Monday, November 23, 2009

RIP, Northeastern Football

Very sad to read the news on the front page of this morning's Boston Globe that Northeastern University has decided to fold up its football program after 74 seasons.

There's no arguing with the point made by Dan Shaughnessy in today's sports section that Boston is first and foremost a professional sports town with much of the fan and media interest focused on the Sox, Pats, Bruins, and Celtics. Still, what makes Boston such a bountiful place for the die-hard sports fan is the plethora of college, high school, and amateur sporting events that are infused with an organic crowd energy and lack the overwrought "game presentation" (see T-shirt tosses, noise meters, thunderstix, etc.) that can make the action on the field a secondary consideration at some professional games. Leaving aside the matter of whether the move was justified or not by the university, losing another one of these options means a less vibrant sports scene for Boston fans.

Northeastern football didn't have the history of Harvard, Boston College, or even Boston University (which canned football in 1997), and its off-campus location at Parsons Field made it difficult to draw the student body. But Northeastern football offered one of the few accessible, affordable, and family-friendly options for pigskin fans. Parsons Field is just a short walk from the Green Line, and parents could wheel their strollers right through the gates and right up to the bleachers--something that's not an option at the other Division 1 college venues.

As Shaughnessy writes about today, Parsons Field was "never a destination for big-time football buffs" and its most historic moment may have been when Babe Ruth played there with neighborhood kids. To me, though, Parsons Field had some quirks that made it a unique college football venue. You could stand right along the fence behind the east end zone and watch the goaline action from a unique vantage point. I enjoyed watching the field goals and extra points sailing through the uprights and landing on the roof of the long, squat field house (or perhaps clear it completely) behind the end zone. Kids would have fun waiting for the ball to roll down off the roof of the house, probably like many backyard Nerf football games across New England. There was also a statue of the university's mascot, King Husky, keeping perpetual guard to the field house.

It's a shame, too, that the news wasn't announced until the season was over so that the football program could have received a proper send-off at Parsons Field from the fans. If you want to take a (now nostalgic) look at Northeastern football, there's a section in the football chapter of The Die-Hard Sports Fan's Guide to Boston.

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