Ever since taking over last year, Brad Bates has worked tirelessly to ensure the very best potential for the Boston College athletics program. Paramount at the top of that list is the football program, the flagship athletics team for his department and this school. He's focused his efforts in not only fixing what was a broken system on the field but also develop an outreach to make sure his major source of revenue - the fans - felt welcome and excited about Eagle football.
Over the course of the first month of the season, he's succeeded wildly. I've outlined several times the massive improvements at the stadium enhancing the fan experience. From fan tailgate tents to new video board introductions to the introduction of the live eagle mascot for the first time in almost a half-century, Bates very obviously is putting his time and effort into researching his market and ensuring that Boston College, once again, becomes the relevant college football program of the northeast.
It's not shocking that with the developments, there's always to be a percentage of the population who disagrees with his moves. Over the past couple of weeks, as the season settled down into its grind after an exciting start, news trickled out regarding the two major components of the 2013 football season - the live eagle mascot and the slogan of "Be a Dude."
The eagle mascot has been met with derision from one major area - PeTA. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals typically come out whenever a live animal is used for public display, mostly because they protest pretty much everything society wants to do. They're a lot like a leaderless protest group; they know what they want to protest, but they have no idea how to actually do it constructively. Instead of ensuring the eagle is treated fairly by its keepers and is treated respectfully by the fans, they meet the measure with disdain. They spew out reasoning about the eagle's poor treatment in a noisy atmosphere. They ignore that the animal is being used by its keepers and the university for education about the endangered species and how they are kept in the right environment.
But by and large, outside of PeTA, nobody has even bothered to deride the eagle mascot. In the south, a live Bengal tiger lives on LSU's campus for gamedays, and the War Eagle in Auburn is considered one of its holiest traditions. Osceola at Florida State couldn't exist without his steed Renegade, and seeing the eagle flap its wings or taking a picture is enough to get anyone fired up before watching BC take the field. There's just something about a majestic animal that we love, and PeTA is more or less treated like crazy people when they come out for something like this.
The bigger issue, one that goes more unnoticed, is the issue brought up by the team's slogan of #BeADude. Introduced by Addazio and defensive coordinator Don Brown, it's meant to let players "be a baller...Be great at what you are. Just be a dude." Vine videos released had Coach Addazio standing in front of murals of Mark Herzlich, BJ Raji, and Matt Ryan talking about the word "dudes." He practically spit fire producing the videos, which is just about what he did in his pregame speech.
The complaint about the mantra #BeADude is that it makes BC out to be sexist, or worse. The argument against is that it reinforces a culture where guys walk around acting "with the boys" in a manner that is considered unbecoming of a BC person. It's, quite simply, politically incorrect.
But #BeADude isn't meant to be politically correct. At a time when BC football was tip toeing through a terrible era, the program needed to be shaken up. It needed a guy who would come in and be a man's man in a man's sport. Football isn't a sport for the faint of heart. It's violent, physical, and requires things like heavy weight training and a wild hunger. It needs players to feel a blood lust to hawk to the ball, tackle their opponent, and provide big hits. It requires intimidation, even as football rules try to protect the players more and more. We stand up and cheer for the big hit, the big play, the guy willing to get up and play hurt (not injured; there's a big difference). And the term "dude," when spoken by Steve Addazio, fit that bill perfectly.
My biggest complaint is that people who say that #BeADude is wrong are missing what makes football. George Carlin, for all his awesomeness and humor, had a great thing about football vs. baseball. Football is played on a gridiron, and the quarterback is the field general tossing bombs and well-timed precision rockets to his receivers as they march into enemy territory. It requires terms like power running, winning battles in the trenches, and banging heads. It's a sport that requires someone to inspire with their leadership. Being a dude isn't about gender; it's about what's used to inspire the football team. And we're just latching onto that to fire up our team.
If anyone ever questions what it means to be a dude, just watch Coach Addazio's pregame speech. He gets fired up because he's pumped to be a part of it. He reinforces "the family" and "the team." It's the Eagle Walk of the team with the bells tolling, and it's the look of steely determination that they have with the anticipation growing. It's our fire against an opponent, the rebel yell of celebration, and the hope that our dudeness can overcome any opponent, including a top-ranked team from Tallahassee coming this weekend. It means we're "writing a new script," and it's the hope that if the football team can use its dudeness and determination, then so can we. It's an inspiration on adrenaline, and it's the hope that the students, the fans, and anyone can step forward and have the perseverance to, quite simply, #beadude, now and forever.