When I was a kid, before the days of the NBC contract, Notre Dame games were on cable more often than they are now. My parents didn't get cable, so I watched all of those games at my neighbor's house, Mr. Payment. He was an Irish-Canadian immigrant and loved Notre Dame football as much as anyone I know.
Some of my best memories as a kid were watching those games with Mr. Payment. He would always "send me in" to the game. If there was a big offensive play, he would ask, "can you get in there and throw a block, Joe?" I'd say I could, and if the play worked, he'd congratulate me. Now, I send my kids in the game.
When I was a teenager, Mr. Payment's son was my confirmation sponsor. I don't remember why, exactly, but Matt couldn't be there on the day of my confirmation, and Mr. Payment stood in for him. We were in the parking lot of the church listening to the ND-Tennessee game on the radio, and the confirmation mass was starting, with ND driving at the end of the game. I asked Mr. Payment what we should do, and he said, "It's Notre Dame. God'll understand." ND missed the kick to win the game, and I missed part of my confirmation. I'm glad I did.
Mr. Payment has been dying of cancer, and I went over to his place this week to watch the Michigan game with him. I asked him if he could get in there and play, and he said he'd run the defense. He did a stellar job.
I held his hand during the alma mater, and he cried during it. He knew it'd be his last one. He was right.
Thank you, team, for winning this game. It means more to me than every other ND game I've seen put together, because it was Mr. Payment's last one. You sent him out with win.