State Of The Heights: Losing Optimism For BC Athletics

In August, I stepped into the world of Boston College Athletics with a helium balloon of optimism keeping me afloat. I’ve fallen a long way since.

Nearly seven months of gradual deflation all came together in a single moment last Saturday in Conte, as I watched BC fans pack up and leave the game against the University of Virginia early to beat the rush.

I was late getting to the game, and entered to a surprising buzz from the crowd. I found a nice spot behind the media seats, and dove headfirst into the contest in front of me. BC came to play, and were neck and neck with the Cavaliers early in the contest. Game on.

For 35 minutes, I watched BC play arguably its best basketball of the entire season against the No. 2 ranked team in the nation. For 35 minutes, the crowd got behind every Patrick Heckmann finish, every defensive stop, and every Olivier Hanlan shake and bake. My balloon was nearing the rafters.

And then everything came crashing down around me, as it usually has this season. Why can’t BC finish games? How can the team play its best game of the season and still lose by 14?

Three days later, I watched Aaron Brown start 3-of-3 from behind the arc as BC jumped out to a lead against Syracuse, only to fall behind a few minutes later, come back late in the second, and ultimately fall short.

These moments lead me to ask, “What more can I be optimistic about?”

On the hardwood, Heckmann flashes brilliance, but then fades into oblivion at times. Hanlan cannot do it all by himself. Brown and Dimitri Batten are streaky. Dennis Clifford and the big men can’t compete with the size and athleticism in the ACC. And Idy Diallo is lost for the season. Where does this bring the program? Where is the silver lining—the one thing that can patch up my broken seams?

Sure, the Eagles can get to 12 wins this season, but that’s still not good. And now look at the future. Warning: It’s bleak. Brown and Batten will soon be gone, as well as seniors Heckmann and Eddie Odio. Hanlan will presumably enter into the NBA draft.

In searching for answers this season, I’ve found nothing but dead ends and trap doors. The bottom-line: BC is mediocre at basketball right now. I’m moving on, begrudgingly. But where do I go from here?

On the ice, BC men’s hockey is average this year (gasp), causing murmurs over whether the team will even earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

A lot of air came out of the balloon after Jack Eichel and BU took down the Eagles at Kelley Rink in November. Recently, a revenge win against the Terriers was washed away by a follow-up loss to Maine. At least BC fans can look forward to the Beanpot.

On the pitch—a place I prefer to be—the Eagles went from competing with Duke, Clemson, Louisville, and even upsetting then No. 1 Notre Dame to snowballing down the stretch and missing the ACC tournament. I watched Phil Sandgren pump his fists triumphantly in front of the crowd after scoring two incredible solo efforts against the Cardinals, only for BC to lose in overtime. I later sat through 100 minutes of a scoreless draw against a weak North Carolina State team, and could only stomach one half of a loss to Dartmouth.

Even BC’s best fall sport, field hockey, made a quick exit stage-left from both the ACC and NCAA tournaments. Sigh.

And then there’s the gridiron. The extreme highs of an upset over USC are forgotten by the abysmal lows of that pesky extra point, and so here we are looking back at a 7-6 season of what could have been. I still expect another improvement next year, but that is a ways away.

The recipe for BC sports this year has been simple: Cook on high, add garnish, and then accidently drop the dish on the kitchen floor. Serves thousands of Superfans.

The only treatments available for my incurable disease are women’s hockey, women’s lacrosse—this is me officially jumping on that bandwagon—and women’s soccer. Expect great things from these teams now and in the future.

Katie Burt, Alex Carpenter, and the Eagles are dominating the women’s hockey circuit, and are serious contenders to hoist the big trophy this season. Women’s lacrosse is a perennial contender and is the preseason No. 7 in Lacrosse Magazine’s latest poll. Meanwhile, women’s soccer looks strong for next season, especially after the recent call-up for Allyson Swaby to the U-20 National Team. McKenzie Meehan should be back from injury to form a deadly partner with Hayley Dowd up top.

For now, with those teams in the back of my head, I can only look forward to watching professional-caliber players like Hanlan and Noah Hanifin work their magic. Expecting wins and trophies is not on the to-do list.

Optimism can be fatal, especially in sports. I’ve learned this in my few months at BC so far. The lowest of the lows can be much worse the highest of the highs. For this reason, a lot of people throw away any hopes in the name of cynicism and low expectations. Low expectations means you can’t be disappointed, right? Wrong. That’s lame. I would rather go into every game expecting the upset and be let down every time. That’s just how I’m wired.

It’s something I’ll never be able to get away from. I’ll come into every season saying, “This is going to be our year.” I will truly believe that statement until times get as bad as these. Unfortunately, Chestnut Hill is not a favorable place to be for someone like myself.

The struggle of watching the Eagles come so close yet still remain so far away has popped my shiny helium balloon. I’ll be back, though—you can count on it.

This may not be BC’s year, but next year can be. My inner optimist is telling me everything else will fall into place leading up to a 8-5 football season (at least) and triumphant bowl victory next year.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor

About Jack Stedman 65 Articles
Jack is the former Associate Sports Editor for The Heights. His first Facebook post was "basketball!"You can follow him on Twitter at @jackstedman_9.