Elliott Sullivan and his cousin Owen McEvoy at the Birmingham Bowl.

The last time Boston College Football was any good, Matt Ryan was our quarterback and Elliott was a baby. Telling my kids about David Gordon’s field goal that beat #1 Notre Dame back in 1993 might as well be a story from the leather helmet era. They occasionally watch games with me like that 3-0 loss to Wake Forest a few years ago dubbed “the worst game ever” by our friends (and some sportswriters). So, when bowl schedules were announced this year and barely bowl eligible Boston College was slated to play in Birmingham on Jan. 2, I thought – great, it’s close but no one will want to go.
Then on Christmas morning I was gifted a slip of paper that read, “You are going to the Birmingham Bowl!” Kristen and our brother-in-law Tom teamed up to arrange for us all to travel to the game in an RV. (Kristen’s sister Betsy is also a BC alum and received the same gift.) The kids were actually excited about going so I was too. Weather forecast called for a cold rain so we pulled out our warmest BC gear and I started humming ‘For Boston, For Boston…’
Tom agreed to drive the RV, which felt like we were hauling one of those pre-fabricated houses with a ‘Wide Load’ designation. I navigated and kept the windshield from fogging up. Betsy spent 40 miles getting the Xbox to work for Elliott and Owen. Margo and Emma roamed the bedroom area, eating snacks and making Tik-Tok videos while Kristen stressed about seat belts. It was just like being at home.
Upon arrival at the tailgate, the kids wanted to check out the Fan Zone. I tried to talk them out of it because it was raining so hard that we’d be soaked hours before kickoff. But there was no stopping them. It was too muddy to attempt field goals so the sad cluster of tents offered us free Cheez-its and a contest for an official team helmet. Our odds were so good, I kind of can’t believe we didn’t win.
The game was at Legion Field, a storied venue where a decade before my time at BC, Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie led BC to victory over Alabama. Once inside though, I realized that doused in two days of a downpour, even history can look pathetic. Puddles claimed empty seats and the scant crowd sought the overhang shelter of the highest section of the stadium. Kristen bought front row tickets but for an extra $5 we probably could’ve joined the huddle.
Last year, BC’s Bowl game was outright cancelled in the first quarter due to inclement weather, which had never happened before. When lightning forced a delay in this game, too, we knew at the very least that we had secured a dubious distinction in the annals of College Football lore. Go Eagles!
While waiting in the dank galleys of Legion Field, I bought a freezing cold Bud Light from the lone vendor. I was shivering and I don’t really like Bud Light, but sometimes bleak moments call for beer. A friend sent me a tweet by someone named Steven Godfrey: “Godspeed to anyone, fan, player, coach, whatever, waiting out a January rainstorm in Legion field on a weekday afternoon. It’s like an Elliott Smith record.”

When the game finally resumed, BC got clobbered by a superior University of Cincinnati team. We fans were likewise soaked, chilled and defeated. As we trudged back to the RV, I threw my arm around Elliott, who just so happens to be named after the aforementioned melancholic musician. I told him that years from now, when BC is playing for a National Championship, he’ll be able to say he was here, at Legion Field, in a frigid rain, supporting the team when they were down. He replied, “I knew you were going to say that.”
Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at tim@sullivanfinerugs.com.

Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan is an award-winning columnist who writes about family life and thinks everything is at least a little funny. tim@sullivanfinerugs.com