Photo via BCEagles.com
Ah, to conjure the appropriate imagery illustrating the rhythms of following Boston College sports in recent years:
Knee to the kidneys?
Kick to the groin?
Fist to the solar plexus?
Or maybe just Kevin Bacon in Animal House going, “thank you, sir, may I have another?”
It’s led to some disillusionment, negative narratives and here-we-go-agains, all byproducts of losing. But then there’s that old quote about accepting finite disappointment, but never losing infinite hope. So we keep watching.
And then came this past Saturday, the best day in BC sports in quite some time, a joyful reminder that winning is actually possible. The football team won its second straight, not exactly a giggler, but well well-earned road win at Army. A few hours later and about 100 miles south, the hockey team opened the season with an overtime win at defending national champion Quinnipiac.
BC also represented itself with the ideals that reflect decency and dignity that college sports need now more than a lung. Football coach Jeff Hafley made sure his team stayed on the field as the Army band played its alma mater, out of respect to the men and women who serve the country. Several Army loyalists took to social media to commend BC and mention that not all other schools act accordingly.
Hockey coach Greg Brown made sure his team stayed on the ice while Quinnipiac unveiled its 2023 national championship banner. Brown probably knew that he’s coaching at more of a college hockey blueblood than his counterpart, Rand Pecknold at Quinnipiac. And yet he was respectful enough of another program’s accomplishments. Hafley and Brown just showed Boston College at its absolute finest.
Now you get thinking - get this - positive thoughts. Who knew? Football might have the real deal here in quarterback Thomas Castellanos, who has more rushing yards than any other quarterback in the country through six games. The remaining schedule appears manageable. Discipline issues have lessened.
And hockey? There’s a reason the Eagles were picked No. 6 in the preseason (and have moved northward to No. 3). Two out of last season’s top scorers are back (Cutter Gauthier and Andre Gasseau), while freshmen Will Smith, Ryan Leonard and Gabe Perreault were all drafted in the first round of the NHL Draft last summer. Add the promise of freshman goalie Jacob Fowler, who was magnificent at Quinnipiac, and BC’s most successful sport just may hearken to the great old days.
Lest we forget that men’s basketball, which has taken steps under Earl Grant, has a chance to take a leap. Jeff Goodman, who covers college basketball nationally for Stadium, saw BC practice recently and came away encouraged, not only at the beauty of the new Hoag Basketball Pavilion, but thinking the Eagles are good enough to make the NIT.
But then, if you’re good enough to make the NIT, what happens if you steal one here or there? Either way, both through facilities and talent, basketball is, as they like to say nowadays, trending upward.
It’s all so … new. How are we to cope with all this good news? Pundits are suddenly predicting BC football as a bowl team. Basketball will have its best chance since 2009 to make the NCAA Tournament. Hockey appears to have returned to its traditional place among the Rockefellers.
Now I get that some will view this as somewhere between presumptuous and Pollyanna. My take: You want to be miserable? Free country. But it’s been too long since we experienced a day like Saturday. It wasn’t merely two victories, but signs that enjoyable seasons may be in front of us for the first time in years.
No group of fans understand the concept of finite disappointment and infinite hope better than the BC folks. Hope you enjoyed Saturday. There just might be more coming.
Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and a member of BC’s Class of 1990. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @BCgenius