Something Amazing

The worst first date I have ever been on was during my college years. Boston College was slated to play Boston University in the championship game of the Beanpot. For those of you who don’t know, the Beanpot is a pretty huge deal in Boston, at least for students and alumni from Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern University and Harvard (do I really need to write “University” here too? You know what Harvard is). It is a college hockey tournament played annually, and needless to say there is basically a party surrounding it every year. I have very vivid memories from my freshman year of hundreds of BC students wearing gold creating chaos in the streets of downtown Boston on the way to the game. It is one of the more fun things a student can do during his or her time in Boston. If you don’t believe me, you can just search on the old YouTube, “I’m Shmacked Boston Beanpot,” and see for yourself. I’m not going to link to the video here because this is a family environment, obviously.

Anyways, I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to bring a girl (who will remain unnamed) I liked to the game. The kicker, though, was that this girl didn’t know the difference between the Red Line and the line you draw in math class – just not the kind of girl who will ever like hockey. That didn’t matter to me. She was tall, had [unnamed color] hair and was pretty cool, despite her lack of hockey sense, so I figured what better way to break the ice (pun, get it?!) than to get center ice tickets for the hottest event in town?

As a BC student, there is nothing more thrilling than getting an opportunity to watch BU lose, so I thought that was my ace in the hole. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The night started off terribly. On the car ride to the TD Garden (that’s where the Bruins play), she asked me who Boston College was playing against and why it was all the way downtown, and not on campus. Ugh. Clueless. There I was, dressed head to toe in the Maroon and Gold of Boston College and she might as well have asked me if I wanted to talk about her family’s Boston Terrier (BU’s mascot, get with the program here. If you haven’t already Googled “Why Boston Is Awesome,” then you might as well stop reading). There was zero school spirit gleaning from her side of the car.

Whatever. I figured the crazy environment of the game would make things less awkward and more fun for us. If you haven’t ever been to a big time college hockey game, I suggest you go at least once. The students are crazy, the building is loud and, especially if it’s a rivalry game like BC-BU, the hitting on the ice is lethal. For students, it’s an amazing experience. The chants are ruthless and mean, but all in good sport. It’s also one of those things where everyone who is involved in the game, whether it be the players or crowd, is there because they love it.

Again, I couldn’t have been more wrong. She asked me why the game was so violent. Seriously? At that point, I was cringing on the inside and the type of awkward tension that exists on any first date was magnified times a thousand. It was almost like I sensed that she had zero desire to be there, while that was the only place in the world that I wanted to be at that moment. I guess to be fair, if you aren’t a hockey fan and you don’t know the rules, then the game seems a little strange. Still though, it was the championship of the BEANPOT. COME ON. That would be like me asking a girl from Canada if she wanted to go see a Stanley Cup game. You just don’t say no to that.

This time, my intuition proved me right, though. Just as the game was going into overtime (YES OVERTIME IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP), she told me she wanted to leave. Um, what? She had been thinking about going home because it was getting late and she had an exam in a few days that she wanted to study for. An exam in a few days? Hell, I don’t think I started study for my exams until a few hours before. I pleaded with her to stay. I told her she was seeing history. I may or may not have exaggerated when I said this game was going to be history, but it was an awesome freaking hockey game.

She finally agreed and said she would stay for overtime, but the moment the game ended in a tie, we would have to be out the door and headed back to BC. A tie!!!! I thought she was joking! This wasn’t soccer – championship games don’t end in ties. In America, we play sudden death. I told her the game could go until four in the morning if it had to. Again, she was not happy. She said she would give it one overtime period then she was making the trek back to BC with or without me.

FINE.

As the seconds ticked away in overtime, the sweat on my face was building up from the sheer intensity inside the Garden. The building felt like it was going to burst the moment a goal was scored – if a goal was scored. The entire crowd refused to sit. My face paint was smeared all over my face (just kidding!!! I would not wear face paint on a first date, calm down). The game was quickly becoming one of the best in the history of the Beanpot.

Then, as if it was a miracle sent from the heavens, with a little over five seconds left in the first overtime period, BC put one in and won. The crowd exploded. BC had just won its third straight Beanpot and BU, ha ha “it sucks to BU”. I was going nuts. Me and my new middle aged alumni friends (remember, sitting center ice in the expensive seats, not with the students) were high fiving acting like we had just won the game. Then, I got a tug on my shirt, I looked over and it was the date, asking if we could go back to campus.

At that moment right there, I knew I would never settle with something that didn’t make me happy, whether it was a potential girlfriend or anything – that was it.

The reason I bring this up is not because I may have taken a very extreme path to learn a lesson, to never settle with what I have, but because I learned it all again this week. With my own eyes, I saw what happens when you don’t settle.

My dad and I, along with two other BEF team members, were invited up to Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Boston to see what an incredible place it is. Let. Me. Tell. You. There is something very special going on at Vertex. I don’t think I ever imagined a day in my life when I would see two TOWERS overlooking the water in Boston’s Seaport district dedicated to curing cystic fibrosis.

That is 100% their goal – to cure cystic fibrosis.

After meeting quite a few different people on the staff at Vertex, I can confidently say that I don’t think I have ever walked out of an office building feeling as inspired as I was a few days ago. The entire work force was totally energized and ready to improve on everything they have already accomplished.

I think it goes without saying the kind of major strides that Vertex has made in the world of cystic fibrosis. While only a tiny percentage of patients are benefiting in the here and now, I have the utmost confidence that one day CF patients worldwide will wake up feeling, I don’t know, just a little different than they do today. The road to a cure is a slow one. One that has many twists and turns, but a road that must be travelled, one step at a time. Vertex is doing the kind of things that many of us could only dream of 5, 10, 20, 40 years ago. They really are turning dreams into reality, they will not settle until the job is done.

***For the record, the girl from the date and I are still friends, and no she still doesn’t like hockey. She is super successful and I THINK her school spirit has gotten a little better, but we definitely butt heads when it comes to certain things.***

Be on the lookout for a new podcast next week!

Following that will be my next installment of “Ask Gunnar,” so keep those questions rolling. [email protected]

I do my best to answer all the emails I get, but I apologize if I don’t have the time to get to yours right away. Maybe I should get myself an intern.

The photo collage at the top is credited to Vertex and Vertex’s twitter account @VertexPharma