Sports always teach us different things about winning and losing. There are ways of winning "good" and winning "bad." There are ways of losing "good" and losing "bad." There are silver linings and dark clouds. There are ways of taking positives, and there are ways of burning game film.
BC's win over USC was a great win. Had BC lost, it still would've classified as a good loss. There would've been positives galore, takeaways for us to focus on in the face of defeat. We would've sat there and said the team deserved better. We wouldn't have been overly upset.
Losing to Colorado State is a bad loss. The Rams came out with a gameplan and executed it perfectly. BC wilted in the fourth quarter, fell apart in all three phases. It looked bad. It didn't present well. It stunk.
On the field, off the field, and on television, this is one of those games BC will want to bury. You're scarred by it, your season forever tainted. You can't get away from it, no matter how hard you try to bury it. And even if you persevere and power through it, you're stuck with this black mark.
Some of the major takeaways:
Effects of Social Media
In the era of social media, reality hits harder than it did before. In the days before text messaging and Facebook or Twitter, you could fake a crowd. Television cameras could film in such a way that made stadiums look full. Boom microphones could position themselves strategically to make a stadium sound better. Television made schools grow, not the other way around.
The modern era of social media is something I genuinely love because it allows more exposure for places and areas that never had it. We wouldn't know anything about Steve Addazio's passion or speeches without a camera in the locker room. One of the best byproducts of the USC game was the collection of images. Fans posted pictures with athletes on the field in the middle of the pile. We all shared in the experience.
Unfortunately, the pressure to perform consistently ends up much, much heavier. When you fail to draw fans into the stands, it looks horrible. As good as BC looked on ESPN, that's how bad they looked on RSN and NESN on Saturday. The stands looked empty because they were, and the crowd sounded flat because they were. It was a production that didn't lie.
Bad Showing on Television
It looked bad on television for several reasons. We start with the crowd at kickoff. Brian covered this in his Parents' Weekend piece, but I have a theory about start times at BC: the early starts will never draw well. I'm not that far removed from college, and I know how people in my bracket operate. They're not going to wake up at 9 AM to get in for a game. Those of us who don't have kids are sleeping in a little bit. Those of us with kids have dance or soccer or something going on in the morning. The noon or 1 PM start is horrible for those people. They simply can't make it, especially with the travel concerns that come into play with the lack of tailgating.
In terms of students and student life, students simply can't get going to get to a game for 12:30 PM. Why? Well let's look at it this way. If you're a college student, you're waking up at 10 AM. By the time you get to your tailgate or to brunch and back to prep for the game, you're running way behind the 8-ball. In order to pack in their morning, students have to be ready to go earlier than they're willing to. This is a hypothesis that I'd love to test out.
For the fans who filtered in and showed up, the atmosphere was flat. I'm blaming the heat more than you think on this. When you're at a football game in mid-September, you're not looking at 85 degrees and a beating sun. You're usually looking at cooler temperatures and dry air. When it's hotter, it feels a helluva lot hotter. To people in the south, that might be fine. The deep south is constantly humid. But like how USC fans froze on a 50-degree night, BC fans wilted in the 80-degree heat.
All of this translates to an extremely poor fan experience. It's not an excuse, regardless of how it comes across. It's a reason why it was the way it was. I think the fans should be up, should be rowdy and ready to go despite the heat, should embrace the conditions and rally their team. I believe atmosphere plays a big role. I believe the flat atmosphere impacted the game. And I hope BC fans look long and hard at themselves and show up for Clemson because the Tiger fans will show up and be LOUD.
Again, I wasn't there, so I can't talk about this with certainty, but social media had a field day with the police. The police directing foot traffic were apparently out of control yelling at people to get moving from place to place. There were no police on Beacon St. directing traffic as cars filtered in. It seems the tailgate situation is now a complete, unmitigated disaster. It's not even worth getting into fixing it because that's multiple points for multiple other times.
One thing I hope this does is illustrate how hard it really is to sustain momentum. Boston College beat USC and was the toast of college football. They then played Maine and Colorado State before two flat crowds. It's very hard to recreate all that atmosphere with a notoriously fickle fan base, but I think it shows how hard the marketing team's job is. Interest after USC was at an all-time high for the past few years, but it was followed up with two less than sellable opponents, and I mean that in terms of attendance, not in terms of "sellable teams." If the right conditions are met, anyone can be sellable. Even Elon.
But BC also isn't alone. Every college football program deals with this in some capacity. BYU is ranked and unbeaten, yet attendance is slipping due to a decrease in student involvement. College football is doing its homework, but there's never going to be a clear cut answer. Regardless what reasoning you have in your brain, it could be right, it could be wrong. But nothing is as clear as just wins and losses anymore.
How can all of this be made better? I think Boston College needs to take a long, hard look at other organizations. They need to get outside the box and look at teams successful with guerilla marketing schemes to see if some of those work. But then again, even that might not work.
So what do we do? Quite honestly, I don't know. There are a number of holes, a number of problems, and I'm just not sure anymore how to fix them. It'll require study, it'll require research, and it'll require time. Trust in Bates. He's improved to this point. Halfway through the season, let's trust that he can get this figured out. It's not going to be easy, but then again, anything worthwhile never is.