Monday, January 23, 2006

Gionta Among Men

As a student at Boston College, even though I worked for three years in the Sports Media Relations office, I wasn't friends with a lot of the athletes. It's not that I didn't like them, I just tended not to hang in the same circles. Perhaps my best BC student-athlete friend was Cal Bouchard, an exceptional player on the women's basketball team. She not only won numerous academic awards, but also was drafted by the WNBA, and played for the Canadian Olympic team in Sydney. I hung out with her briefly at my five-year college reunion, and she continued to crack me up.

My favorite football acquaintances were a defensive lineman named Pat Kneib, who was as brilliant as he was funny in one of my freshman philosophy classes; and tight end Rob Ellis, who snagged touchdowns and sang beautifully with the college's all-male a cappella group.

Some of the athletes with whom I attended BC have gone onto high-profile success. There were the Hasselbeck brothers, who were Boston College quarterbacks and, I was told by classmates, were very nice guys. One of them's on a Super Bowl-bound team, while the other is the backup QB for my beloved New York Giants. A former BC softball player who roomed with my friend's sister -- and married the younger H-beck brother -- was a sweetheart in her college days, from what I've heard, too. And before Chris Hovan played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings, he would swing by the Communication Department offices, where I worked my senior year, to talk with a professor. (And no, he wasn't wearing face-paint at the time.)

But then there was one guy on the hockey team, Brian Gionta, who always was nice to me, even though he hardly knew me. The guy was a legend on campus, and reminded more than a few people of Doug Flutie in the respect that both were short, talented BC athletes who commanded respect. I had one or two communications classes with him -- one of them was a public speaking class -- but he'd sometimes delve into pleasant small talk with me before or after class.

In the years I was at BC, the Eagles were much like their Major League Baseball counterparts: the painfully close also-rans. I remember in 2000, when they were on the cusp of winning it all, they lost the title game to North Dakota, 4-2. Watching the game on TV, I remember seeing a devastated Gionta skate around the ice. The next day, I was still reeling from the loss -- and I had only watched the game -- when Gionta walked into the same Vanderslice Hall elevator. He pleasantly said hello and carried himself as if nothing had happened. It's then that I realized, "Hey, if he isn't that upset, I shouldn't be either." Just a cool guy.

Of course, the year after I graduated, Gionta and his teammates claimed the NCAA trophy that had eluded them for years. Gionta was unceremoniously picked 84th overall by the New Jersey Devils the following off-season. But after a few relatively quiet seasons in the NHL, he has scored 28 goals in his first 46 games this season. And even though I'm a New York Rangers fan, I had to grin when I saw him hoist the Stanley Cup in 2003. Oh, and he's representing the U.S. in the Torino Olympics.

It's just nice seeing nice things happen to nice people -- who are nice to me.


herpen8 said...

Lies! Bullshit! Turn in your Rangers fan credentials IMMEDIATELY!! You are NO LONGER an equal adversary in THIS Flyers fan's book!!

Every time I watch Ol' Number 12 ply his trade for the North Jersey Horndogs, I think of what Michael Corleone said to Fredo in Havana, the moment he found out Fredo betrayed him.

Seriously, though, being a Communications major (Lupchenko learn nothing - NOOOTHIINNGG!!) I had classes with a wide swath of BC athletes who have gone on to fame and fortune as well. The shame of it is, at least as far as the hockey players are concerned, BC was one stop on a long fight for a career, and even if one (me) had a year's worth of classes with a few, they don't recognize you, or the name, when you interview them or talk to them in the penalty box. The commonality of BC does make it easier to get a long interview with good quotes.

Both Blake Bellefeuille ('00) and Tony Voce ('04) now play for the Philadelphia Phantoms. Philly's Alumni Club has a special next month for a Phantoms game marketed as a way to watch these two stellar players grind it out in a half-filled arena.

Bubb Rubb said...

I'm not rooting for the Seahawks.

We have to part ways on this one.

I'll be generally happy for the school should they win (and Holmgren, Alexander, et al). I'm a Superfan, minus the stupid shirt, but I'm not really a Hasselbeck fan.

No two college quarterbacks were more consistently dissapointing than these two. Anytime Matt's BC career is mentioned, the words "unheralded" and "6th Round" are sure to follow. And Tim is backing up ELI MANNING for God's sake. And his wife has backed up Richard Hatch AND Star Jones! These people are THEIR second fiddles!!!

OK, sorry, had to calm down...

If you've ever seen footage of Matt jumping into the non-existent celebration pile while with Green Bay, or saying "We're gonna receive, and we're gonna score!" against Green Bay (then, er, not scoring), and the oddest spectacle, dressing like an A&F model & fielding questions in the post NFC press conference while belittling reporters GWB-style... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

Sorry... sorry...

So much more that I could say,that I won't... Just needed to get that off my chest...