One of the reactions following Boston College's 31-30 overtime loss to Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl was to question whether attending even this level of bowl game was worth it for Boston College fans. To which I'd only respond:
Everyone will remember the gut-wrenching ending to both the game and BC's season, but I can't speak highly enough of the Pinstripe Bowl experience. For fans, the weather was perfect*, the crowd electric and the game, while it didn't break BC's way, was pretty exciting overall (at least the second half). The week leading up to the game was pretty swell for the team as well, which ate extremely well, caught the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, rang the opening bell at the NYSE and got to see the Empire State Building lit in the school's maroon and gold colors. Those aren't the same type of experiences you can get in, say, Shreveport or St. Pete. And when the game rolled around, many Tri-State area players got to play on a big stage in front of friends and family.
Win or lose, both fans and players certainly got their money's worth.
I've now attended seven "postseason" games with the Eagles—five Boston College bowl games (two in San Francisco, Orlando, Shreveport and the Bronx) and a pair of ACC Championship Games (Jacksonville and Tampa). I also just attended the Pac-12 Championship Game between Oregon and Arizona earlier this month in Santa Clara. I'd put the Pinstripe Bowl experience up ahead of any of those other experiences; it's not appreciably close either.
Short of a New Year's Six bowl game, I'm not sure that BC would rather be anywhere else but the Bronx for the postseason. Sure, the all-in cost of a trip to New York over the holidays is prohibitively more expensive than, say, a trip to Detroit, Annapolis, Shreveport or St. Pete, but I don't know a BC fan in attendance that wasn't able to save some cash on either travel, accommodations or food/drink. Every BC fan I knew that attended the game was able to either train or drive to the game, save on hotel costs by crashing at a buddy's place or buy food and drink locally then drive to the Stadium for pre-game tailgating.
Clearly playing Penn State, in its first bowl game since 2011, helped the atmosphere. But I also wasn't disappointed that the crowd wasn't a more even 50/50 split given that Penn State is roughly 5x the size of BC and a big portion of the tickets available were sold through Ticketmaster, not through the school's individual ticket allotment. The contingent of BC faithful was pretty loud and spirited for most of the game—how often do you see BC-generated crowd noise force the opponent into multiple false starts penalties and a timeout?—before PSU's late 14-point rally and Knoll's missed PAT completely took the wind out of our sails.
Are there things that the bowl game could do better? Absolutely. If you pay $25 for six hours of pre-game tailgating in one of Yankee Stadium's parking lots, there's a reasonable expectation that they leave at least a couple Port-a-Johns in the lot for paying customers (see also: the Harlem River North lot). Not told to go use the Bronx Terminal Market bathrooms two blocks away. And if Penn State fans are dumping beer on unsuspecting BC fans from the upper deck, well, there's also a reasonable expectation that Team Ops, you know, kick them out of the stadium instead of waiting to get scolded by a Supervisor and/or a NYPD officer.
Overall though, the Yankees run a top-notch bowl game which just so happens to now be one of the more desirable bowl locations for ACC teams (now a part of the conference's Tier I bowl lineup against a major conference opponent from the Big Ten). Barring some crazy set of circumstances that would set up an encore performance, BC won't be back in the Bronx next season. It might be a few years before the Eagles land back in the Bronx, and it probably won't be against an opponent with the cache of a Penn State, a bowl-starved team with a rabid fan base coming off an NCAA postseason ban.
But this year's ending shouldn't sour what was a very positive Pinstripe Bowl experience overall. I'm willing to bet BC sent more fans to this bowl game than any in recent memory, including the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. The ending shouldn't detract from what was really an electric atmosphere and a perfect day for college football.
Perhaps we'll just need next year's bowl trip to dull the pain a bit and give us the proper perspective on this one. When BC fans are once again outnumbered 10:1, playing yet another virtual road game against, say, South Florida team in St. Pete in front of a few thousand fans on the day after Christmas, we'll be left waxing poetic on just how good BC had things this season.
* Since I know many fans were very concerned about not playing a bowl game in a warm weather locale, I'm happy to report that it was much warmer at kickoff of the Pinstripe Bowl than it was a year ago in Shreveport.