When Boston University Beat Miami
When BU fell behind 3-1, the guy dressed like Jesus sat down and put his head in his hands.
That would be half of BU's superfan The Hot Dog and Jesus duo, whose heavily favored Terriers were about to lose to Miami at Verizon Center.
The game was over. Boston was pulling its goalie. A beat writer standing by the elevator was calling in his "Miami wins!" lede. I was sprinting over to the RedHawks crowd to enjoy the celebration of their first-ever national championship. Those fans were already hopping up and down in glee. This kid in his robe, though, still believed.
"I didn't lose faith," he told me, after it was over, after his beard had been stripped off during the dog-pile in the bleachers, after he had been squeezed and photographed more than David Archuleta at an AARP convention.
"That's the game of hockey," said Miami defenseman Kevin Roeder, whose team LOST this game. "That's why we play. Keeps the fans excited. Hope they enjoyed it."
I think they did. Sports fans are a weird bunch. I met some Vermont kids this week from the Catamounts' club hockey program. They were wearing their sweaters in the stands. Hadn't been washed. Looked like dirty rags, soaked in a bucket of sweat and then painted green.
"It smells like victory," one of the kids told me.
I asked whether he wasn't embarrassed to smell like that in public.
"Everyone loves the smell," he said. "Look, do you mind?" he said, holding his retch-inducing arm up to the nose of an older man seated in the next row.
"Smell of victory," the old guy said, with a grin.
A guy like that might go to dozens and dozens of sporting events, hundreds maybe. Unless he's a savant, he forgets almost all of them, sometimes within days. Then he stumbles his way into a national championship hockey game--the first collegiate championship in any sport decided in D.C.--and sees two goals in the final minute of regulation, sudden-death overtime, strangers retelling highlights in the bathroom, and fans whose pants were literally shredded from celebrating, standing and cheering with their legs bared to the world.
"Doesn't get much better than this," one guy wearing a Michigan jersey observed in the concourse before overtime. And it's true, there just aren't that many 15-minute pauses before a nationally televised Saturday night winner-takes-it-all sudden-death championship games in any of our lives.
After it was over, the two locker rooms were just the way you'd write them up. Miami's was silent. Players sat, still in uniform, crying. Some rubbed their eyes, or shook their heads.
Across the hall, in the Caps' dressing room, the Terriers had ripped off their clothes. This was a NCAA-approved Champagne-free zone, so they dumped water on each other out of little bottles. They put dance music on the same speaker system usually monopolized by Alex Ovechkin, and they danced. The national championship trophy was passed around. They asked reporters to take cell-phone photos of them holding the trophy.
"Surreal, surreal's the word that comes to mind," Jason Lawrence said. "I've never felt like this before."
Defenseman Eric Gryba strolled by. Two days ago, he was sporting what he described as a "manly" beard; now he was clean-shaven.
"I couldn't take it anymore," he explained. "It took two minutes. It was the best two minutes of my life."
His roommate, the equally hairy Brian Strait, was wandering around, like he couldn't figure out what to do. He held the trophy and just kind of stared at it for a while.
"Pure ecstasy," he said. "The most amazing thing I've ever been a part of or seen in my life."
Almost immediately, all the corny things every team in the world thinks up had become irreplaceable chapters of the story. The "Burn the Boats" slogan, one of those we'll-die-before-we-lose mantras that players refused to explain before today. The pep band's decision to stick with "Don't Stop Believin" as a theme, even as it verged ever close to "We Are The Champions"-style repetition. The fans' "Yes We Can!" chants, which matched the "Yes We Can!" chants favored by Miami.
If they had held on for 40 more seconds, the RedHawks' version of those stories would have slid into the tale. Their non-hockey nicknames: Cameron Schilling is "Suicidal," Brian Kaufman is "Old Balls," Andy Miele is "The Rat," Vincent LoVerde is "Skinny Vinny." The time they pranked Bill Loupee, making him believe that a tattooed guy named Mo who bought his truck rims for $600 was unhappy with the purchase and wanted a piece of him. Their decision to shave their playoff beards, and arrive in D.C. with playoff mustaches.
"When it comes to championships, it's just that much: one inch, one shot, one post," Lawrence said from the winning dressing room. "We're lucky we were on the right end of it tonight. Can't feel any better."
"You know what, this is part of the game. No matter what, you're gonna come out with a winner and you're gonna come out with a loser," Roeder said from across the hall. "Did I enjoy it? I had a great time I had a great time since the day we got here. This was just spectacular."
Up in the stands, the Terriers band played pure pep, on and on, while across the arena you could see the Miami band leader slowly conducting, but you couldn't hear any sound. The delirious BU kids couldn't keep their attention long enough to finish one chant before starting another, but they kept enough composure to shout out anti-Boston College slurs.
"This is the best moment of my life," the Hot Dog said. "I can't think of anything that tops this."
'I'm gonna kill myself now," the kid dressed like Jesus said, "Because it's never getting any better."
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