It's Time to Talk about Basketball

Last Saturday, February 7th, men's basketball fell to the Syracuse Orange, 70-56, in typical fashion. While it was always apparent that BC was the underdog, this game was particularly frustrating, not only for the players and Coach Christian, but also for Luke Russert, A&S’08.

Russert is a congressional correspondent for NBC and a fill-in anchor on various MSNBC programs, including Andrea Mitchell Reports and The Daily Rundown. After the loss, he tweeted, “Pathetic effort by #BCEagles student section, providing zero energy for underdog team to feed off of. Pump in fake crowd noise.” Ouch.

Photo Courtesy of Luke Russert/ Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Luke Russert / Twitter

Russert certainly isn’t alone in his disappointment. The Gold Pass app sends weekly notifications promising free t-shirts, pizza and mystery prizes, as well as extra points. Multiple articles have been written entreating SuperFans to support their team, but those pleas were to no avail. The student section is apathetic at best; many students don’t bother to attend, and those that do frequently leave early.

This atmosphere is in stark contrast to the football and hockey games, where “a SuperFan never sits” and the crowd is engrossed in what's happening, always cheering right to the end. What is so different about basketball?

After discussing the problem with friends, we arrived at the conclusion that BC simply isn’t “a basketball school." Our hockey team is ranked second in the Hockey East, previously won 5 Beanpots in a row, and has brought home several national titles in recent years; in contrast, the men’s basketball team continues on a hard losing streak.

Our hockey program is what really stands out; BC attracts hockey fans because it’s exciting to cheer for a winning team. At a hockey school, though, basketball is overshadowed in a way that it never could be at a school like Georgetown or Duke. We have hockey, so no one bothers with basketball.

Even non-hockey fans attend the games because of how lively they are; that’s where the fun is. In a way, it is a cycle. Students don’t think basketball games will be fun because other fans don’t attend the games, and when they do go, there aren’t any cheers the whole student section collectively knows, and so no one really gets excited. This hurts the team and continues the cycle.

Photo courtesy of Shannon West / Gavel Media

Shannon West / Gavel Media

The only problem with this argument is that it doesn’t explain football. We are all proud of our football team, but no one would call BC a football school like they would LSU or Ole Miss. Despite this, the campus practically shuts down on game day, alums pour in and students don SuperFan shirts, face paint and all manners of BC apparel to show their spirit. No one sits.

Football has become almost a communal rite. Game day brings together the BC community, and everyone, even those who have never gone to a football game before, is excited to be there. I would not say that I love football, but I would say that I love going to BC football games. Why is it that football can drum up that much school pride and support but basketball can’t?

In 1998, two Boston College juniors, Jeff Bridge and Chris Millette, were dismayed by the fact that Boston College students sat quietly during games. No one seemed to have fun or care about sports. During a hockey game, they were even told to “sit down and shut up”. They decided to do something about it. They changed Boston College athletics forever by creating the SuperFan shirt.

Bridge and Millette believed that “SuperFans is not a club, it is a fever and everyone should be a SuperFan.” They incited a cultural revolution at BC, spreading SuperFan fever and ensuring that a game was never boring again. They created a beloved tradition and are the reason that hockey and football games are as enjoyable as they are today.

Basketball is in desperate need of a shot of energy, just like the advent of the SuperFan. No bribes will be able to get people excited about games. Only an authentic student movement like the one started in 1998 can get some life back into basketball. It will take passionate students finally deciding to do something about how pathetic the turnout is to change the culture surrounding basketball here at BC.

Follow @BCGavelSports on Twitter for the latest updates on Boston College athletics.

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