boston beat writers who cover BC certainly don't help the school and the area break the perception that New England doesn't care about college football. Features and articles from the mainstream media on BC football are few and far between during the season and virtually non-existent in the offseason. The amount of coverage that BC football gets by the mainstream media might be the least in the ACC, although Wake Forest and Duke -- two other small, private schools -- may give BC a run for its money in that department.
Where Shaughnessy is incorrect is in how he gauges the level of interest in Boston College football. Just because the local media doesn't pay attention to BC football doesn't mean fans and alumni across the country don't care about college football. BC is in a unique spot when it comes to its alumni base. While a majority of alumni may stay in the greater New England area after graduation, a good percentage of alumni land all across the country. Probably moreso than a majority of large state schools where a bulk of alumni stay in the area after graduation. BC football actually gets decent ratings nationally, with large alumni bases in other cities like New York, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco. People may not be watching in huge numbers in the Boston market, but fans do watch the Eagles nationally.
What always amazes me about this is that articles like Shaughnessy's are written in the first place. Eagles football is not unique in their plight of getting no love from the local media, yet there seems to be an inordinate amount of articles written specifically about Boston's college football apathy.
I spent this past year at Northwestern for grad school. Imagine being the only Big Ten team in the greater Chicagoland area but playing second -- and third, fourth, fifth and sixth -- fiddle to college football programs like Illinois, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa in your own major city market. Chicago is the hub of the Big Ten conference but the Wildcats get little mention in the Chicago media. Are these same articles written about Northwestern football and how they get no love from their own local media?
Or what about Stanford football? The Cardinal has a rough go of it, playing second fiddle to their arch-rivals from the other side of the Bay. Both play in a decidedly pro sports town where fans care more about the Niners, Raiders, Giants and A's (and probably USC football) than their own, local version of Pac-10 football.
Texas Christian has emerged as a legitimate college football power over the past decade but the school can't even sell out their home stadium. Dallas is a market that's much more concerned with the Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks, Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners than they are about TCU football. Are similar articles written about TCU?
You get my point. BC is certainly not an isolated case. Yet the media loves to harp on the fact that Boston is one of the worst college football towns in the country.
Shaughnessy wraps up his feature with this classic line about Jags' interview with the NY Jets:
"He wanted to go to a place where people cared about the local football team. That's not happening in college in Boston in this century."
Of course that's not happening in college in Boston in this century, and that's largely because of, not in spite of, the mainstream media. Only the local media can help to change the national perception of New England college football and they don't seem the least bit interested in helping the cause. So long as the media is more concerned about writing articles belaboring the point rather than giving BC and New England college football its due, nothing much will change. That's the real shame in all this.