Even in the Toughest of Times, Ya Always Gotta Believe

When I saw Boston College men’s hockey scheduled a game on Tues., Nov. 8, I was relieved.

Thank goodness, I would have something to escape to on that day. While the rest of the country would be glued to FiveThirtyEight, New York Times, or CNN updates, I could sit back and relax at Kelley Rink. I could take myself away from what was happening in real life and focus in on what Joe Woll was doing in net, or the progression of BC’s plethora of unheralded freshmen, or which defensive pairings looked best. Following the game, I’d chat it up with players and coaches, and spend my night shirking homework and writing my story.

As I imagined this as my reality, it relaxed me about whatever was to come. And then I remembered that I had to live tweet.

On game days, my feed is generally filled with Eagles fans chirping about the game. If it’s a hockey game, they’re happy. If it’s a football game, they’re not. But on this day, I had nothing but updates on the voting results as they flooded in, state-by-state, across the country. I tried to avoid it, but I couldn’t. It haunted me. Even if I muted the big media outlets that I followed, one of my friends would retweet something. Like Patrick Towles against the Louisville pass rush, I just couldn’t escape it.

The stress of the constant inundation of this life-altering information grew too much for me to ignore. As I spoke to Greg Brown and JD Dudek in the postgame press conference, my eyes were fixated on counties drifting red or blue. I couldn’t ask any tangible questions for a game that seemed so trivial in the wake of what was affecting millions of Americans.

Surely, though, writing would help ease my nerves. I love the liberation of creating my game stories. It allows me to tap into my imaginative side as I describe goals or touchdowns to readers, while channelling my stress into something productive by forcing me to meet my self-imposed strict deadlines.

But even that grew to be a chore that night. For one night, I wanted an escape. And sports, the thing I always turn to in an attempt to remove myself from the real world, couldn’t help.

The next morning, I had several texts from my younger sister, Sarah. Her tone wasn’t snarky or sarcastic like she usually is when bragging that mom and dad took her out to Benihana or my other favorite places. This time, she was scared. She had questions that shouldn’t have been my responsibility to answer. But with no one else in our family that shared her values and way of thinking, she had only me to turn to. My 14-year-old sister was now fearful to take the New York City Subway to school because she is a woman, fearful for her friends who are minorities, fearful for her future. How do I—an equally nervous young person in this country, albeit one of more privilege than she—explain that things will be okay?

And just when they lost me for a brief spell, sports pulled me back in. If you know anything about me at all—and you’ve been reading this column for two years now, so you probably should know a good deal—you’d know I turned to the New York Mets. I relayed to her the message that Tug McGraw screamed to the 1973 Mets when they tried to roar back and win the National League Pennant, despite being 11.5 games out of first place as late as Aug. 5 of that year.

“Ya gotta believe!”

Because this sentiment applies to every team, every game, and every fanbase the way it does to our country right now. Ya gotta believe love trumps hate. Ya gotta believe that it’s always morning in America. That yes, we’ve made a lot of progress in many areas of our nation, and yes, there are plenty of ways that America still needs to be fixed that those of us who live in New York, California, and Massachusetts didn’t realize or ignored. But ya gotta believe that as long as we’re strong in what we believe and fight for what we want—after all, isn’t that what the U.S. was built on?—we won’t roll back.

It’s why, in moments of fear and uncertainty, sports have always brought me back to strength. There’s nothing else on this planet that can give you that hope and feeling in the face of adversity without the consequences other than the real world. It’s no safe space—it’s just something that reminds me that, if people can be as strong as they are to overcome the odds in games, we can in real life, too.

I haven’t gotten to cover too many moments of overcoming on gameday. But, once in a while, I get a chance to see BC will itself to victory, with comebacks and thrills guided by hope when the team had nothing else. Not in football, of course, but in men’s hockey and baseball. A third-period comeback last year at Matthews Arena when the Eagles scored three in the third; Ian McCoshen’s last-chance goals against BU; the 2016 Beanpot Final; Ryan Fitzgerald’s overtime winner against Vermont; Jacob Stevens’s shutout of Louisville; forcing Miami to a third game of a Super Regional. Each time, the Eagles laughed in the face of defeat and willed themselves to win on belief alone.

Like McGraw back in ’73, I have no way of guaranteeing any of that to Sarah. But it’s comforting to feel the hope, like you have a chance to rise above. Sports gives that to me every day. Capturing these rare instances of joy from hopelessness, that’s why I’ve done this job the last two years. If we can hope through sports, we can hope through the real world. And even when we’re down, that will make everything okay.

Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor

About Michael Sullivan 272 Articles
Michael Sullivan was the 2017 editor-in-chief of The Heights and a two-time sports editor. He brought this paper to once a week and reminisces about the Wednesdays he could've had at BC. You can still follow his journalistic adventures @MichaelJSully.