I have one vivid, fond memory of how the Frank Spaziani era of Boston College football ended for me. It came on October 27th of last year against Maryland. I had to leave Alumni Stadium to go get ready for a college hockey game at an undisclosed Boston school and missed the Eagles' "comeback" win over the Terps. I remember distinctly leaving in the fourth quarter in time to watch BC blow a 13-0 lead as Stefon Diggs touched maroon paint at the end of the stadium opposite the band. I was hustling out of the stadium, but I heard loud voices, and I ran back to see what was happening just in time to see Diggs get pay dirt.
Right about that same time, a gentleman in a Team Ops jacket, a security guy, proceeded to blow me a new one about standing behind the last row of the stands. He screeched at me to leave, to keep moving, that I was clogging the concourse.
Now, I know I'm not the smallest guy in the world, but there was nobody in the concourse. There was just under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, an awkward time for anyone to be leaving the game, and there was nobody in the concourse. Yet this guy, clearly bored after holding up some wall space with about 10 other very visibly jacketed "security" guys, took it upon himself to go all Tackleberry on me. As I walked down the stairs, I passed several people standing behind the last row, in front of another security guy, none of which were remotely close to yelled at to move.
Heading into this year, I knew there had to be changes or BC would risk losing the lifeblood of their football program - the fans. Brad Bates and Steve Addazio injected much needed life into the program, but the true test of their optimism and desire could only show on game day, where the stadium had, especially last year, fallen flat. In order to succeed, they had to work together to construct what we could only hope would be a worthwhile game day experience. One game in, those returns are fantastic. I could spend 2,000 words talking about them, but there's so much to be said that it can only be listed out:
-Brad Bates stopping by tailgates and meeting revelers well before kickoff. Cars were parking at St. John's Seminary across the street from the main campus at 9 AM, possibly before, and Bates was wandering through the parking lot greeting people and stopping to chat.
-The Eagle Walk was once just a stroll down Campanella Way. Now it's suits, business attitude, right through the heart of campus and the middle of the tailgaters to the stadium from Gasson Hall after a mass.
-The walk in from the shuttle bus used to be the poor people walking by the rich as they sat and sipped their chardonnay before game day. Now the walk was lined with a live band, which was admittedly a little weird because nobody was really paying attention, but the music blasting out was something out of my iPod and it delivered life throughout the area of the tailgate.
-The tailgate tents that BC constructed weren't overly packed, but after looking at them, I'd be willing to drop the money on a game-by-game basis. I think it would be a gas to head in since I don't have the More Hall pass and have a couple drinks just to soak in the other games. Plus if the games are later in the afternoon, it'd be great to actually get in there and watch some solid national football games. Plus it lent itself to atmosphere.
-When I went in the stadium, members of the hockey team were handing out BC football magnets. Magnets a) usually go after the game, and b) were being handed out by a team in contention for a national championship. I got to stop and chat with one in particular about how my older brother works for Brown doing their hockey radio. We talked about how BC will be playing at Brown this year in Providence. That was awesome.
-Walking up the stairs into the lower bowl so I could head up to the upper deck, Brad Bates was right there, shaking hands with people standing by the railing. He was talking to them all, and I found it very much like when Bob Kraft shakes hands with the people standing at Gillette. He was talking legitimately to everyone.
-The coup-de-grace for me is always the introduction of the team. I know BC is notorious for fans not getting into the stadium before kickoff, but for my money, seeing the video board introduction is probably the part that gets me most jacked up for the game. Last year, BC showed images of their players in the library studying because... you know... we care about academics (which we do, but still, I want images of what I'm paying to see: football), and they played some weird message about bells tolling. This year? Short and concise. We're building. We're building a tradition on our old tradition. The images were amazing. They harkened back to years forgotten with players like Justice Smith and Mike Cloud. There was Glenn Foley, and it made me feel like we could get back there. And the song? It wasn't some Gregorian chant, which have been good. It was Bon Jovi's "This is Our House," the same song used by the Patriots for their touchdowns. I had goosebumps. I can't wait for the atmosphere to match it at, say, a night game on national television? The video board intro was the best since Mark Herzlich came back from cancer to Eminem's "Not Afraid." I'm ready to run through a brick wall just thinking about it.
-I might be the only one who noticed this but there was a lot more video production on the players performances. Andre Williams and Manny Asprilla both had highlight reels on the big boards. My personal favorite was when they put the high school coach on their stats. I grew up going to Everett High games, and seeing "Coach DiBiaso" under Manny's name was really cool. It brought it home for me, especially being a guy who loves seeing local boys from my neck of the state go to BC and make it big.
-As for the security guys? As we walked out, they all smiled and kept saying, "Enjoy your weekend." They shuffled people along if they had to, but they were practically invisible. We had two incidents in my section, mostly due to drinking booze in the stands (I really don't care about drinking or swearing since it's football, but just be smart. These guys weren't). I didn't even see security usher them out or clean up the booze bottles two rows behind me. And my game-watching experience was actually enhanced.
-The final stamp was walking down the stairs by the locker room. The gentleman standing to open the locker room door turned around and saw me coming down the stairs. He looked right at me and said, "Thanks for coming out. Have a great rest of your weekend. Go Eagles." That's the BC official, by the way.
-And if none of that mattered, there's the live eagle beating its wings that PEOPLE CAN WALK UP TO AND TAKE PICTURES WITH before a game.
For the first time in a couple of years, I felt like my attending mattered. My blood pressure is already rising for Friday, but it's fully pumping maroon and gold for the first time in years.