report from the Super Fan Zone
I picked the wrong thing out of my closet to wear," cracks
a visiting Stanford student, staring at the swarm of BC undergraduates
in yellow T-shirts, thousands-strong before him. It's a gloriously
sunny day in Chestnut Hill, the first Saturday in September, the
first quarter of Boston College's football standoff against Stanford,
the second home game of the season. Hoping to meet up with a friend,
the unshaven Stanfordian scans Alumni Stadium's student section,
a grandstand corner demarcated by an overhanging banner that proclaims
it the "Super Fan Zone."
He finally finds his pal, a skinnier, scruffier version of the actor
Elijah Wood, near the 30-yard line. "Elijah" also sports
the yellow Boston College T-shirt with the maroon trademark "Super
Fan" and the eagle thrusting up his dukesa stance that
bears more than passing resemblance to the posture of Notre Dame's
fighting leprechaun. The Cardinal kid swaggers over and, in lieu
of a greeting, points to his friend's golden garb. "What's
up with this?" he scoffs.
"This is what we do here," shrugs his friend, who places
nine calls on his cell phone during the game's first half and repeatedly
ridicules bad plays by taunting, "That's some weak sauce you're
stirring there!" Weak sauce seems to be a humiliating thing
The Super Fan phenomenon is a relatively recent tradition at BC.
It began in 1997, with a conversation at Addie's, a campus eatery,
between roommates Jeff Bridge '99 (now a financial analyst in Florida)
and Chris Millette '99 (now an assistant basketball coach at Tufts
University). Late in his sophomore year, Bridge had been offered
a cabinet position in undergraduate government as director of athletic
affairs, in the newly elected administration of Kristin Pugh '98
and Dean Bell '98. That day, Millette was helping him brainstorm
ways to boost fan participation. Inspired by universities like Wake
Forest and Nebraska, whose young followers all dressed in one color,
the pair came up with the idea for a simple uniform: gold BC T-shirts
emblazoned with the superlative "Super Fan." Soon after,
they managed to persuade the BC Bookstore to sponsor the cause,
print its own logo on the back, and produce the first batch of 500
Super Fan shirts for free.
But donning the gold didn't become a game-day ritual until after
the first football season had passed, when the Office of First Year
Experience got involved. These days, every incoming freshman receives
a Super Fan jersey during ori-entation, and each year there are
two orientation leaders anointed "Co-Presidents of the Super
Fans." This fall, Dan Cahill '03 and Ryan McCarthy '03 shared
that office, an appointment that involves, in Cahill's words, "getting
the message across to incoming freshmen that everybody is a Super
Fan"plus the indelible responsibility of choosing a slogan
for the back of the incoming class's Super Fan tee. Previous taglines
have included "Whatever It Takes!" ('02), "Go Eagles!"
('03), and "Eagles on the Warpath!" ('04); McCarthy and
Cahill's contributions have been, respectively, "Always Believe
in BC!" ('05) and "Fly Like an Eagle!" ('06). The
Bookstore also sells the shirts individually for $10. So many students
wear them to games that Alumni Stadium's sloped student section
resembles a hill of sunflowers.
And just what do Super Fans do? They laugh a lot. During
the Stanford game, when the action on the field slows, they pose
for group snapshots, trek to the bathroom in packs, chat on cell
phones, smack each other with Nerf footballs, head to the concession
stands for sodas and hot dogs, hurl handfuls of M&Ms in the air,
adhere temporary tattoos of eagles to one another's cheeks, and
gossip about acquaintances or a late-night occurrence in the Mods.
And over and over again, they trade answers to one of three questions:
"Where are you going after the game?" "What are you
doing tonight?" "Have you talked to (insert name)?"
When the action on the field is moving, but in the wrong direction,
Super Fans chant "De-fense!" and blurt "You can't
do that!" When Stanford puts BC to shame by intercepting a
pass, Super Fans, unprompted, pretend they're in physical pain ("Ouch!"
"Owwwww!" "You're killing me!"), summon a deity
("Oh My Lord!" "Sweet Jesus!" "Oh My God!"),
or use indelicate language (number of jeers taken up by the crowd
during the first half of the Stanford game that include the word
"suck": nine). Most of all, Super Fans threaten to leave"Shea
Field, here we come!" (an allusion to the practice field where
tailgate parties collect)though they invariably stay.
When BC is faring well, Super Fans let loose with shouts of "Boo-yah!"
or "Day-yam!" or "There it is!" They clap high
above their heads, stamp their feet, and pump their fists in the
air. They intone mass rallying cries like "Let's go, Eagles!"
and "Go BC!" And when BC completes a particularly spectacular
pass, male Super Fans flex like professional wrestlers while their
female counterparts embrace.
All this is nothing compared to when BC scores, as it does during
the fourth quarter with 6:27 left on the clock, when for the second
time this day, BC kicker Sandro Sciortino '03 ties the game by booting
a field goal. High fives are everywhere. As the marching band blares
"For Boston," group hugs crumple into pig piles on the
aluminum bleachers, and two girls, slathered head-to-toe in maroon
body paint, mew like seagulls. A Super Fan with a Cat in the
Hat hat and a fuzzy blue bathrobe opens and closes his housecoat
like a flasher. (He's fully clothed.) Female Super Fans of all shapes
and sizes are tossed in the air 27 times, once for each point BC
has accumulated, by circles of arms springing like mini trampolines.
There doesn't appear to be an established method for choosing the
fliers: Some girls go willingly, hopping up on their friends' ten-fingered
lifts, while others initially feign reluctance but invariably end
up giggling. According to senior Dan Cahill, "A lot of people
who aren't willing end up going up anyway."
As the crowd calms somewhat and the competition wages on, the band
breaks into "Build Me Up Buttercup," a song BC students
have come to interpret as alluding to the Super Fan Zone's brilliant
hue. The entire student section sings along, swaying, snapping,
pointing, miming the lyrics to one another. Since the band typically
only has time to perform two-minute-plus tunes like this oneand
another fan favorite, "Hey Baby"during TV time-outs,
it's a moment driven by external circumstance, but if the crowd
response is any sign, it is perfectly timed.
Even better timed is senior Derrick Knight's 12-yard run for the
winning touchdown with 36 seconds remaining in the game. The Super
Fan Zone erupts into a surging sea of shouts, claps, stamps, pumps,
cries, flexes, hugs, high fives, tosses, smiles, cheers, fists,
leaps, bodies. Now when some Super Fans yell, "Shea Field,
here we come!" they actually mean it.
Dodero '98 is a freelance writer based in Boston. Her article "Laughing
Matters" appeared in BCM's
Summer 2002 issue.
Photos: Section G in Alumni Stadium. By Justin Knight