Jameis Winston had just thrown for 444 yards and three touchdowns in Death Valley against the No. 3 team in the country as a freshman. In his postgame interview, he’s fired up, because of how his team had not just beat Clemson but annihilated it, 51-14. After thanking specific teammates for their work, his interview was over and he looked at the ESPN reporter and said this:
“I’m tryna tell you, Florida State’s bringing that swag back.”
Then he walked away and high-fived some fans.
Well, I can tell you what it isn’t.
When one of Boston College’s forwards took the puck up the ice in Tuesday night’s game against Harvard, I kind of dozed off. Whether it was Ryan Fitzgerald, Austin Cangelosi, or Matt Gaudreau, it didn’t matter. This was slow-paced and sloppy hockey, and that isn’t a style that breeds a mentality of confidence, or lead to success. That’s not swag.
So, as I sat in the upper deck of Conte Forum’s student section on Tuesday night, I got really, really bored.
The reason I spent the evening watching that game is because I had a hypothesis about the men’s hockey team and wanted to see if it was right. The playing style of the team isn’t something that’s often talked about. It’s a topic that’s difficult to wrap your mind around and takes time to understand.
BC lost more than just its three top point-scorers—and Pat Brown—because the team is now without a dominant style and mentality. Having a top team is about more than having the best players. It’s about developing a way of playing.
I’m a soccer person writing about hockey, but there’s a link between the two sports that can help us understand what’s happening within this team, so stay with me while I explain the logic.
There are five things that decide a soccer game: 1. Talent of the players; 2. Mentality of the players; 3. The system; 4. Luck; 5. Style.
The most important of those things is the style, which is the way a team plays in terms of how offensive or defensive it is. In soccer, that can mean being ultra-possessive like the Barcelona teams of years past that established and developed a style of play based around short-passing. Some teams play with extremely defensive blocks. Barcelona met its match in Inter Milan and Chelsea teams that stifled it with good organization.
The style evokes the mentality. A team is at its best when it is confident in the way it plays and not only has an understanding of the working system, but also a trust in it. If a team has those things, then it’s got swag, and once it’s got swag, the team becomes really hard to stop.
See: Florida State, Liverpool, and BC men’s hockey last year.
The super line ran the show and led men’s hockey on a run, during which the fans behind the goal were sucking the puck into the net. There was a feeling in the building that BC was going to score each time it had possession, and that’s because the team had created an indomitable and distinct style of attacking play that could only be beaten by a better all-around hockey team (Union) or a team that was well-organized in defense (Notre Dame).
All of the breaks were speedy, fluid, and electrifying. That was the style and it created a positive mentality. That team had swag.
The line may have led the way, but the rest of the team was on board with it too, and that’s because confidence trickles down. Confidence creates the mentality that you can’t be stopped. It’s not arrogance. It’s a feeling on the ice that you think, “We’ve got these guys pinned down, and we’re gonna get another,” and the defense is thinking, “We actually cannot get the puck out of this zone, and even if we do, it’s a long sprint to the net, and I don’t wanna battle any of those guys in the corner for a puck dumped into the zone, because even if I do these people are gonna think that I suck at life anyway.”
None of that was created on purpose. The flow just kind of happened. It’s one thing to be a good attacking team with three really good players, but another to create a style that produces swag.
An ocean away in England, Luis Suarez rushed down the pitch time and time again as Liverpool played Arsenal. The two teams hadn’t even played 20 minutes of football, and Suarez’s team had already put four goals past a Premier League title contender. But Suarez directly contributed to just one of those goals. The rest of them flowed from the rest of the team’s attacking talents like Daniel Sturridge, Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, and Raheem Sterling.
It was exactly like watching BC hockey play. There was a lot of talent, a rip-roaring attack, and a defense that was able to hold itself up even though it had to compensate for so many players getting forward.
Over the summer though, Suarez was sold to Barcelona, and this season, analysts thought about how Liverpool could replace him. He brought a bite into the attack. He was relentless. Each time he ran with the ball at his feet, he looked like he was going to fall over. Once he left, everyone remained calm, as the rest of those attacking talents would remain, and reinforcements came into the squad in droves. Mario Balotelli, Adam Lallana, and Lazar Markovic were all supposed to make an impact. But that hasn’t been the case. Liverpool can’t buy a result, and the attack is without ideas through the first third of this season. Liverpool lost its swag.
Suarez’s play made the system work, and it gave the team a mentality that couldn’t be replicated by any other squad, and this led to Liverpool’s dominance. That’s what swag is.
Gaudreau, Arnold, and Hayes brought the same substance to BC, and it started a trickle-down effect, where other players were breaking forward fast.
With them gone, the skill isn’t there, and now, it’s led to a system that looks non-existent, even though a lot of the players from last season have come back. The confidence the team once had is gone as a result of Gaudreau, Arnold, and Hayes leaving, so their style and mentality have been ruined. These athletes’ abilities contributed to the team doing better as a whole.
While the line contributed a lot of the team’s points last season, other guys like Fitzgerald stepped up too. The team had swag, and now it’s all gone. Having swag is about more than just an identity. It’s about having a style that works and evokes a state of mind within a team that would make Winston happy, because it leads to success and confidence, while putting a smile on everyone’s face.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor