It's obvious from my brief correspondence at NDToday that the link we talked about in the letter has already been lost for many/most current students. The fact that so few experience the unique relationship between the university and the football program is the reason the letter was written. It is a link that is being needlessly broken through neglect and incompetence. When the university excels at all levels there is magic... but most will never know. You can't miss what you never had and most current students have never experienced it.
Take a moment and share your stories here and we'll find a way to get the word out.
ND is a very different place when the football team is winning. There is a different magic in the air, and a different spirit in the eyes of the students. One feels as though anything is possible and nothing is beyond one's reach.
And that feeling needs to return. gmurphy
I didn't know my grandfather (on my dad's side) very well. He was 69 when I was born, and his hearing was mostly gone. Soon after that he had cataract surgery and couldn't see very well either. Communication was difficult.
Even if the physical ailments hadn't prevented it, our family is somewhat reserved by nature, and Grampa was the archetype of this. I don't believe there are any extant pictures of him smiling. Physical or audible signs of affection are rarely given; the love is there, but the signs are muted. A pat on the shoulder means "I'm proud of you and I love you."
He was in many respects an admirable man, a basketball star in his youth (around 1920), a graduate from Wisconsin in engineering, who kept his family fed during the Depression partly by playing poker (the greatest poker face in history), a Civil War scholar, a succesful businessman, a Knight of Columbus, who loved his wife and family. He was an Irish fan from the early days and sent his son to Notre Dame and his daughter to St. Mary's. But I didn't know him very much.
Towards the end of his life, as I said, he couldn't hear or see very well. We got him cable television, which he couldn't figure out, in order that he could watch Notre Dame football. The last memory that I have of him was going over to his house on a Saturday morning to turn his television on so he could watch the game.
Grampa let me in, but was a bit confused. I turned the TV on and shouted "It's so you can watch the Notre Dame game." "What?" "The Notre Dame game!"
As I put my coat on and got ready to leave, he looked at me, flashed a rare smile, patted me on the shoulder, and said "I don't know why you're here, but I'm glad you came."
That's the last time I ever saw him. He died in 1990, having lived to see one last national championship.
This is my release.
I try to explain to my friends who chide me, my kids who don't understand it and my wife who kind of gets it, but it is not nearly engrained.
It begins for me at birth. I am the fifth generation oldest son of an potato famine Irish immigrant family. I am the fourth generation to matriculate at ND. My grandfather, was so happy I was born after my parents had 4 girls, that he drove to South Bend in the middle of the summer and bought the ND baby booties, and baby accutriments. Dressed in ND from day one or two or three.
By the time I reached the ripe old age of 5 or 6, my dad brought home a ND helmet from the bookstore. It was orangeish yellow with an interlocking ND decal on either side. At dusk / and at night under the porch lights, we'd play me and my brother against him. I can't remember who won, it doesn't matter, it was me and my brother as Seymour or Hanratty or Bleier against my dad.
As we grew older and our responsibilities increased. I remember working in the yard listening to Van Patrick bring the play by play. Also as vividly, I remember when a clutch play happened -- all work stopped -- the raking, the hammering the plastic to the screened in porch -- we listened intently -- cheering wildly for a successful outcome, or groaning for a bitter result. We always knew, though, it was a temporary set back.
I was closer to my father's roommate's kids than some of my own cousins. When the Irish were on TV vs. SC or any other game, we trekked or hosted these other families. We would vacation at times in the summer and in the fall and winter together we went to the campus. In the fall for a game, in the winter, we had our "hockey-basketball" weekend. Some of my older cousins were at ND, we were the "little soldiers" as we got to stay in Zahm for the weekend. We were in hog heaven.
No trip to ND was complete without a trip to the Grotto. Silent reflection, a prayer, and a candle lit. The Grotto remains my favorite place in the world. I spent many nights while on campus at the rosary at 6:45 or under a tree by the lake. We visited my grandparents resting place at the cemetary.
After leaving I married a woman whose grandfather was a true Irish subway alum. I've given no greater thrill to anyone than when my wife and I took her grandparents to the MSU game when Tim Brown ran back two kicks and won the Heisman in September. As far as he was concerned his life was complete. When he turned 80, another family member asked Lou Holtz to send a birthday wish, which to this day, is framed in the hall of her grandmother's home.
Our families have met at ND for games over the past few years, but it doesn't have the same feel it once did. Everything seems so much more sterile. Gone are the pep rallies at Stepan Center where you couldn't hear yourself think when the band entered ... people waiting outside just to be near ... and chasing the band back to Washington Hall. The excitement, the fun, the calculation of if so and so beats Alabama and we beat SC then we will be number 1 .... or whatever.
My relationship with my father and brother are both stronger because of Notre Dame football. My relationship with my own children will be similarly enhanced because of the way we pull for our teams when we watch them together on TV. My connection with ND goes much further than just football. It is about family, faith and ultimately fun ... in the way of sports, competition and excellence.
In recent years, though, the interest has waned some and my kids have begun to ask, why do you care so much if they lose so much ...
In my day, ND stood for Never Doubt, we always seemed to find a way ...
I have a hard time explaining that now.
My grandfather never knew his father. Big Jim Donovan from County Cork was a track-layer for the Union Pacific RR. He stayed at Mrs. Hoch's boarding house in Kansas City, Missouri, for a few weeks (months?). Eventually, he moved on as the railroad itself moved on, but he left my great grandmother with a token of his affection, James Adam Donovan.
Little Jimmy grew up dirt poor, but he was smart, and he could run. He won a track scholarship to the University of Chicago, and, as a parting gift, the good citizens of his hometown presented him with his first pair of shoes. After college, he worked for Mr. Wrigley in the old Boulevard National Bank. It was the only job he ever had. He was a decent and kind man, much beloved by his family, friends, and business associates.
One summer in the mid-1950's, I was visiting my grandparents. They lived in Winnetka in those days. At dinner, Boo-Poo, as we called him, announced that we were going for an all-day drive the next day. "I'm going to take you to a special place". My grandmother busied herself after dinner preparing a picnic basket for the trip.
The next day, we left at the crack of dawn. The drive to South Bend took forever. I took forever just to get out of Chicago. But, by mid-morning we were cruising across the Indiana prairie. At some point, something shiny and bright appeared on the horizon. Soon, the Golden Dome took shape, and, before long, we were wandering around the leafy campus. It was hot as hell, but Boo-Poo wore a suit and a hat. At one point, I noticed that my grandfather had his hankie out and was wiping away tears. I was curious and a little frightened, but Moo-Moo didn't appear to be concerned. Finally, we stood in front of the Stadium, and Boo-Poo said, tears running down his face, "All my life I've wanted to visit this place".
The trip home was long and hot, and we got back to the North Shore well after dark. I went straight off to bed, but I didn't fall asleep right away. I lay awake wondering what had made Boo-Poo cry. I knew something significant had happened, but I wasn't sure what.
Years later, my mom told me that her father prayed every day that I would go to Notre Dame. I think this helped--I was a sort of juvenile delinquent cum jock in high school, and, to this day, I don't understand how or why I was admitted. But my grandfather lived a long life and there were many prayers. Thank you, Boo-Poo.
I posted this a couple of pages back. Apologies to those who've already read it and attached comments...
It’s always been…Notre Dame
Growing up in St. Louis, I attended a small Catholic school in the northwest suburbs. I remember then, the kids had sweatshirts that said “Notre Dame”…the “Victory March” was played at school functions. On Saturday afternoons, if the Irish weren’t on TV, which wasn’t too often, we’d try to find a broadcast on the radio. If there wasn’t a game on either TV or radio, nothing and no one else was worth watching or listening to so we’d find something else to do. On Sunday mornings, a show came on about ten o’clock that I wouldn’t miss and that was Notre Dame Football with Lindsey Nelson.
Through high school, through college, and through my military years…it’s always been Notre Dame...you could see a total stranger anywhere in town or in a foreign country with a ND shirt on and you’d could always strike up a conversation by saying, “how ‘bout those Irish”. The conversation never centered on academics, facilities, or other sports…not that they aren’t important…but it was always football. The conversation was always about Notre Dame football.
My wife was fortunate enough to attend Holy Cross College in New Orleans and the President of the school until last year was Father Tom Chambers. A remarkable human being who was and still is fanatical fan of Notre Dame football. On the days I had to pick my wife up from class, I’d go by his office and if he wasn’t busy, he’d invite me in for a bit and we’d talk Irish football.
At commencement exercises, Father Tom invited Rudy to give the commencement address at the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. More to my wife’s stellar academic achievement in her nursing classes than my relationship with Father Tom, we were invited to an after graduation get together at Brennan’s in the French Quarter. I introduced myself to Rudy at the reception and listened to him talk about the spirit of Notre Dame football, Ara, and Coach Devine.
We were in there in New Orleans when Jerome Bettis destroyed Florida in the second half of the “Cheerios” Bowl.
The youngest of my three children wrote Lou Holtz one year in the middle of football season telling him that one day he was going to be the Irish quarterback and asked for advice on how to get the job done. Much to his surprise, and mine, a letter arrived in the mail from the University of Notre Dame Football Office. I don’t know whether it was a form letter or real, it didn’t matter. Here was a letter addressed to my kid from and signed by Coach Holtz, telling him study hard, listen to his mom and dad (imagine that), keep practicing, and one day he’d see him on campus at South Bend.
My very young kids remember being woke up by screaming parents late one night over the sight of the Rocket running back a punt against Colorado in the final seconds of game only to have the touchdown and the win called back for a penalty.
It’s always been…Notre Dame. The only games we ever tape are Notre Dame. The only games we have parties for are Notre Dame…
Two years ago, I was able to get to tickets for Notre Dame vs. Navy game in Baltimore. We left in plenty of time to get to the game, or so we thought…and as we traveled up I-95…traffic came to a halt about 3 miles away from the stadium. It was mayhem on the freeway. Irish banners dangling everywhere, chalk paint on windows, the Victory March and other Irish tunes were blaring, and of course there was the “polite” bad mouthing those fans swearing their allegiance to the Academy. My teenagers were in awe. They’d been to big-time concerts before, but never had they seen or felt the electricity of being at an Irish game.
It’s always been…Notre Dame. It’s always been…Notre Dame Football.
It first started when I was 5 years old. My mother had bought be a jacket to wear outside when I started school that fall. The jacket was grey with two yellow and blue stripes down each arm. I loved that jacket! Unfortunately, that jacket had a big, blue "M" on the left chest. Growing up in the state of Michigan, I just thought that "M" refered to the state, not a university.
My Godfather ran into us at a mall and saw me wearing that jacket. I always had fun with this man and he was nothing but nice to me, but when he saw that jacket he grabbed a handful, looked at my mother and said "Why the hell is he wearing this god damned jacket!?!" The next day I had a new jacket that was instantly cooler because it was reversible. On one side it was navy blue with a school crest on the left breast. The other side was grey with two words on the back, "Notre Dame". I had no idea what those words meant but I did know that many of my realitives now complained about my jacket. "Why, it's brand-new" would often be my response, but they hated that jacket.
Two years later my friends and I were running around the play ground choosing up football teams and when I asked which team was Notre Dame, my friends told me I couldn't play. They only rooted for UofM and MSU because those were the best teams and Notre Dame sucked! Or so I was told. That was when I decided to find out exactly who and what Notre Dame was and why they were so hated.
When I asked my father and godfather who ND was, I was told stories about Knute Rockne, The Four Horseman, Paul Horning, Frank Lahey, and someone with the same first name as me eating some chicken noodle soup and beating a team in some bowl. When I asked why most of my friends hated ND, I was told it was ignorance. Those kids didn't know the history of ND and how good ND was. They told me that people had forgotten ND's greatness because they had been down for a few years, but they had a new coach named Lou Holtz that was going to do great things for ND. This was the spring of '87.
Being Irish Catholic, my father also tried to explain to me that ND was a place you go to learn about academics and faith. He said it was kind of like going to my regular school and catechism all at once. I guess that was the best way to describe it to an 8 year old.
So in the fall of '87, I was introduced to Notre Dame football. I was allowed to stay up late and see Tim Brown return 2 punts against Michigan State. I also saw ND beat UofM and wondered what these friends of mine were talking about. At the end of the year I watched as some people gave Tim Brown an award as the best football player in the country. Did my friends have ND confused with some other school? It appeared to me that they had no idea what the hell they were talking about.
The next year I watched as ND won the National Championship and I was hooked. My favorite player of all time single handedly beat UofM the next year with 2 kick returns for TD's and ND could not lose. Even though they lost to Miami that year, I still hadn't "felt" a ND loss. That would come in 1990. On my birthday. To Penn State. While all my friends were over I watched in horror as ND lost at home while ranked #1. How could they, on my birthday! Then came the Orange Bowl when Rocket saved the day only to have it ripped from him and the rest of the team by a ref. That was the first time I cried because of a ND loss.
This was the time I first learned what ND was about. I had to go to school the next day and I just wanted to stay home. My mother was getting me up and telling me that I had to go to school when the phone rang. It was my godfather. He told me that ND fans held their heads high, win or lose and they support the team no matter what. He told me I should wear every piece of ND clothing I had to show my friends that I supported ND at all times. So I went to school wearing my Notre Dame sweatshirt with a ND t-shirt under, my ND jacket, ND sweatpants, ND hat, and my brand new ND bag to carry my books. My friends were so shocked they didn't know what to say.
I did not have the good fortune to attend ND as an undergrad. I attended MSU and cheered for ND every time they played. I am currently studying to take the GMAT and my choices are ND or bust. If that doesn't get me in, I will try again or try another area of study to get into ND. I will do what ever it takes to attend the University of Notre Dame.
To me, ND represents a fighting sprirt. It was that spirit that helped me go to school and face my friends after a ND loss, and it is that spirit that will make me work my tail off so that I can attend this school.
In 1966, I was a wee lad of nine. I didn't know much about football, and I knew nothing of Notre Dame. My father, however, was addicted, and with the game of the century at hand against MSU, he was so giddy with enthusiasm, he promised to give me 25 cents (bear in mind we were very poor at the time) if Notre Dame won that day. The lure of 25 cents got my attention.
Four decades later, I have a priceless treasure from that investment of 25 cents by my father.
Part of that treasure is the memories that we all share of game-day heroics, the kind of heroics that become frozen in exquisite detail in your memory, the kind that become indelible reference points, the "I remember exactly where I was that day" kind of bookmarks in your life. These include frozen moments such as Clements to Webber against the Bear, Penick going 89 yards straight into the student section against USC, the Trojan horse rolling onto the turf of ND stadium to herald the arrival of the Green Jerseys, Joe Montana overcoming the flu and a monumental deficit in the frozen Cotton Bowl, the scoreboard triumphantly blaring 31-30 against the despised Hurricanes, the Rocket taking a second kick-off to the end zone after General Bo defiantly roared "kick it to him again!", and the smashmouth thrashing we gave FSU in another edition of the game of the century.
But there is something deeper, something more profound involved here than just simple heroics on a playing field. For me, it begins with the ritual that starts every home game, including the reading of excerpts from the preamble to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and the singing of America the Beautiful. It ends with the salute of the players to the student body and the stadium singing Notre Dame, Our Mother in unison, as a family. In between those two points lies not just a football game, but a celebration of cherished values and eternal truths. We embrace this university, not just because it's student can run fast and win games, but because it is a moral beacon for us, a communal reference point that guides us, a reminder that faith, country, and family are paramount, and that there is a right and golden path to follow. We love Notre Dame in a way that no other fan of any other university can possibly understand. Such a thing is priceless.
Even more priceless is the way it becomes the tie that binds. Just as my father bequeathed to me a love for Notre Dame, so have I done for my seven children. We have become a very large family, and some of our closest moments have been huddled around a TV screen, banners and flags draped around our family room, hanging breathlessly on every ebb and flow of an important game against a dreaded foe. It is then that we recognize, we feel, we embrace our love for each other, our passion for what is good and right in the world, and our respect for a University that dares to be magnificent example of all of these things.
in my mother's library. It was called, "Rockne of Notre Dame," and was printed a few years after he died. It was probably the first "grown-up" book I ever read, and after that, it was all ND.
The other thing that did it for me was when my father took me, my brother, and our parish priest (who God forbid, was an SC fan) to an ND-SC game in the Coliseum. I don't have the media guide with me here out of town to consult, but I do remember being around 8 years old, so it had to have been 1954 or so, and it was raining like hell. I was crying because the Irish were losing and I was soaking wet. Watching them play like hell, like Notre Dame men, did it for me right then. I was going to Notre Dame. I wanted to be a part of that. After the game, I was walking fast trying to keep up with my group and I wasn't looking straight ahead. I ran right into a telephone pole with the side of my face. All the way back to Bakersfield, in the back of a dark car, I was drying off, picking splinters out of my face. My father and Father Logan talked about the game.
God damn, the LA Coliseum is a great place to watch college football. We have many ghosts in many closets, but there is always 1988 and 1986 to remember. Our big W's. And our Alamo's: 1964, 1970, 1974, 1978, and especially Michael Harper's fantom touchdown in 1982.
Regardless of the year or two before, ND always came back into the lion's den for more.
Being an Irish fan means never having to say you're a pussy.
I still remember the day vividly. Dad rounded up me and my brother and announced that this was the year we would be introduced to Notre Dame football. It was late summer/early fall 1988 and he sure picked a great season for us to begin following ND football. We were spoiled. We would sit around the TV, cheering for the Irish, beginning a love of a university that we really only knew because it was on dad's degree. We grew closer as a family that year, all because of ND football. I know the bookstore loved my parents that Christmas....the Sears catalog took a back seat to the ND catalog that year. We were rewarded with a National Championship. The next year began and there wasn't a doubt. These boys were special. Notre Dame football was our must see TV from that season forward. Notre Dame and football became a topic on every phone conversation we had with any family member, friend, etc.
Then came the time for me to apply to college. It was the Jesuits vs. Notre Dame and my dad never pressured me to go to his alma mater. All of my acceptance letters came but no word from Notre Dame. At that time my dad was traveling for work and there were two weekends a month he would come home. It was a Saturday afternoon and my dad was home, my brother found me to say that he saw the mail delivered (family rule, I was the only one allowed to get the mail until all my letters arrived). Sure enough there was a letter from ND. I brought it into the house and opened it. I began reading the letter and you get to the part about being accepted and well, holy hell broke loose. The family thought someone had died downstairs but the letter in my hand told the story. Tears, phone calls and a celebratory dinner later.....and ND had me won over. When my high school found out, you would have thought we won the lottery. They paraded my acceptance letter around like it was a letter from the Pope. Our Catholic high school sent students to the top universities, but the only acceptance letter they cared about that year was the one from South Bend.
We move forward to the 1993 football season. I'm a freshman and after every victory, my dad calls to remind me how lucky I am to be experiencing such a magical season as a freshman. Then he tells me about his freshman year in 1966. We are not only sharing the same University, but also sharing the same football experiences. The two of us became very close over the next four years.
Notre Dame and Fighting Irish football define a family throughout the world too numerous to even begin to quantify, but to the four people in my family it has been a tie that binds us to our past, present and future. Our future generations will hear about the glory days, back in the day, we can only hope they have the opportunity to experience it first hand, because I can attest that there is nothing stronger and more powerful than a son and father sharing similar moments that occured decades apart.
How can I take such great pride in descending from nothing outwardly special? Cast off from Ireland, dirt-poor, largely illiterate, and with little more than hope, my relatives struggled to make a new life for themselves and their kids here in the new world. And in the face of "Irish need not apply" and other indignities, there was something magical that came across on the radio every fall, something that they could take great pride in. That not one of them had ever been to Indiana, let alone much outside of Boston, didn't matter. ND football was an uplifting spirit, and a spirit is never bound by place.
How can I take such great pride in descending from nothing outwardly special? Because inwardly, my grandfather and his generation had great pride, and, in part, ND football gave them that pride.
For this, though no one in my family has ever attended Notre Dame, we will always remain in its debt.
When I was 10 years old, listening with the students to our guys kicking the crap out of FSU. And that was one of the first games I ever followed all the way through, because before that I was simply too nervous to do anything but pace in my room well away from a TV or radio. When I first started following Notre Dame football properly at the age of five ('88-'89), I really didn't understand that we were actually known to lose games every once in a while.
Staying up past 4am with school the next day listening to Notre Dame basketball and baseball games, and basically missing sleep altogether to hear Bob Davie do his best to soil Notre Dame football in the Fiasco Bowl.
Meeting Lou Holtz and having my picture taken with him while he was in Ireland for the '96 Navy game. Lou was probably the single nicest and kindest human being I've ever met, and for 10 years practically defined Notre Dame football and everything I loved about it. He sent us a Christmas card the same year, and a letter the same week he resigned from the job in '96, urging me and my brother to continue to work hard so we could come and see him again at Notre Dame as a student.
Coming to Notre Dame as a student, and seeing the injured yet still unmistakably present Notre Dame spirit still able to capture those students who weren't raised on Irish football since as long as they can remember. And finally, seeing the Notre Dame community come together to try and save what is so dear to so many people.
As Holtz and others have said, there's a magic at ND that -- if you believe -- it gushes forth and envelopes your life. That's been true for our family.
Mom's uncle played '27-'30...he was in the locker room for the Gipper speech, for the funeral.
100% Irish and growing up in SoCal, she was 3 when ND trounced USC in the 1930 game...her uncle brought Rock and the team over to her house after the game for a party.
Loved ND but obviously couldn't go...raised 8 of us to live and breath ND...half of us wound up domers...3 of us there for championships. And then at my graduation Rock and the Gipper (O'Brien and Reagan) -- poetic link back to our first family member at ND.
Nearly all of us + grandkids hit the Coliseum every even numbered year.
We cried through AD's 6 TDs in '72 and 55-24 in '74, but the boys made it up on the exact day of her 50th birthday -- 10/22/77 -- THE green jersey game.
Mom arguing with the clothing supplier (at the old Hammes store) that the huge 8 foot tall green shirt in the display window absolutely had to be for sale...wouldn't take no for an answer...the shirt hangs from the second story window of mom and dad's house one weekend each year...ND-Southern Cal.
WWII interrupted mom's brother's college carreers...neither wound up at ND but both loved ND football. My wife and I took one of them back to an ND game in the late '80s for his one and only trip to campus. He had a blast...passed away a few months later...one of my favorite pictures all time is of my uncle in front of the dome.
My own kids love for ND...despite my overt attempts NOT to indoctrinate them (to avoid a backlash)...they love everything ND...and they still wear ND gear in the heart of Trojan country even after this past season.
ND football is a key link in 80 years of our family's history...the next generation may be starting soon. It must go on.
I was born to be a ND fan. My grandfather was a cop on the south side of Chicago. His father came over on the boat from Ireland looking for a better life. My father was the first person in our family to ever go to college. Considering that his father and his uncles could spin tales of driving to South Bend to see Rockne teams, it wasn't so surprising when looking for a college to attend, he chose to shoot for Notre Dame. He put asbestos on pipes in the Gary steel mills to come up with the money to go, but he got into ND and graduated.
I consider my father an amazing person, but there have been times when we didn't see eye to eye. In fact, there were times when we couldn't talk about almost anything, but there was never a time when we couldn't talk about ND football. His passion for the Fighting Irish eventually passed to me and pulled me off the path I was on, which was going the wrong way. I got my life together and made it my goal to go to Notre Dame.
One of the greatest moments in my life was seeing my big strong father with tears in his eyes when I graduated from Our Lady.
Notre Dame, the school, our faith, and, yes, our football tradition are some of the things that make life meaningful and fun.
It's been a wonderful ride going through life as a ND football fan. My children may or may not go to ND, but there is no doubt that they love the place. How sad that they can't remember ND being a power. It's been that long.
I think it's important to say that at no other time in my life can I remember being so concerned about ND football. Something is very wrong with the program and I can't help but wonder if it will never be the same again.
I hope that isn't the case because if it is, it's like a death in the family.
ND football has always meant more than just football to me. It is a symbol of a people and a way of life. That probably comes from my father and a story he never ceased telling. My grandparents were Italian immigrants who came to this country in 1917. Their small neighborhood was comprised of the first Catholics and Italians to move into their town outside of Philadelphia. They were met with intense resistance from the natives. My father and his brothers would often wind up in fights at school and my father's earliest memories were of a cross being burned on the front lawn of his house, of his mother having the children kneeling saying the rosary as it happened while his father sat by the door with his shotgun. This was 1934. My father and his brothers would often ask each other, why do these people hate us so much. They were anxious to prove that they could be as good an American as anyone else.
At around this same time, my father's brother told him "There is this little school in Indiana that plays football -- and its a Catholic school -- and they beat everybody all the time." He saw in Notre Dame, an underdog that validated his experience as an American and showed that his people could stand on equal footing in something in this country. Until his dying day my father, a working class man who just finished high school, followed ND football religiously and felt an incredible closeness to the school and especially to the football team -- what is stood for, the way it did things, and its ultimate success on its own terms. The proudest day of his life was when I went off to Notre Dame. I can never separate Notre Dame football from thougths of my father and the literally millions of people like him and how Notre Dame football was and is a cultural symbol of their values, their strength and their hopes for success combined with loyalty to their faith and their families. These are the people who and Notre Dame football is the institution that made the University's success possible. Pillars, indeed.
People have grown up on ND football for nearly 100 years. Every decade has produced vivid memories that last a lifetime and reinforce the enduring, mythological quality of the program. Those moments are fewer and farther between now, and I feel badly for those who missed most of the excitement.
As I've gotten older, I can no longer get emotionally involved in most sports, especially pro sports. ND football remains the lone exception, and that is now at risk. The losses used to be devastating, but I'm pretty much numb to them now. The wins were euphoric, but they no longer bring the same joy. It's probably because we haven't been a top team in a while, nor have we beaten one. Our biggest accomplishment in the last five years is defeating Michigan in 2002. I enjoyed the hell out of that. I don't just want to beat our rivals, though, I want to own them.
When I think about ND Football now, I find that I miss the electricity. Anyone who has experienced it first hand knows whereof I speak. Although I will always have an emotional attachment, something truly valuable is fading from my life.
It's not possible to have been a Notre Dame fan and/or student in my lifetime and not develop a special bond. How can anyone witness the USC series since '64 and epic games with MSU, Michigan, Penn State, Alabama, Texas, Miami and Florida State without ND football becoming a big part of your life? How can you come to know heroes like Ara, Lou, Huarte, Snow, Lynch, Schoen, Hanratty, Theismann, Gatewood, Page, Hardy, Casper, Browner, Montana, Crable, Brown, Rice, Zorich, Rocket, Bettis, Young and Jones without wanting to take their place for one afternoon? Notre Dame football is about larger than life figures, glorious wins and a few gut wrenching defeats. It's not about mediocrity - that would be the greatest shame of all.
I didn't go to Notre Dame to spruce up my resume. I went there because I was proud to be part of a special place and a special group of people. It was not great because US News & World Report said so, but because of our shared experiences and the indelible marks those moments made on all of us. Everyone who followed me to Notre Dame should be as fortunate.
..out here JVan, and I'm sure you have heard it, in reference to what happens when a UCLA lady marries an SC grad, "You are a Bruin for four years, and a Trojan for life."
I had that one laid on me once and I said, "And a Notre Dame fan for eternity."
The guy said, "Good one."
....without possibility of parole.
I slacked off in high school and did not get accepted into Notre Dame. I attended Purdue University and was actually in that monstrosity of a marching band. One thing I got to do though was march through the tunnel at Notre Dame. Ok, I was with the other team but *I* was in the tunnel! I still have a picture of that day with myself and my two brothers standing on the field in opposite uniforms. Since my brothers were at Notre Dame I still managed to get to the 88 Cotton Bowl (Aggie hicks and incredibly cold for Dallas), the 89 Fiesta Bowl (Yeeha!), and the 90 Orange Bowl (what a dump). I managed to get my act together and was accepted into grad school at Notre Dame. I attended from 92-94. The best 3 years of my life.
I was in the Civil Engineering program. We had students from around the country as well as India, China, and Africa. The one thing we all did together was go to every home football game. We all had our undergrad affiliations but we were always true Notre Dame fans on Saturday.
My first date with my future wife was the Boston College game in 1993.
When we did our marriage retreat at the Fatima Retreat Center, my roommate was Tim Ruddy. It was fortunate that I had him for a roommate since he snored so loud it kept our fiances awake in the room across the hall but I was such a heavy sleeper that I never noticed.
One of the greatest moments for me on campus was when I went to the crypt for mass one Saturday. When it came to the "sign of peace" I turned around to find Lou Holtz standing behind me. He had a solid handshake and he was a lot taller than he appeared on television. I suppose it all depends on who you are standing next to. He was such an ND man I will never understand why they ran him off.
I am now the father of 6 kids. I intend on making sure that they each have the chance to attend Notre Dame. My eldest daughter, adopted from Russia last October, will be the first of her generation to attend Notre Dame in the class of 2012. The indoctrination process has already begun with hockey and basketball. Next fall it will be football. I have faith that she will understand.
continue with ND softball and Baseball. BOOK IT
I have always wanted to attend the University of Notre Dame. There simply is no other school like it. One of my first memories of my childhood revolves around cutting out pictures of ND players and taping them to the wall of my room. Today that same room is absolutely plastered with ND paraphernilia. The crown jewel of that room is an autographed photo of Lou Holtz. I wrote him a letter when I was nine years old and received the photo a couple months later. I was thrilled to say the least. I put that photo on my desk and looked at it as i did homework throughout high school....reminding myself of my goal to go to ND. My first time on campus came in the eighth grade when my family passed through on the way to Chicago. It happened to be Autograph Day which was incredible. The highlight for me was walking through the parking lot of the JACC and seeing Bob Davie walk past. After a nervous hesitation I yelled "Beat Michigan for me coach!" People say Davie didn't "get" Notre Dame. Well he turned and said in reply to me, "Yeah, for you and a LOT of other people." That's what Notre Dame is to me. It is a community that embraces its football team like no other. Just as i cried after every one of our losses as a child, many people are crying along with me. When we start to win again, those same people will be rejoicing with me too. I have many other Notre Dame moments but they are too numerous to list here. I am now a freshman at this school and I couldn't ask for anything more. This place really is "the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen."
I didn't have the opportunity to attend Notre Dame. My Uncle who passed away last year worked at the Notre Dame wharehouse for over 50 years. Since 1980 when I was about 3, I have spent alot of time there. Somewhere along the way, I ended up being the one who went to all the games. Since they lived right across the street from the Stephan Center, I was able to spend the majority of my childhood on the ND campus.
My first game was the Michigan game where the wind went dead just as ND kicked the field goal. I was there for all the great moments in the 80s and early 90s. I watched the clock tick off against Miami, and Wooden bat down Charlie Ward's pass to seal the victory against FSU.
I believe that not only the students, but the players today don't understand what Notre Dame football is all about. Notre Dame football is not only about winning, but winning the right way.
It is Notre Dame Our Mother being played after every game. It is the band playing on the steps of the admin building. It is The Four Horsemen, George Gipp, and Knute Rockne All-American. It is the Rocket taking off against Michigan, Keith Jackson having to swallow his pride in LA, and about Kevin McDougal - the one guy that nobody thought could take us that far. It is about rivalries. USC, Army, Navy and Miami. It is about visting fans in awe of gameday at Notre Dame. It is about Sgt. Tim McCarthy. It is about magic, All-Americans, and National Titles. The ghosts of Notre Dame Stadium, the ghost of George Gipp, and playing for all those who came before you. It is about the players that defined their time with big plays that seemed like miracles at the time. Notre Dame football is about the memories that never fade. It is the Golden Dome, the gold helmets, and #1 Moses. It is Rockne, Leahy, Parsegian and Holtz. It is Touchdown Jesus. It is the subway alums, the blue gray October skies and the Notre Dame Victory March. Most of all, it is about sitting at the righful place atop college football.
Notre Dame as funny as it sounds is a big part of my life. Many of the memories that I have from my childhood revolved around ND. Notre Dame will be back. It is a matter of time. Teams like Miami come and go, but over the long haul, only one team is always there, and that team is Notre Dame.
Where to begin...
My father, a WWII vet from Rockhurst High in Kansas City, was shooting for his PH.D at Notre Dame in Physics when son #2 was born. Father Hesburgh was scheduled for the baptism but he was called away and missed my spring time introduction into the Church. A month later, he was officially named President of Notre Dame. I don't hold a grudge but I sure missed his blessing.
A year later, Frank Leahy's Irish went undefeated and Johnny Lattner won the 1953 Heisman Trophy.
We moved to Long Island shortly after that when my Dad took a job with a defense contractor instead of finishing his studies. But every summer we would hop out of the family station wagon for a quick stop at Notre Dame on the way to Missouri to visit the grandparents. That first time that we saw the Golden Dome peaking over the tree line has stayed with me till this day.
On one such trip, we learned that my Dad's aunt had died. She had been a Sister at St. Mary's, and quite a character or so I've been told.
Growing up, Notre Dame football was always in the air. My brother and I were photographed around the Christmas tree in spanking new ND football uniforms at 5 and 8, respectively. We played a game in the living room where we would throw a football shaped, car wash sponge onto the couch. If it stuck on the top of the couch, it meant Monty Stickles had caught a touchdown pass. I was always Scarpitto while my older brother favored Nick Pietrosante. What glorious names. Notre Dame wasn't winning very much in those years but they never lost in our living room.
Sundays in the fall were reserved for serving mass and eating fresh rolls from the bakery afterwards in front of the black and white TV watching Lindsay Nelson do the replays wearing his usual test pattern jacket.
On more than a few camping trips, our little transistor radio picked up a Notre Dame broadcast while we were supposed to be playing capture the flag and we all stopped to listen, hoping the Irish would score before we lost the signal.
By 1964, I had been reading the sports section and wondering why the Yankees were always winning with Mickey but Notre Dame was in a major funk. Then something magical happened. Notre Dame broke with tradition and named a non-Catholic outsider as head coach. My old man was thrilled but I struggled to pronounce the new coach's name. I was 12 and not sure if I should trust my Dad on this momentous decision by the Irish. After all, my father had never become a Yankee fan so I questioned his sports acumen. I also wasn't happy when he moved me off shortstop to squat behind the plate. "Quickest way to the bigs, " he said. "Besides, you don't have the arm for short." What the hell did he know.
But there we were, late into the fall in the garage listening to the final game of a glorious undefeated season of Huarte to Snow, new Nick heroes Eddy and Rassas, and a mountain of a man named Hardy. At half time up 17-0, my Dad let me have a sip of his bitter Ballantine or maybe I sneaked a taste. A national championship was about to be won in one of the most remarkable one year turnarounds in college football history. My Dad had been right about Ara just as he had been right about the Cardinals that year.
The next 2 hours were devastating as the Trojans came back to win the football game and break my heart and many hearts around the country. This hurt more than Mazeroski's ninth inning blast. But my Dad seemed to take it all in stride. "Son, this is only the beginning. Notre Dame is back where it belongs. Remember this game because the next time, will be our time and if you want to be a part of this someday, you better hit the books as hard as you like to hit the playground because Notre Dame is only for hard workers that strive to be the best."
'"And stay away from my beer. There will be plenty when you get to Notre Dame."
Three years later, the acceptance letter came to my older brother who passed on the Irish for Boston College. I could not believe it. Maybe he wasn't as smart as I thought. But three years after that, my own letter came and my Dad could not have been happier. Ear to ear.
During my first week on campus, I walked over to the cemetery across the road to look for my great aunt's grave and maybe bump into a few coeds. I spotted three older nuns well inside the cemetery entrance and took a shot.
"Where would I find directions to my great aunt's grave, Sister Elizabeth D," I asked. " Oh, Sister Elizabeth Catherine is resting just 3 rows ahead. You must be Emil's son..."
I was home again.
My four years, 1970-1974, were an unbelievable time to be at Our Lady's University. The basketball team book-ended UCLA, Clements lead the Irish to the National Championship down in New Orleans, and females became Notre Dame students. Oh, and a cat was elected President of the Student Body. But that's 1001 more nights of stories.
Still, I can't resist the one about Art Best setting up Southern Comfort shooters on my 21st birthday and later diving into one of the lakes looking for his championship ring.
I remember my dad (class of '51) taking me to see the ND Syracuse game in New York a few years earlier, but the first real ND moment for me was the 1966 MSU game - the game of the century. I had a choice that day - go to a boy scout campout or stay home and watch the game with my dad and some of his friends. Despite some real pressure from the Scoutmaster, I chose the latter, and I could not believe the passion I was seeing from my dad and his friends during the game- I was hooked from that moment on. Two years later in 8th grade we were driving by ND in the summer, and when we stopped I went to admissions and picked up a catalog. It contained all the stats for the recently admitted class - how many high school sports captains, student government officers, top 10% of students in the class etc. I used that list as a blueprint for my high school years in an effort to match or beat all the standards listed. The drive was simple - I wanted to experience ND football. I wanted to be at ND when they won a national championship. I worked hard in high school, and applied to only one place ND, on an early decision, and got accepted.
I will never forget the first scrimmage play of the second half of the USC game when Eric Penick went 85 yards running right toward the student section. There have been over a hundred ND moments in the years since, although not enough in the last decade.
The decision I made to work hard to be good enough to go to ND to experience the football tradition and everything else the University offers was the best decision of my life.
Those of you who attended ND have no clue what
ND means to those of us who would have given a
kidney to attend ND (let alone play football
for the greatest university in the world) but
could not. I don't feel jealous. I just feel
ready to replace any one of you the moment you
show the slightest sign of not appreciating the
blessings you received, which is what I would
do in a heartbeat with 70% of the people in the
football program today.
I am absolutely certain I love ND more than my
older brother who got the chance that I did
The highest compliment I ever received in my
life came from an ND alum who said, "David,
you are a true ND man."
In my next life I'm coming back graced with
mercurial speed, and I'm going to play wide
receiver for the Fighting Irish. Maybe by
then the Spirit of Notre Dame football will
have finally returned to breathe life into
this storied program, because it is surely
on my first day of high school. As I came home that first day, I proclaimed to my parents that I was going to do my best in high school so that I would be able to be in a position to attend any university I wished to attend.
I'm not really sure when I began to think about Notre Dame. One of my Dad's first sales managers was an Irishman whose son attended ND (some of you may have seen the story of the ND alum who died at the Michigan game in '02 whose own son was sitting on the other side of the stadium unaware that his father had been stricken with a heart attack..it was that same son of my Dad's first sales manager).
Or it might have been through my Grandmother, a Chicago Democrat who always spoke of ND so fondly (I'm named after my Grandfather who happened to be named after a Chicago Alderman). Her first trip to ND was for my graduation and you see how proud she was. Unfortunately she died one year later. My Dad had her buried in the same outfit she wore that graduation day.
