I beg your indulgence on this first Monday morning of the 55th Beanpot. A little history: The first incarnation of Bish’s Blog surfaced several years ago when I was a contributor at HockeyEastOnline.com. Having a lot of free time back then, I decided, in February of Y2K, to put together a humorous parody to entertain the many friends I had made at the four Beanpot schools. What follows is an updated version of my column of February 1, 2000. ----
Call me Bishmael. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my bank account, no parchment on my wall, and nothing in particular to interest me in Connecticut (especially, as it seemed certain that the region’s professional hockey entry would soon be leaving for warmer surroundings), I thought that I would travel New England a little and see the collegiate version of the grand old game of ice hockey, played so especially well in the city that outsiders call Bean Town.
It was a way I had of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Now, whenever I find myself growing dim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November, December or January in my soul; whenever I find myself this side of paradise, involuntarily flipping through my college yearbook, and binging up my university days to every person I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street and knocking people’s hats off (especially those on Yankee or Canadiens fans) -- then, I account it high time to get to see a college hockey game as soon as I can. Any Division-I game held alongside the Charles will do.
This is my substitute for a Faulknerian leap off of the Harvard Bridge. With a philosophical and literary flourish, Melville put himself to the sea; I ’quietly’ take to the rink. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all persons in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings toward the Hub of Hockey with me.
But -- and there is always a ’but’ -- during these early February days I find myself in a state of extreme confusion and I find my brain quartered by loyalties, loyalties which dare not be uttered to those of my alma mater, my post-graduate employer, my second alma mater, or members of the Coop. This year I am again so very conflicted.
It’s shocking to be sure. The annual Beanpot Tournament is most certainly the best time of the year to be a college hockey fan in Boston proper. There is no greater prize to covet than the pewter bowl and the theoretical key to ’all the beans in Boston.’ The second greatest hockey tournament in the world (the best being the Stanley Cup playoffs, of course), it is the stuff that frozen fantasies are made of.
But whom to root for?
That question is the door to my own private hell. And it is becoming an annual rite.
As an undergraduate, matriculating with the scarlet and white Class of ’97, the answer was easy and need not be taught by my mentor Mr. Ed Carpenter: Boston University.
After I received my paper and found a job across town on Huntington Ave, on the good ship Husky under captain Jack Grinold, I thought that there would be no question as to with whom my hope rode: Northeastern.
Then, safely domiciled on the Heights -- gainfully employed by the institution I shamelessly derided during my BU and NU careers, rescued by Boston College after an unfortunate corporate merger ate my first ’real’ private sector job. Yes, my happy cubicle in West Newton was dismantled in much the same way as Moby the whale dissected the humble Pequod. So it was that Boston College became my personal Rachel, having plucked Bishmael from the frothy sea of unemployment. Grateful as I was, again you would think that my allegiance would be easy to predict: Boston College.
Finally, after several seasons away from any rink, I was ensconced in the shadow of Harvard Stadium in the employ of the Crimson athletic department. There, wearing crimson colored ties, tweed and DHA’s; Holmes’ (or the man who first called Boston the Hub) alma mater treated me gorgeously. And, while watching the formerly Black & Gold clad Edward Donato, or ’Teddy’, as the Cantabrigians call him, lead his charges against the rough and tumble Son’s of Elihu, most would think that there would be no doubt about whom I would root for: Harvard.
You would think, wouldn’t you?
The truth of the matter is this. As I circumambulate the city on this first Monday of the tournament, I find my loyalty fairly evenly stretched from the Chestnut Hill end of Beacon Street to St. Botolph’s in the Back Bay to the Law School in Cambridge by way of Kenmore Square near the Fenway. Oh, how I long to be one of those not-so-silent sentinels all around the town, sternly and stoically wearing scarlet or black or gold or crimson and steadfastly rooting on my chosen institution. My poor psyche and my even poorer wardrobe now resemble a disgusting plaid speckled with scarlet and white and gold and maroon and black and red and Black & Gold.
"Yuck," I say.
Oh, how I wish to able to safely and solely root for Dr. Parker’s interns or York’s battalion or Cronin’s chosen ones or Edward’s scholars. No, I must sit idly by, cheering shot and save simultaneously, check and breakaway concurrently, penalty and power play coincidentally.
Woe is Bishmael.
"Woe," I say.
To boot, it has become a matter of concernment where I might find sanctuary -- win or lose. It was a very dubious February evening, when I most recently sought sustenance. Nay, it was a very dark and dismal, bitingly cold and cheerless Sunday and so I broke out from my humble abode in the central part of the Commonwealth. Arriving as I did, after dark, in the Old Towne, it was with halting steps that I paced the streets and passed the sign of ’Mary Ann’s’ -- but it looked too jolly there and they certainly have no use for a Crimson colored Eagle winged Terrier and Husky crossbreed such as myself.
Further on down Commonwealth Ave, from the bright windows of ’the Dugout’ there came such fervent rays, that it seemed to have melted the packed snow ice from the dorm above, for everywhere else the congealed frost lay inches thick in a hard asphaltic pavement. But, alas, the undergraduates in scarlet rejected my humble countenance and I again struck to the street.
Such dreary streets! How sullen and forlorn is Boston from Back Bay through Fenway in the winter. At this hour of the night, of the first day of the week, that quarter of the town proved all by deserted. But presently I came to a smoky light proceeding from a low, wide building, the door of which stood invitingly open. But again, ’Punters’ was not my place either -- what with the Husky hysterics and histrionics sounded from the back room and my not being invited to join in. Alas.
Did I find a welcoming glance from the waitresses at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage? Perhaps. But, by now my face tear streaked, I was too sad a sight for a purveyor of such sweet sandwiches and food of comfort. I asked for a frappe and was so obliged, but then hurried out the door and into the frosty discomfort of the Square during the sour second month of the year. Walking toward the river past the Lampoon Building, the Loon looked down, and I swear to you on John H’s statue, the Loon laughed, LAUGHED, at Bishmael!
So, this poor scribe remains a ship without a port, short of the press compartment at the Garden.
Yes, only there will I be welcome and only then on level nine, where there is never ever any cheering. In the press box I have to remain with my compatriots, the grim faced wordsmiths and sports news personnel, the truth of my rooting locked safely in my subconscious, unknown even to my fair wife. There I will sit, in some quiet corner, purposely held somewhat aloof, and desirous not to spoil the hilarity of my friends in the balcony below with my own sober face.
When the revelry of my companions ringing the rink beneath mounts its height, I will attempt to slip away unobserved.
It always happens, however, that one of these miscreant revelers will catch up with me on Causeway Street and ask, "Whom do you root for this week, Bishmael?"
There will be a pause, a wry smile, and a snappy about-face.
My truthfully simple reply, uttered as I shuffle away in the cold New England night, will be succinctly stated, "the Bruins."
With sincere apologies to New Englander turned Manhattanite, Herman Melville, whose annotated copy of Shakespeare resides in Harvard’s Houghton Library. Hopefully, he did not roll over too often with this (very, very) humble parody (not parity) of the first few chapters of his classic Moby Dick.
And, of course, good luck to all the players in coaches in their quest for all the Beans.