Harvard vs. BC



What Harvard football fans are missing.

Photo by Meghan Brooks
Photo by Meghan Brooks

The eldest of my brothers began college last week, arriving at Boston College an excited freshman as my mother, two aunts, and numerous cousins and other family of uncertain relation had before him. In a rush of nostalgia, my mother engineered a family trip to last Friday’s game against Wake Forest. With the powerful guilt that even lapsed Catholic mothers deploy, she convinced me to abandon my first weekend night of the semester to sit in the frigid air of Alumni Stadium between my thirteen-year-old brother and fifteen-year-old cousin. While my brother, the freshman, would of course have little to do with us (what’s worse than your entire family coming to visit your first college weekend?), just being there had me excited for him.

If you’re not from Boston, you probably don’t quite realize what BC football games entail. While BC may not have the fiercely loyal fan base of Ole Miss or Michigan, pretty much every Boston Catholic family has someone who wore maroon and gold, and since 1998, the gold “Superfan” shirt that is the de facto uniform of the student section. Students arrive in droves from the pre-games and tailgates in the stadium-side senior “mods” and at Shea Field, while their families and area alumni tailgate at Shea with them or park a mile away at the Star Market on Route 9 and trek through beautiful Chestnut Hill neighborhoods to the stadium lights. The bleachers are full — there are season ticket holders, double BC-couples in matching 2006 Superfan shirts, college buddies catching up thirty years out, and families like mine with a first or fifth member a student in the stands. Outside of the stadium, Doug Flutie ’84 is still a local legend despite relatively weak NFL performance, and the BC sweatshirt is a crucial and perennial component of the “cool” suburban middle schooler’s wardrobe.

It’s the student section, however, that make BC football games worth going to, especially for the college football fan stuck at apathetic Harvard. Not everyone goes to BC games, certainly, but the back right corner of the stadium is always a sea of chanting, cheering solid gold. At Boston College, football is a “thing,” a viable and reliable social option on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon. BC students put on their shirts, grab their friends and roommates, and make the trek. Unless you’re in the marching band or an actual member of the football or cheerleading teams, at Harvard, football isn’t anything at all. No one knows when the games are, much less whom the Crimson is playing. Apart from The Game (and I will argue that our storied rivalry is better overall than BC’s spat with Notre Dame), Harvard football is little more than an excuse for our alumni fan base to entertain their clients, their kids, and each other. Watching them, you get the sense that the game is the setting rather than the attraction. Their cheers are softer, their focus less intense — passion and devotion are less apparent.

One of my first weekends as a freshman, my roommates and I put on our brand-new Harvard sweatshirts and marched across the river to watch the Crimson beat Brown on a beautiful, sunny fall day. I had known that football at Harvard wasn’t a “thing”, but I still remember feeling almost hurt sitting in the mostly empty concrete stands, realizing that I would never have what my aunt had when Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons was BC’s star quarterback in the mid-2000s, or what my mom had in 1987 when she met my dad at a BC-Army football game. Seeing my brother’s Facebook pictures, taken from the center of the student section last Friday night, I was both jealous of and wistful for a Superfandom that was never mine to begin with.
I guess I’ll just have to wait for basketball season.

Meghan Brooks ’14 (meghanbrooks@college) tells herself that she’s at Harvard for “things” other than football.