But I guess having moved around quite a bit as a kid, I looked at ND as a place where I could develop my own roots and a network of lifetime friends. I went there knowing only one other guy whom I had gone to 7th and 8th grade together. I've tried hard to stay in touch with as many as possible....but those roots is why I've never missed a reunion! Today (thirty years from my freshman year)....a few more rambling thoughts below:
- My first ND game against Northwestern...seeing the blimp hovering over campus a few days before the game...feeling an electricity I had never felt before. And then just three years ago working with a guy who played MLB for Northwestern that day and talking about how Ross Browner had broken the punter's leg.
- Meeting so many quality people day in and day out, particularly one senior who strongly suggested I give a part of me in some sort of volunteer activity. Signing up for the Neighborhood Study Help Program and meeting some incredible kids over those four years...kids I still remember today.
- Feeling the respect that my non-ND friends have for Notre Dame. It's not the football team, but the commitment to excellence we all expect that they notice...(and I'm not talking about me) but in the University -- what she represents and how things are done. And while I am concerned about the last ten years as anyone, I'm also concerned when I hear those closer to student life and the University that some of the things that made ND what is today are evolving in a way that disappoints many.
- Re-connecting with friends on game day weekends and reunions. And despite the years that have passed telling the same old stories time and time again and laughing harder than ever.
- Sharing game days with my Dad...Michigan '80 and Harry O's kick, FSU '93 and others too numerous to recount.
- Finally, bringing the entire family to our first game together this past year. Making it real for my kids who always enjoy their Dad screaming and running around the house when the Irish score....and feeling a bit sad when we lose.
Football is the pillar. It binds us together and allows greater things to be created. I've enjoyed reading the stories and have been touched. Thanks for sharing. WE ARE ND!!!
My parents are from the Ohio Valley. And although most of my older extended family did not even go to college, like so many in the Ohio Valley, nearly all of them root for Notre Dame. I had the fortune of being the first in my family to attend Notre Dame, but that honor is a little dubious--one of my syblings graduated from St. Mary's when I was just a little boy. But its an honor just the same.
I began at Notre Dame in 1988, holding another honor I wish I never had--a member of the last class of undergraduates to see the football team win the national championship. Those four years were wonderful years. And they were wonderful for my family too.
Every year my uncles, usually 5 or 6 of them, as well as one or two of my male cousins, would make the trip out for a game--usually a big one. Imagine, seven full-grown men packed into a rented van for an 8-hour trip to South Bend. One time, I had the fortune of catching a ride with them, there being a game that coincided with the end of fall break. To them, I was just a tag-a-long. But to me, it was a thrill and honor to be traveling with them. Many of you may understand the delight in being brought along with older relatives, whom you learned to look up to from when you were young, once you become of age. All because of the success of the Notre Dame football team. I'll always have that memory of that trip.
One of there other trips was for the last game before fall break--Miami in 1990. Notre Dame won with a late interception deep in its territory. My cousin ran out onto the field afterward, pulled out his pocket knife, dug up a small part of the turf, and put it in a baggy. That night, we left South Bend for the Ohio Valley, and spent the night at our grandmother's cabin on a small mountainside farm. We pulled out the grass, dug a small hole in the ground, and planted it. It has now, of course, spread to the entire property. And anytime I am there to visit the family, someone is sure to blurt out, "ay watch where you're steppin'. That's Notre Dame Grass ya know."
More recently, another one of our relatives in the same clan who was the pastor of the local parish passed away quite suddenly. As the funeral procession made its way out of the parking lot, it made a slight detour to the nearby Catholic high school. There the students were, lined up along the drive, saying their good byes. And they had their band out there too, playing, sure enough, the Notre Dame Fight Song.
I'm thinking of the tragedy on the trip back from a game that the swimming team had. Seems a while back now and I don't remember who spoke at the memorial service but we all collectively felt the loss. Hopefully that will never happen again but if it does there will be strong shoulders and the right words to fit the somber occasion.
Don't mean to put a damper on everything,just wanted to show that ND cares. You don't have to be a star at ND to be loved. We appreciate what anybody can do for the glory of this wonderful university.
Having worked at Rolfs, I knew many of the swimmers, and was good friends with a few. One of my best friends was on that bus, and I'll always remember what it was like waiting to hear that she was OK. It was one of the most tragic days that I can remember, yet the two memories that stand out most of all were -
The beyond packed Basillica on that Thursday (I believe) afternoon as everyone left classes and congregated in church as one ND family.
Driving past the 74 mile marker on the Indiana Toll Road for the next year+ and seeing the yellow tape on the chain link fence read "God Bless ND Swim" - I still get silent when I pass that point of my trip into South Bend.
The words "Lou" and "Holtz" in them.
Somebody said it below. He got it. He realized what Notre Dame is about.
I hope to God that TY gets it, and if he dosen't, we need somebody who does.
It started with listening to Ralph G., Worden, Heap, Lynch, and The Golden Boy on the radio in the 50's. Then, I was there! Let's go Irish in person. But timing is everything, huh? Three years of the Kook and one with Hughie and we're out of there as the only class without a winning season.
Who cared? When that band fired up around campus between games, no one cared about our record- we WERE going to win on Sat., we WERE to be reckoned with, we WERE ND! That, my friends, is why I knew when it was time to move on, nothing short of a coma could ever allow me to miss an Irish football game- and it hasn't.
p.s. We got a lot better- we got worse- we got better- we've gotten worse. We'll get better. It is written!
I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't cheering for ND. I remember my dad and I watching games when I was a kid and then going outside during halftime and throwing the football. From then on, I was hooked.
I knew I wanted to go to Notre Dame. To me, there was NO other school. When I was in grade school I went to one of the Blue and Gold games and met Ned Bolcar with whom I share the same first name. I remember him telling me "Ned's are special people and maybe some day I'd be the next Ned on the team." This sounded great to a kid in elementary school, unfortunately, I never had quite the build to play at that level.
I sent Chris Zorich a sympathy card after his mom died just hoping it might get to him. I couldn't believe it when I came home one day to find he had writen me a thank you note from Bears training camp. With so much going on in his life he found the time to say thanks. I again realized that this is the type of person I wanted to be and that ND is the place that would help shape my character.
I'll never forget the day I got my letter from ND. It was thin so naturally I was worried. I had to read it at least a dozen times just to make sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me. Finally, after 18 years working and dreaming I was heading to ND.
One of the best moments of my life came my sophmore year at ND. Coach Holtz, a man that I had a mountain of respect and admiration for, was coming to see my roommates and I. Here is a man who could have used his time on campus for any number of things and choose to spend a part of his day telling stories to 4 guys in a dorm room. I'll never for get that.
I know my time at ND, more than anything else, has shaped me into the person I am today. I miss being on that campus everyday, but I'm greatful for everyday I got to spend there. From midnight walks smoking a cigar, visiting Rock's grave and leaving a shot, praying at the grotto, cheering my heart out at the game, the tradition of ND is a blanket that I've wrapped myself in my whole life. That tradition represents everyone that has come before me and everyone that will come after me.
The tradition of ND football: Something to love, something to live.
I have been a ND football fan ever since I knew what football was. I remember Tim Brown, and the 88 championship, though most of my friends were still just learning the basics of football at 9yrs old, I could tell them what a flanker was and how to run routes. I begged to go to a home ND football game with my father (an alum) and his friens. He finally let me come in the glorius autumn of '93. I remember the tremendous energy on campus, the real feeling of magic in the air. I remember going deaf as the crowd roared when the #1 Irish took the field. The game wasn't supposed to go that way, I remember praying for a miracle and the way the entire stadium seemed to not want to give up. The glorious touchdown happened right in front of me and I remember thinking that I just saw the greatest comeback ever. I remember how much it hurt when that *@#$^ @#* $@#^$@#$!!! kicker made that FG. I wish I could have kicked their fans ass so bad for stepping on the holy ground of ND stadium.
That was the last time a #1 ranked Notre Dame team took the field. I've been to most of the ND games since then, and it still feels like the kick happened last week. There are a lot of special moments now on football weekends, but the magic has gone. I pray that someday (soon) that magic returns. I want to feel that again.
I was a Student Manager working on the field for that game. I was kneeling at the line of scrimmage, on the home sideline as the teams lined up for the final kick.
Just as the play was about to happen, directly behind me, a photographer said "He's gonna miss this kick. ND always wins this type of game". I turned around and shot him a nasty look. I turned back around just in time to see the snap, kick and absolute devastation on our players' faces.
The picture premanently fused to my brain that I saw in those painful moments immediately after the kick went through just so happens to also be the picture that graced the cover of SI the next week. That was the photographer who made the comment. That day, the SI curse came in the form of an actual person. I still hate him.
ND's tradition means many things to me, but I want to share a story I heard that really shows the love affair subway alums have with Notre Dame. Being an ND fan means having a special bond with other fans as soon as you meet them. I was at a holiday get together at my girlfriend's house and was introduced to her Dad's lifelong best friend. As he introduced me he also told me that his friend's father was an enormous ND fan and had passed his love for ND to his son. He shared this story to show what type of ND fan he was: It was November 16, 1957 and he was watching the game at the local pub with the rest of the ND faithful. As I am told he was a very respected man that was well liked. He was not the best Catholic however, as he missed mass quite often. On this fateful day as ND was getting ready to play Oklahoma, who hadn't lost in their last 47 games,he looked up and proposed a deal to God. "God, let Notre Dame win this game and I promise I will never miss mass again." Unlike me, this is the only time he asked for a deal like this.Well, as we all know ND won, snapping Oklahoma's 47 game winning streak. He and his friends celebrated until early Sunday morning, although most of his friends probably forgot about his deal, he didn't. He was up a couple hours later and attended mass, as he did for the remaining 40+ years of his life, never missing mass again. The Victory March was played at his funeral and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Whenever I hear stories like this and the others in this thread I always realize how special ND football is, you never hear stories like these about other schools.
