Everyone saw it coming. After the euphoria and elation of beating USC, everyone knew Maine would be a letdown. There was no chance to match the emotion, no drama captivating the nation. There was an opponent from the FCS, a team coming off a loss at Bryant. There was a defending conference champion--of the Colonial Athletic Association, not the Pac-12. There was a 1 PM start on ESPN3 miles removed from the bright lights of a night game on national television. We all knew it.
Predictably, BC sleepwalked to victory. Despite giving up early points (the first Maine touchdown since 1915), the Eagles rebounded, imposed their will, and marched to a 40-10 victory. They won by 30, and I'm not sure anyone cared by the time it was over.
Saturday's game allowed for a good inventory check of initiatives introduced at the beginning of the season. From the new concessions to the amenities in game, Maine felt like the perfect opportunity to reassess the marketing squad's performance since Labor Day weekend:
- Someone either euthanized the sushi or did a very good job cleaning up the presentation because there were no staple-gunned pagoda balloons around the concession stand. Against Pittsburgh, I felt like it was too forced, a way to placate some hipster with disposable income. It didn't pass the Mrs. New Guy test (who said, "I don't want to go to a football game to eat sushi!"). I don't know if they still sell it, but at least they don't have those Party City favors anymore. (For the record, I have no problem selling sushi; it's 2014 and I don't speak for the majority. If studies showed selling sushi was something people wanted, then go for it. I do, however, want to see a study of sales after the fact to show if diversifying had any positive impact on concession. I'm interested in that stuff.)
- Did anyone find the salted pretzel yet?
- Loved the meatball sub stand on the concourse. Love that it was named something different (with the word EAT in the mEATball name differentiated. That's witty.).
- As predicted, the game presentation improved exponentially through the first three games. Gone is the punk rock video board intro of one minute. In its place is a great job with highlights from the first games (and some from last year) highlighting the players. There's an awesome shadow effect that makes Steve Addazio look like an ink outline on maroon paint, and the same effect applies to touchdowns by Tyler Rouse or Myles Willis. Instead of the punk rock song, they incorporated "Shipping Up To Boston." I know people tire of this song, but it's part of our fabric and has been since its release nine years ago. It's good for this season, but next year, the pressure will be on to come up with something progressive.
- When an Eagle scores a touchdown, there's a really cool effect using the video ribbons. They start out black with BC logos, then stream maroon from the 50 yard line around to the end zone. When it hits the end zone, the screen blinks the player's name and shakes the BC logo. It's awesome.
- There was no loud, blaring announcement about tailgating shutting down for the start of the game. Instead, a motorcycle police officer cruised through the garage. I don't know if it was intended, but the guy was incredibly gruff in telling us to "wrap it up." I mean, I get it, I had to get into the game. No harm, no foul. I'm not mad at the guy doing his job. But instead of having cops doing crowd control, maybe the Alumni Stadium ambassadors could be used for this?
- Seriously, what do those guys do? I heard about the ambassadors, and now I have no idea what they do or where they are. The only people I see are Team Ops guys who are the polar opposite of the GDF era. A blue-shirted guy walked by a bunch of teenagers throwing a football on the concourse of the stadium next to a guy who was holding his baby and said nothing. An errant throw a) would've hit me or b) would've hit the guy with the kid. I mean I get them having fun and running around, and I don't want to risk losing that, but come on guys.
- I know a substantial amount of people who love the 1 PM start time, but let's be real here - it does a number on attendance. This week's opponent definitely factored into it, but I did a quick eye test at the student section. For Pitt and USC, they packed in early. For Maine, the student stands were mostly empty and the entire stadium had maybe 10K-15K at kickoff. The lower bowl eventually came through, but the attendance of 28,000+ was the first home game under 30,000 since Kent State in 2009. And most of those people in the stands early were cheering for Maine when they scored the first touchdown.
- Bottom line: I have no idea what to do to fix this. I know what I want from a non-conference schedule, but in terms of analysis, there's a problem and I have no idea what to suggest to fix it. There were sales on Groupon for the Maine game and giveaways for season ticket holders. I know more casual fans who came on Saturday than ever before, yet the numbers were way down. The lesson, as always? Who the hell knows.
- The tailgating is still an issue, one I don't believe to be related directly to attendance because the tailgate crowd isn't the casual fan. After last week, I kept an eye on Shea Field. The line wasn't too bad getting in and out before the game, but the line to be checked after the game was pretty long. If anyone with Shea Field permits can let me know what that was like, feel free.
- A side note is that I watched guy trying to hop the chain link fence inside of the metal gating. Clearly he already got over the high metal gate, with one more obstacle to tailgate freedom. He failed miserably and fell off the fence. I laughed, but it underscores the issues with tailgating we've discussed to its death. I won't waste time and characters getting into it.
- All in all, the athletics department is doing well and moving forward. Anyone with any worries that BC isn't heading in the right direction needs to check themselves. There's a ton of work to bring the atmosphere to the modern era after being left in the draconian fan experience of Gene DeFillippo. It's especially tough to do when competing against all the different auditory and sensory overload of being in Boston. But Bates is doing well, and undoubtedly moving in the right direction.