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Madison Polkowitz / Gavel Media

Why the Red Bandana Game Means So Much More Than Football

Boston College in late October is a beautiful place. The leaves begin to change, the temperature cools, and campus comes alive on game days as students and fans alike cheer on their beloved Eagles. However, each year, one game always seems to stand above the rest, the Red Bandana game—a nationally-televised Friday night game in the last week of October, which has become one of the most powerful traditions in all of college football.

Every year, the Boston College football team honors Welles Crowther, an alum who passed away in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, by playing the Red Bandana Game; Crowther’s signature red bandana is incorporated into the uniforms and fan gear. Crowther was a hero to so many, and his alma mater has helped to not only honor his heroism, but to ensure that his memory never dies, as his story serves as an inspiration to all those who seek to make a difference in the world.

Welles Crowther was born on May 17, 1977 in New York City. To those who knew him, he was a family man, always fulfilling his obligations and looking after the people that he loved the most. Even from an early age, Crowther involved himself heavily in athletics, with experience in football, soccer, baseball, hockey, tennis, skiing, golf, and lacrosse. He was especially gifted in lacrosse and went on to play for Boston College’s men’s varsity team.

During every athletic event, Crowther wore a red bandana under his uniform–a signature that he had adopted at a young age. As a child, Crowther’s father gave him the red bandana as a gift, and from that day forward, Crowther treasured it and could never be seen without it. On most days, it would be in his back right pocket; on game days, he usually wore it under his helmet or jersey.

After graduating from Boston College, Crowther moved back to his native New York, becoming a research analyst and equities trader at Sandler O’Neill and Partners, LP, working in an office located on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower.

Shortly after the North Tower was struck on 9/11, Crowther left a voicemail to his mother ensuring her that he was safe. Unfortunately, he was never heard from again after the South Tower was hit mere minutes later. His body was discovered six months after the attacks at Ground Zero, but Crowther’s story does not end there. In fact, this was only the beginning.

In the months following the tragic events of 9/11, stories of heroism and sacrifice emerged from the woodwork to inspire hope throughout the American public and beyond. The tragedy led many to sacrifice themselves for the good of strangers, enabling many people to survive the tragedy.

One such instance occurred in 2002 when The New York Times published an article detailing the stories of survivors and how they were able to survive the attacks. Two survivors told a story of a “mysterious man” wearing a red bandana who directed a group of people to the stairs and helped them to escape the building, all the while carrying a young woman to safety. He then proceeded back up the stairs to save more people. That man was none other than Welles Crowther.

According to Ling Young, one of the women that Crowther saved, Crowther calmly directed those who could stand to stand up and help whomever they could. He then led the group of survivors down from the 78th floor Sky Lobby to the 61st floor, where firefighters were waiting to guide them to safety. He then detached from the group and embarked back up the stairs, looking to save even more people. Crowther had been trained as a firefighter as a teenager, as his father had worked for the fire department in his hometown. His training likely aided him in his rescue efforts, and it is estimated that he saved 12 people through his selfless sacrifice.

Once his story became public, Crowther was remembered as a hero, with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi releasing a short video detailing his courageous actions. Ever since, the BC community has worked to perpetuate Crowther’s memory through various events on campus.

In 2004, Crowther’s alma mater started the Red Bandana Run, a 5-kilometer race dedicated to his memory that takes place every October. The event raises money for the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, which raises money for scholarships and organizations that support young people in pursuing their passions.

The Boston College football team played the inaugural Red Bandana Game on Sept. 14, 2014, upsetting the No. 9 USC Trojans, 37-31. The game was arguably one of the biggest wins in the history of Boston College football, and it served as a fantastic tribute to Crowther and his sacrifice. The game has now become a Boston College tradition, and although the team struggled against Florida State and Clemson in 2015 and 2016, respectively, the Eagles dominated the Seminoles last season en route to a 35-3 victory.

As the Eagles’ football team has experienced somewhat of a revival over the past few seasons, the game has received more national attention, with ESPN televising the game for a national audience every year. This year, the 5-2 Eagles will face off with the Miami Hurricanes, hoping to stay competitive in the ACC’s Atlantic division ahead of a home bout with No. 2 Clemson in two weeks.

However, while the game is important and figures to be quite exciting, it is crucial that students and fans remember what the Red Bandana Game is really all about. Here at Boston College, the red bandana has evolved into much more than a fashion statement or the mark of an annual football game. It is a symbol of the best that humanity has to offer, and the importance of helping one’s fellow man. It represents Crowther’s enormous sacrifice and his willingness to show courage in the face of adversity, to go back up the stairs when everyone else was going down.

This Friday night’s football game will serve as a nice, annual reminder of this, but Welles Crowther’s legacy is so much more than a football game. Crowther’s story is one of heroism and self-sacrifice, so his remembrance should not and will not be limited to this weekend’s game. Crowther is nothing short of a hero at his alma mater, let alone within humanity, and his legacy means so much more to Boston College than any sporting event ever could.

Crowther is truly the best of what Boston College has to offer, so as the team takes the field on Friday, it is important to remember his sacrifice above all else. The red bandanas worn by students and players on Friday should serve as a tribute to Welles Crowther, a hero immortalized by his selfless actions and their far-reaching effects.

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Born and raised in New Jersey, but I’m a Wisconsinite at heart. I talk way too much about the Green Bay Packers, Bruce Springsteen, and It’s Always Sunny.