I still remember my dad taking me to my first game in 1948 when I was 12. ND defeated Michigan State on a gorgeous October afternoon. In 1950 we saw Purdue snap ND's 39-game undefeated streak on a dismal, rainy October afternoon. Notre Dame became a very special place for me, and I have visited the campus many, many times since those first games, sometimes for games, sometimes for retreats, sometimes just to have the special feeling anyone experiences walking on that beautiful campus. I live and teach in Florida now, but whenever I visit Indiana, the trip is not complete unless I make it to Notre Dame. It was a special place for my grandfather and for my father when they were alive. Now it's a special place for me and for my son. None of us were ever students there, but that doesn't diminish our love and respect for one of the greatest universities in the world.
When I was alone in the womb, I could hear ND football as it pulsed out from the TV speakers in my parents' tiny house on Grand Avenue in Mishwaka, Indiana.
When I was alone as a child, I listened to the local radio talk about the Golden Domers and their struggles the past Saturday, which would provide the solid foundation for a sure-fire victory this week, and I watched each Saturday from my father's bended-knee and my Mother's caressing hand.
When I was alone as a teenager, I sat in a stranger's living room in Muncie, Indiana, fulfilling my duties as class president on a trip to the state student council convention, watching and crying as the final pass from Charlie Ward was knocked down in the endzone, and students stormed the field and Lou was stoic, all celebrating the day that the numbers changed.
When I was alone as a senior in high school, I nursed a sore wrist injury caused by the turf at the Hoosier Dome during our eventual victory in the Indiana High School State Championship, and friends and family surrounded me to give congratulations and salutations, and I watched from across the hotel lobby over their heads the small monitor where Notre Dame was losing to USC in California, and I was depressed.
When I was alone as a high-school graduate, I just made my college choice to my father, who cried and then hugged me close after the words, "Notre Dame" slipped from my lips.
When I was alone as a student, I reached down and ripped out a handful of green grass stained with white, and I placed it in my pocket, then I joined the throngs as we exited the House that Rockne Built and shared one last moment with our now former coach, Lou.
When I was alone as a junior, head buried in a test-booklet, trying to decide whether Mary would sit next to Jim if she did not like Ann and Andy, I listened and watched from my seat the jubilation of a Saturday home game against Oklahoma, and the mere 2 hours that I would have to endure before joining my brothers and sisters in Our Lady.
When I was alone as a law school student, I cheered and ran up and down the stairs and turned on the fight song and woke up my sleeping roomates as I watched Arnaz Battle streak for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in Florida.
When I was alone, I can close my eyes and feel the brittle wood of my square-foot on the bench, hear the trumpets and horns bellow from the corner of the endzone songs that I've known my whole life, sense the awe, admiration, and dedication to the sport and the legends who have come and gone and are still being made, and I can see the bright blue sky, the cheering masses, the flying flag, and the gleam that never shined brighter than when it came off of eleven golden helmets streaking down the field.
When I was alone, Notre Dame football was always with me.
my great uncle was a priest who taught there for a short time.
Of course, waking up on Sunday mornings in Florida and watching ND highlights with Lindsey Nelson and Paul Hornung just adds to it. It was the gold helmets, the library, games that come down to the wire. The great players and how they were products and models for the university.
You went to Mass, then you came home and watched Notre Dame football replay with those guys! When I think about it, they're probably the main reason I wanted to go to Notre Dame...
To condense the game into an hour I remember showing the crowd shots and Nelson saying "Army was unable to move the ball so they punted to Notre Dame." Of course it was the classic Nelson voice that can't be recreated here. Back then, no cable no Internet and in the Miami Herald (the paper we got) there would be three grafs on the game. So it was like watching the game live, so to speak.
I knew something about Notre Dame. I knew that it was Catholic and that it had a rich tradition in football. But our culture here, as it relates to post secondary education, is much different than in the States. All of our universities are state supported and, with a few exceptions, they are viewed by students and alumni in a detached way. They are places that help you get where you want to be. Our intercollegiate sports are quite small time. Only in recent years have small athletic scholarships been offered. When I arrived at Notre Dame in August of 1988, I immediately fell in love with the idea of the entire place. I had no conception of the beauty and spirit of the place. I was a somewhat unusual grad student in that I had worked for awhile and saw the whole exercise as an experience rather than as a purely academic experience. My first game was Michigan. I do not have to tell you about the rest ot the season, and the next, which was magic. I travel a long distance to go to games every year and I bore countless Canadians with my fanaticism which they cannot begin to fathom. I firmly believe that my devotion to ND was solidified by football success. Footballs' decline has not dulled my love but I will say that I it is likely the case that I would not feel as I do without witnessing those two seasons.
...they had to help Earl Campbell off the field at least twice in the game. Ross/Willie/Luther/'Kritter/Becker/Golic/Restic/Case/Calhoun/Burgmeier/Waymer kicked the crap out of the 'Horns!
I don't think I can clearly articulate a single story that so eloquently displays ND concept. There are so many events that are only ND that pop into my head. Here are a few:
1. Growing up despising ND because my father and sister went to Marquette (and later learning what an inferiority complex was)
2. Opening my sense to ND for the first time in the fall of 1988, not because of the success the football team was having, but because of the way the ND folks presented the school at a college fair. Hearing them speak for one hour and I walked out and said to my parents, "That's where I'm going!"
3. Touring the campus in the summer between Jr. and Sr. year and seeing my mom run through a sprinkler because it was so hot outside that day
4. Looking up at the Dome and spending time at the Grotto on that same trip
5. Receiving my acceptance letter on my birthday - greatest present ever!!!
6. Cheering on MY ND in the Fiesta Bowl on 1/1/89 with my family and friends all around
7. Talking to my roommate for the first time over the summer before freshman year and sharing our ND build up
8. Seeing that #1 sign lit up on Grace Hall from DAY 1 and for many more weeks through out the next 5 years.
9. Seeing my 80 year old, 5 ft tall, Italian grandma screaming at the TV while watching ND football.
10. Knowing that my Dad taped and performed "analysis" worthy of omahadomer each game.
11. Junior Parents Weekend
12. Being able to count on both hands with using my thumbs each of ND's losses during my 5 years on campus, and being able to recite the situation surrounding each of those losses. Running out of room keep track of the victories
13. Unfortunately seeing the ND Family first hand with the outpouring of support from the campus as we packed the Sacred Heart after the Swim Team bus accident. Being there for our family (fellow students) and knowing that they would always be there for us in our times of need.
14. Being on the sidelines for the '92 Sugar Bowl and '93 Michigan
15. Filling out the form to have the "Thank you" note sent to my parents after graduation - seeing their eyes when they opened it. Knowing that over 10 years later, it still hangs as proudly over the desk in their family room as my diploma hangs in mine.
16. Mass - be it after a football game, in the dorms, or a regular Sunday.
17. Having a business associate see a picture of you and your 6 month old son under the Dome hanging over your desk last week and ask "Is that ND? Did you go there?" And then realizing that you have just connected with a fellow Domer and forged an immediate bond.
Forever Notre Dame
How the Irish weren't suppossed to be there. I watched the game here in the Florida town I live in, about an hour and a half from Lizard Land. I watched the game with a house full of Gatorheads not expecting much. These Gatorheads were taunting me and goading me for being a Notre Dame fan. Watching Lou as he sucked in Spurrier to drive all the way down field, only to kick field goals. The Irish doing something unusual at that time - passing. In the second half remembering Dan Dierdorf saying "I heard all about this vaunted Notre Dame running attack and they aren't using it." Enter the big man. Jerome Bettis tearing up the Gators. The Gatorheads started blaming me (as if I had something to do with the Gators going down)and all I did was sit and watch the game, smiling warmly.
1. Being a helmet painter my Sophomore year--and carrying on the "golden tradition." Still wearing my ND Monogram jacket to work on the Friday before every game.
2. Knowing that every pre-game(year-in-and-year-out) I go to will include the Band high-stepping into the Stadium, "Hike ND," (the greatest of all fight songs)The "Notre Dame Victory March," "America the Beautiful(and the oration of the lyrics)," the Flag ceremony, The "Star Spangled Banner," and Officer Tim McCarthy. Unfortunately, there's a football game in the midst of all this...
I may butcher this, but if so hopefully it will spark someone to fill in the cracks. I believe it was the Air Force game that Glenn Earl sent into OT with a blocked field goal. Anyway, there had just been a kickoff by the Irish after a score and somewhere in the play there was a little number 45 running down the field. "Hey it's Rudy I joked to my dad." He gave one of those smiles that dads do just to humor their kids. But then, interrupting my self-amusement, I realize that the announcers are actually talking about this guy.
Apparently, he was a player who, out of high school, received a few scholarship offers, but declined them to walk on to Notre Dame. After two years on the scout team, finally as a junior he made special teams kick off team and officially became a part of the roster. Apparently, one influence on his reason for walking onto ND was that his dad went here and played football for the Irish. As fate would have it, he was the player whose spot was taken in the '75 game against Georgia Tech so Rudy could dress. Over 35 years later, he found his son walking on to Notre Dame just like his hero, the guy who took his dad's spot, and wore 45 in honor of Rudy. And after two years of getting his butt kicked in practice, like Rudy, he finally accomplished his dream. Unfortunately, I didnt' remember the kid or the dad's name, but hearing that really touched me. All I could say was "Only at Notre Dame."
My father (ND'51) was terminally ill, and on a hospital ventilator. The doctor called our house one night at 2am, asking my mother and I to come in for what he thought was the end. It was a tough scene seeing dad fight the vent- and fight to keep a piece of paper in his hand. The paper was my letter of acceptance to ND that I had received a few weeks before. He survived that night and later came home,telling me that the letter gave him strength, and was adamant that he would drive me the 1200 miles to campus when school started and would stay around until the first home game. Although I had seen him go beserk listening and watching televised ND games over the years, I did not realize just how much sharing ND football with his son meant to him. He wanted more than anything to pass on the torch to me by attending a home game together.
