Columnists, Sports

DYKSTRA: Behind the Mask

The following column is the first in a series of columns written by former Daily Free Press sports editors. Today’s column is written by Sam Dykstra, who was the sports editor during the Fall 2010 semester.

So this is the space where I get to complain about how nobody goes to BU athletic events, right? How the women’s basketball team is 7-0 in America East, has a great shot to qualify for the NCAAs for the first time since 2003 and yet only 359 of you went to see the team’s latest game at The Roof, a 53-46 comeback win over defending conference champion Hartford? That’s what I’m supposed to do here on this left side of the FreeP’s glorious back page, right?

Lord knows a lot of quality Turley Publications ink has been spilled – and a lot of HTML code written (it’s the new age, man) – to discuss this very topic, and Lord knows I used to edit a lot of columns on this very topic. (That’s right, the FreeP Sports page used to be my baby, and now it’s someone else’s baby. So watch your mouth, mister. Or madam.)

Instead, I’m here to tell you what it’s like when you don’t have the magical Sports Pass to take for granted anymore, when you’re . . . gulp . . . graduated like I am.

Here’s the story. I was able to graduate one semester early thanks to those glorious AP exams I slaved over four years ago in high school. As such, last fall was my last semester on campus. Except for the fact that I spent that last semester on the campus of Dublin City University in Ireland while studying abroad. (I had never been outside the country before that. You would have made the same decision, especially if your middle name is Collins.)

Funny, or sad, the thing about Ireland is that it doesn’t exactly have ice hockey. It has Gaelic football – the first person to think that that’s “soccer” will meet the same fate as Culain’s hounds, look it up – and hurling. But there’s no hockey simply because there’s no ice. The closest thing I came to the sport was watching the first period of a Stars and Avalanche tilt for five minutes at 2 a.m. before going to bed. Turns out, I missed a good one. The Stars won 7-6 in overtime. I saw none of those goals.

I had a void that needed filling upon my arrival back in the states. I tried a Springfield Falcons game in my backyard against the Providence Bruins and BU legend Colby Cohen, but I found the contest to be wanting, considering the only cheers coming from the home crowd were for the Springfield coach to put in 38-year-old Manny Legace.

Instead, I thought I’d find solace at last Friday’s BU-Providence game at Agganis after a friend invited me. The offer was sweetened by the promise of a section 117 ticket, no longer available to an “alum” like me, as well as Raising Cane’s beforehand and free ice skating afterward.

So I unhooked my white alternate BU sweater from my home closet and threw it in my backpack, not before noticing the slight stain on the front that had been the result of the national championship celebration in 2009.

Then, I needed my hockey mask. Anyone who’s ever gone with me to a BU game when I wasn’t part of the FreeP’s hockey press corps knows that I wear a Jason Friday the 13th mask. I’d say part of this charade is to freak out any opponents who may be streaking down the ice on a breakaway, but really, we all know it’s a lavish attempt to get on the big screen.

Anyways, I found the mask in my family garage, but the scarlet lightning bolts I drew on it sophomore year had also been stained away. I tried convincing myself that it looked scarier with the Sharpie streaks – think Mark Herzlich during his years at Boston College – and then threw that in the bag as well.

A few hours and a cross-state drive later, I was walking into The Greek ticket in hand, jersey on torso and mask on face. My buddy, draped in a BU flag and with a Phantom mask of his own, turned and asked, “Does it feel any different?”

No, I thought at first. Agganis was still brimming with the old and young alike, and Joe the ticket taker was still there being his jovial, but perhaps a little crazed, self. I snuck into 118 for the first time since freshman year, again another relatively familiar feeling.

Then, moments before puck drop, I looked around. Everyone looked so young. We were undoubtedly some of 118’s more experienced patrons. What was even more difficult to swallow was the fact that most of my fellow fans that night weren’t here to witness that national championship. They were seniors, juniors and sophomores. In high school. Yeesh.

Then, the comments and texts from younger friends who had never seen Fan Sam at Agganis before began flowing in. “You look ridiculous,” said one FreeP sports editor who shall not be named. “Cool mask bro,” texted another. I apparently stood out more than I’d imagined.

Six goals later, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was obviously not the team I had covered a year ago, nor was it the team from sophomore year, both of whom had missed the NCAA tournament. This team was something special. The numerology of baseball has taught me to never trust anything from a sample size of one, but my eyes were telling me something different.

That being said, I didn’t get that feeling from the rest of the youngins in the crowd. Even a 6-1 win felt a little like the norm for them, and perhaps deservedly so considering the team’s recent hot streak. Juxtapose that with a fellow early graduate who texted me, “CAN I GET EXCITED? I HAVEN’T BEEN EXCITED IN YEARS.”

The lesson is this. Take it from a grad that this team is indeed something to be excited about. Earn your own jersey and Sharpie stains. Don’t let this special time pass because soon enough, you’ll be the ones wondering where all the high schoolers came from. Make sure you go to the games.

Wait. Darnit. Sorry, Turley.

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