After the Boston Red Sox won Game 5 of the World Series, I did some digging through some old pictures. I went back to 2010 in my final year of working with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League. We were getting set for the championship series at Red Wilson Field, and up in the press box, in the media room/office/copy room, stood the Arnold Mycock Trophy that would be given at the end of the game to the league champion.
The trophy had no name plate affixed to it. Rather, in front of the trophy on the table, were two name plates with tape still over the sticky adhesive on the back. One plate read, "2010 Cape Cod Baseball League Champions Cotuit Kettleers" and the other read "2010 Cape Cod Baseball League Champions Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox." At the end of the game, as Cotuit dominated Y-D and won 6-0, the Cotuit name plate was affixed and the Y-D name plate was discarded in a trash can used for extra paper from the copier machine.
I was reminded of this as Boston fans celebrated the Sox Game 5 victory with gusto. I was also reminded of the last time the Red Sox were in the World Series, in 2007, when I watched Matt Ryan complete that fateful pass to Andre Callendar to defeat Virginia Tech instead of watching Game 2 between Boston and the Colorado Rockies. In one moment, one team's name affixed to glory while the other was dropped in the trash (granted, at the end of the season, Va. Tech did it back to us and won the ACC title game).
There are a thousand and one stories like that throughout all sports walks of life, but the ones in Boston are truly unique. The sports tradition in New England is like no other, and that's something that Brad Bates embraces in his latest post on the BC Eagles website. For years, people talked about how BC couldn't "overcome" being in a sports town like Boston. There's too much sensory overload in Boston and the surrounding areas, they'd say, and BC couldn't overcome the fact that there are several rival academic schools within a couple of miles or that they were #5, #6, or possibly #7 on the local sports radar.
I've always contended that while BC isn't the top draw, they're never meant to be. In terms of pride and in terms of looking around the rest of the nation, the Eagles are very much part of a fabric that's meant to be digested by the locals. When BC was on their run in 2007 and ranked in the top five, they were listed in the sports column along with the other pro sports. When the basketball team was top-ranked and undefeated, they were listed in the column along with the Boston Celtics or the Bruins. It's a unique experience that only a city like this can give.
While I disagree with Bates that BC doesn't have to "overcome" those odds, I agree on a couple of points. I think that Boston College is made unique simply because they're in such a great sports city. If you look around New England at the different college sports programs, BC is held to a higher standard because they're on the same power conference level as Virginia Tech, Florida State, or Clemson. BC is held to a much different standard than BU, Northeastern, Harvard, or even UMass. In New England, the city of Boston is the central focus and crux of the region's sports heartbeat. To be the top college sports department in that city is to occupy exalted ground. It's the reason why there's a joke that you can always tell if someone isn't from Boston because they wear a BU or Harvard sweatshirt.
This is because Boston is much more territorial than other cities. The local rivalries are intense because we're intensely faithful to the places we grew up. The intense feelings of those who grew up following BC are solidified because of who we are Bostonians. People from outside the region who go to BC are quickly indoctrinated to how it is - if you go to BC, you recognize that you're in your own pocket of the city and that's yours. Nobody can take it from you.
To this degree, Bates has a point. This isn't something that needs to overcome anything in this city. In a city where everyone wears Red Sox, Bruins, and Patriots (not Celtics, not anymore, at least hehe), there's a certain lack of individualism. There's a quest to find something that shows how knowledgeable you are and a quest to separate one's self from the rest of the pack. That's found in college sports. It drives down a layer and separates you from the generic throngs of the masses who go to Fenway Park. To be a BC fan is to be an individual, something that's celebrated in this territorial city. You get your own piece of a wonderful tradition, and that's something that spills over whether you're involved with the Beanpot, the Cape Cod Baseball League, the Super 8 hockey tournament, high school football's oldest Thanksgiving Day rivalries, the Ivy League, the Atlantic Hockey Association, or whatever. It's yours, and it's a piece that you've dug out of one of the richest sports cultures in the world.
On a further level, BC occupies a rich slot in this territory because, in actuality, it's Boston's big time college team and Boston is the heart of New England. Connecticut might as well be New York, and the remaining states all flow back to Boston. UMass is in Western Massachusetts, which most of us would give to New York if we could (just kidding, no but seriously...I'm from Boston and I have a longstanding friendly rivalry with people from the great cities of Westfield, Springfield, and Amherst. You know, places classified as a "bustling metropolis" in this wonderful state).
However, at this point, I turn away from Bates because the further down you get, the more individual you become, the more niche you become. I remember having an argument in the stands with a Virginia Tech fan two years ago because he was making fun of the small stadium and small fan base. I told him that in Blacksburg, there is no pro team for everyone to identify with. The only identity those people had came from the Hokies. You weren't an individual if you liked VT because that was the only thing you had for that sports loyalty. We have four major pro sports teams and a professional soccer team. We have minor league teams that play at a very high level and are identifiable with the major pro sports teams (P-Bruins and PawSox). That's something BC probably can't overcome because their popularity is more widespread. But at the same time, we can accept that we don't have to overcome it, that we can be proud and loyal, and we can be Superfans because this is our piece of the greatest sports city in the world. We should showcase that piece, not say we have to compete with it.
Oh, just one other thing to disagree on - Brad, I love the job you're doing, but the Breakers? That's women's professional soccer. The only reason why I know this is because I lived near Dilboy Stadium in Somerville where they played and shared a facility with the women's professional football team (Boston Militia, owned by Ernie Boch, Jr!). Maybe we should leave them out next time.