He died at home few weeks later. We never made it to ND Stadium together, but the torch was passed--for Notre Dame and ND football to mean so much to a dying man, I knew that there was something very special waiting in northern Indiana.
about 6 years old. He never went to college, but he was a loyal fan
throughout his life. I'm not an alum either, but I have been a fan since
that time. When Dad passed away, we arranged with the pastor to have the
Victory March played at the end of the services.
My favorite ND moment of all time doesn’t involve Johnny Lujack or Leon Hart. Nor Joe Theismann nor Joe Montana. The player involved wasn’t even an All-American. In fact even though the player only graduated a couple of seasons ago, I doubt many ND fans even remember his name. If they do remember him, it would not be for winning a big game or even making a big play. If truth be told, I'm not sure he ever did make a big play in a game.
So who is this mystery player? Why none other than Charlie Stafford. Charlie who, you ask? Has the Old Man truly lost it this time? Probably. But Charlie’s still an all time favorite.
Like most Notre Dame recruits, I assume Charlie was a big time prep star. Probably the biggest thing to ever hit his high school. Charlie was surely recruited by many of the very best schools in the country. And when he signed with ND he was undoubtedly dreaming big dreams. Tim Brown had just won the Heisman a couple of years earlier. Notre Dame had won a National Championship even more recently. Neither result was totally out of the realm for a super athlete with virtually unlimited upside potential.
As is often the case with freshman, Charlie’s hopes and spirit must have been crushed in his first brutal weeks of fall practice. The returning players were surely much larger, faster, tougher, and at ND even much smarter, than the best of opponents he had faced in high school. Even among the other freshmen, Charlie was quickly lost in the shuffle. I believe he started out as a tailback. But I’m not sure. What I do know is that he did not play at all as a freshman - a point that will turn out to be critical for the story.
So Charlie’s freshman year came and went with nothing to show for his efforts. But freshmen are usually able to chalk up such disappointments to learning experience, and I suspect that Charlie was able to do so as well. With a year under his belt and a strong summer of conditioning, he would undoubtedly be competing for playing time as a sophomore.
Unfortunately, Charlie’s sophomore year also came and went without fanfare. If he saw any playing time, it would have been on the scout team. Running the opposing team’s plays against the first team offense and getting his brain scrambled and his body mangled in the process. But surely with the valuable scout team experience plus another summer of even harder work, Charlie had to be optimistic about his junior year. After all, many of the big name running backs would be graduating, so it was only a matter of time before Charlie would move up.
But Charlie did not move up. In fact he moved back. He didn’t just slip down a few notches on the depth chart, he darn near slipped all the way off the depth chart. Even brand new freshmen had moved past him at tailback. So what was he to do? At first ND tried him at DB. After all, Charlie had good speed and Notre Dame was chronically short of fast DBs throughout Charlie’s term. Unfortunately, DB did not work out much better, and Charlie must have gone home after his junior year even more confused and more discouraged than after his first two years. Then again, the next fall he would be a senior. At long last one of the elder statesmen of the team. A role model for the younger players. Charlie would go home. He would work even harder. And he would return to show the younger players that working hard and waiting one’s turn were the keys to a successful career at Notre Dame.
Unfortunately, when Charlie returned to Notre Dame in the fall of his senior year, he was not able to assume a role as mentor for younger players. Despite his hard work, Charlie could not even hang on to his lowly spot as a back up DB on a team that was desperate for DBs. There were other younger plyers that needed to be tried in a last ditch effort to shore up the defense. So Charlie was moved again. This time to back up wide receiver which was another new position for Charlie to learn. In addition to being short at DB, Notre Dame had been unable to land a top receiver for a couple of years. Perhaps Charlie could help there. Of course, since he had never played the position before, it would take time for him to learn the intricacies of running precise routes. In the meantime, he would be a valuable addition to the scout team where he could simulate opposing teams star receivers which would allow the Notre Dame DBs and LBs to practice timing their vicious hits. Charlie could also help the first team defense get ready for option teams by throwing his body in front of huge DLs and LBs on the first team defense.
Charlie's hard work finally appear to be paying off in the spring following his senior year. Charlie had decided to return for a 5th year and was paired at WR with Derrick Mayes. Ron Powlus was the QB and, at long last it looked like ND was going to run a wide open pro-style offense. In the spring game Charlie was unstoppable. I think he caught something like 5 TD passes. He surely thought his time had come and undoubtedly worked harder than ever in the summer.
Yet in the fall Charlie's hard work actually proved to be his final undoing. He threw his body at a monster DL once too often and paid the price in the form of a badly damaged knee. Charlie still would not give up. And the coaches continued to count on him to block on running plays. But the coaches increasingly had to turn to other, younger WRs, notably Emmit Mosely, on passing plays.
As the season wore on, promise turned to frustration as ND suffered a couple of difficult losses. The team srtill managed to earn a first rate bowl against FSU and played them tough, only to lose in the end. After all he had been through, I could have understood and forgiven Charlie for simply slinking off the field in self pity. After all, Coach Holtz had already stated publically that the ND team that year had as much talent as any team he ever had, "except for one wide receiver and one corner back". One-legged Charlie was the "one wide receiver". I can only imagine how that barb must have felt.
And yet, at the end of the bowl game, when the team came over to the band and the ND faithful, Charlie was at the very front. He held his helmet high and thanked all who would listen. Even after the rest of the team had departed, Charlie remained. He had actually broken down in tears when asked why he remained. It was all he could do to choke out:
"Because I love this place so much, and I'll never get the chance to thank Notre Dame this way again."
Maybe not Charlie. But at least you made one old man's all time ND team.
I was not fortunate enough to be accepted at Notre Dame. I am now a junior at Washington University in St. Louis.
Here on the western edge of the city, I live on a beautiful campus. The academics are first-rate. The facilities are excellent. And yet, it is a university without an identity. I had not even heard of Washington until I was in high school.
According to U.S. News and World Report, we are the #9 school in the country. And yet, there is nothing that will make us wish to return to the university when we have graduated. We are here for the common purpose of attaining a good education and a degree. This is the one thing we all have in common, and it certainly does not unite us in any sort of social manner.
There is nothing wrong with the academic focus that Washington has taken. The university is very straightforward in this regard. Yet, there is a genuine lack of concern for one's fellow man here. We are generally not selfish, but rather a community of individuals. I will always view myself as more of a product of the university than as a member of the university family. For this reason, nothing has yet compelled me to give anything back to the university once I have graduated.
The University of Notre Dame, however poses a stark contrast to this picture. I have hardly any living family connections to Notre Dame, and yet have always felt that I am a part of the university. Every time I am on campus in South Bend, even during losing seasons, I feel a genuine warmth, both for the football team and for the university itself. Notre Dame has never given me anything, save for a thin envelope, and yet there is little I would not do for the university.
I continue to watch every Notre Dame football game, always alone, while my classmates spend their Saturday afternoons either studying or recovering from the night before. The essence of Notre Dame is palpable even through a television screen. If Notre Dame does not consider excellence in football to be part of its mission, it ignores that which made it great and distinguished from America's other universities.
There are still many persons who understand what has made Notre Dame great, and this legacy must be passed on. As much as I have enjoyed my time here at Washington, I want to see Notre Dame retain the sense of community that is so lacking here. There is nothing that troubles me more than witnessing Notre Dame slowly lose sight of its greatest tradition, football. Please do not let this happen.
this is the one I wish Monk would read. He doesn't realize how many people who were never students of the University consider themselves ND men or women.
No other university is like that.
They should have accepted you and rejected one of those abject losers from NDToday who make me want to re-think my policy on always interviewing a Domer no matter what.
lived and died with ND football. I was trying to recover from Rheumatic Fever and when ND had to pull one out against Forrest Evashevski's best to gain a tie. That kept ND's undefeated streak that reached 39 eventually. Every year until I was an old, old Irish fan every defeat sent me into a depression. The season was ruined because the goal was to win the NC.
Back to that Iowa game in '48 when Iowa got into their first lead my heart started racing so badly that I had to bring the radio in from the back yard to a bed where I listened to the rest of it wondering whether the stress would kill me. After about an hour my heart returned to it's normal beat and I was sad and happy. Sad that we only got a tie but relieved because nobody,and I mean nobody beat ND in those days.
When you're spoiled with ND almost always being the best in your youth, it's hard to accept even one little old defeat. Since those days I've seen great times and sad times but just when you thought you might never see another NC one came along in '88. I hope to see another but if I do it will because many of you have spread the word that there is something special about ND. You shouldn't even have to explain it but if you spread the word around properly many of you youngsters may have some of the highest highs in the world. There are very few things that are better than a NC at ND. The ND fight song cheers me much in the same manner that it did when I first heard it. And as Johnny Mathis sang that's a long, long time. The song was Twelth of Never. I met the man who wrote that. His words resonate and make you think that's how long it will be before ND is back on top but it doesn't have to be that way.
interviewing members of the ND team at the train station in Clovis, NM. He was a sports writer making $75/week. The team is on the way to play SC. I think the big guy with his back to the camera is Moose Krause in a cowboy hat. I can remember a Time magazine cover of Johnny Lattner in '53, wearing a beautiful kelly green jersey. I stared at it for hours-days until it disintegrated. The nuns at Sacred Heart school in Clovis used to give me programs which ND would send to the Catholic schools in those days for the library. My grades were lousy as I would just look at those programs. The games were on radio. I was hooked bad.
I have programs from the 40's when my Mom & Dad went to see the Irish. it has been 43 years of seeing the Irish at home for me. The '73 Pennick run against USC (my pic is in the Era of Ara book) and '77 Green Jersey game are as clear today as if they were yesterday.
It is the most special place on earth.
I didn't go to ND, and have been satisified just being in the house.I have no regrets only fond memories and anticipation for the future. I admire the school, alumni and students immensely.
I was a student at" College de St-Laurent" in MTL
( the old French art Degree.....etc)
run by the CSC, I was 14th....& played for the college Basebal team.
( was not bad even had a tryed out with the Dodgers in 56)
Our HC was Father Bergervin CSC was a Franco American & a ND Grad
we were playing a Jesuit college .Like BC
before the game he talked a lot about Rockne...Gipper.etc
I had no idea what he was talking about & TOLD HIM.....
Poor me....LOL.after the game I had to sit with him in the Bus for 2h
to learn about ND Football.
After that, I started reading etc
watched ND on ABC on Sunday morning.etc
in 82 I got a 12' dish with C & K band
to watch ND Football.
I have seen ND Football in Moscow,Stockholm, London Sydney etc
in 94-95 on CNBC.( not available anymore.)
in 93 , the Michigan Game was stucked in Amsterdam
was on the phone with my Son for 3h, he described the game to me.
Still remembered..Kevin M......Touch down at the end of the 1st Half.
( an Option play)
my 3 kids - 5 grands Kids...all know on sat in the fall
You do not bother the old man.
They are all big ND FAN.
I used to have a special phone # to phone Lenning & Wallace
about recruting.....I was even Worsth then MNG.LOL
( in Canada..could not use their 900 #)
Still remembered when Lenning told me abour Ricky W. commitement.
Imagine........Our VP in LA was a USC Grad....
also our largest customer in the US was Boeing
1 of their Sr VP was from USC...in the 90
we talked a lot about football.
Walking in Moscour-Sydney with a ND Jackets.....
was often asked are you a ND Grad, went to a bar in Moscow in92
with a Russian ND Grad because of the Jacket...
also saw many ND Grad in Australia , just walking with ND Jacket.
Finally in 96 I interviewed a ND grad for a VP job.
he graduated in 68.
Started talking football.........he told me
1: "I did not go often to the game......"
2: he had no idea where we standed in 96
I did not hire.the....SUCKER....
Today I have 2 dished , to make sure I don;t misse any games.
10 min ago my Son in law.just took the book
about the 88 season..."Champion"
He used to be a Michigan Fan, he is not anymore.
Sorry if to long.
the smoke alarm went off while I was cooking a pizza all I had to do is say stop that and it did!
My wife, my two sons, and my father (God rest his soul) exchanging a handshake and a very subdued (game face firmly in place) "Go Irish" before the opening kickoff of each game.
my earliest recollections of sports of any kinds and of my Grandfather, uncles and cousins. My Grandfather emigrated from Castlebar, County Mayo in 1909. He came over as part of the Irish National Rugby team loved it here and didn't go back. He was a sports fanatic and quickly became a football fan naturally following the Irish as they gained prominence among Irish Catholics and the nation as a whole. My Dad and uncle went to the USC game with my Grandfather every other year when it was played in South Bend from when they were old enough to appreciate football until his death in 1953. My 2 aunts went to a ND game with my grandfather every other year when USC was an away game as kids. As a result my entire family had followed ND football as far back as any of them could remember. Any family gathering for whatever holiday began over a beer, etc with the topic of ND football. It went something like this... "John, will you be having a beer? (POP) So when do you think they'll get rid of Kuharich(sp)?!...." I guess talk of improving the ND football program is also a tradition. I remember my dad and Uncle off to the side at a family party following my graduation from ND thinking I wasn't in ear-shot discussing how proud "Dad" would have been to have a Grandson graduating from ND. So as far as I'm cocerned you can have Stanford, Duke or whatever pretender you fathom as an "aspirational peer". There is but one ND and it shouldn't be F'ed with.
"We now move to a later down in the same series of plays..." Clements to Weber on the happiest New Years Eve I can remember. Theismann in the rain (yes, I know we lost). Joe in two glorious Cotton Bowls (though neither started out particularly well). Reading the SI article on Eric Pennick: "my cat learns moves from *me*." The look on Schembechler's face after Rocket ran the second one back. The comeback in Buerlein's last game. For that matter, the feeling I've had every single time I've seen ND beat 'SC. The complete feeling of despair after the 24 - 0 halftime lead was erased by AD. "Knute Rockne, All-American." I could go on for quite a while.
memories is that of my Dad, class of '58, bringing home a brand new TV console a few days prior to the MSU "Game of the Century" in 1966 (he must have broken our family's then modest "bank" on that purchase). His parents were NY-Irish, subway alums, whose dream it was to send their children to ND, and my grandmother lived long enough to see her grandchildren matriculate there as well - to her it meant they, as children of Irish-Catholic immigrants, had finally "arrived". Dad took me to my first game against Northwestern in Chicago in 1970, along with my Mom and my older sister. It was always a family tradition to watch the televised games together - always Dad, Mom, my two younger brothers, and my four sisters (if the latter promised to keep the questions to a minimum), living and dying, TOGETHER, with our team. The mood in our home on fall Saturday nights was dictated by how the Irish had fared in their game that day. I and three of my siblings graduated from ND or SMC, and another of our brood matriculated at SMC for a year. The way I see it, my parents integrated Notre Dame, it's history and the traditions it stands for, into the fabric of our family in order to assist them in instilling into their children the values that they deemed to be important. ND football is about more than "just football" to my family - it has served as a symbol and an idea of what we all should strive to become, and represents the values it takes to be that person.
I won't ruin it by asking where your sister transferred to. (Kidding)
people like Wilbon et al.
and passion of the writing is stunning.
So much for the notion that the C2C is the mindless ramblings of 412 internet sports geeks. I am proud to be a part of all of this.
My father is ND class of 1942. My brother is ND class of 81. Although I loved watching Notre Dame football on TV in my youth, at the ripe age of 15, I decided that I wanted to be my own man...go someplace other than Dad and Big Bro.
I looked at many schools in the college tour the summer of my sophomore year in high school. I was convinced that I could get as good an education and have as good a college experience at many places as I could at Notre Dame...and I could be my own man.
Then, during the fall of my sophomore year in high school, my Dad put me on a plane to South Bend, so that I could visit my brother at Notre Dame for a football weekend. It was ND-Tennessee. November 11, 1978. I had been to one game at ND stadium with my Dad when I was 8 or 9, but I didn't really remember it.
This time around, I went to a pep rally in the Stepan Center and revelled with the throngs of toilet-paper throwers. I went to the Alumni Hall kegger the morning of the game, and had an ice cold beer on an ice cold Indiana morning. My brother got me a ticket to sit (stand) in the student section for the game. I crammed in like a lemming...standing sideways just so that I could stand at all. A simple plan or divine intervention? Whatever the cause, this football experience made me fall in love with Notre Dame.
From the moment I stepped on campus, I should have immediately abandoned all thoughts of anywhere other than Notre Dame. As I was pulling up to the campus circle, the band was marching between Alumni Hall and the law school, firing up the Victory March. It was almost as if my father had planned the whole thing.
I applied to only one school -- ND. In an effort to "remain my own man", I refused to note on the application that my father and brother were alums. I got in on my own accord....Yeah...I was stupid and brash.
After hearing nothing from the admissions office in January of 1981, I called the admissions office on the day before the Irish v. UVA basketball game. I spoke with the director of admissions, Mr. McGoldrick, who informed me that there had been a screw-up on my file and my teacher recommendation had been placed in another file. He asked, "Do you want to know if you got in?" When I responded that I wanted to root against Ralph Sampson the next day, he told me that I had been accepted and my packet was in the mail.
Now, when my father, who is 83, my brother and I get together or talk on the phone, there is always the bond of Notre Dame football. No matter what the occasion, the topic of discussion invariably turns from discussions about our kids, our jobs, and the serious issues of life to a talk about next year's hopes for an undefeated season.
ND football did not create a close family, but it sure has brought us together in conversation many, many times over the years -- even during times when we didn't get along as well as I might hope.
The bond of ND football tradition is personal. ND football tradition means shared passion. It means shared glory. And, yes, as much as I hate it, it means shared despair. But, it is always shared.
. . . with ND's Big O, Orlando Woolridge, a day or two before that UVa game. I recall the prof wishing him luck on the test and in the game. O's OT jumper ended an undefeated season for #1 ranked UVa.
At that same time, Dan Devine was barely out the door and off to retirement, after his football team had delivered a near-miss run at the NC.
But the climate was about to quickly change for both programs -- especially football -- as you well know.
As to football, fortunately, you received the good "fix" from your family before Faust took over. Gerry crashed and burned soon enough, and Lou restored greatness to the football program.
But these last 10 years? It's been too damn long.
I began at ND in 1981. After the first game v. LSU, I think many of us freshmen thought we were in for 4 years of glory. It came crashing down quickly. Basketball also had some rough times during that period, as you know all too well.
You and I probably shared a few moments over a few beers lamenting during those times as we had a mutual friend (Chuck84). See, like I said, it is a shared experience....
Neither of us are alumni, but every Saturday meant Notre Dame on the tube.
In October 1999, he took me to our first game. I had no idea what was in store. I expected a lot, but every moment of the weekend exceeded expectations. We had both been to high-profile sports events before, and really just imagined going to a home football game of our favorite team. I had even been on campus before, during the stadium renovation, and really though, besides a nice grotto and a beautiful Basilica, it was just another catholic campus.
The first time he saw the Dome, from the bus window, the trip changed for me. It was no longer going to see a football game, it was seeing my father in a completely different light. Dad is not the most expressive man, and worked long hours in a taxing family business while I was growing up. Although I had a great relationship with him, I felt I could know him better.
The process of meeting my Dad began that weekend. We bounded around campus like two 8 yr olds at Chuck E Cheese. We often came to the brink of being reduced to puddles. The entrance of the band at the pep rally. Walking past the grotto at night. Glee Club at breakfast in SDH. Pipes on the South Quad. Walking into the Stadium for the first time. Watching my Dad as he did. The anthem. The Irish coming out of the tunnel. Such a great experience.
The moment I will take with me however occured after the game. We were advised to make Mass at the Basilica after the game. We were in the northeast quadrant of the stadium, so we waited until the end of the game, and after the band played the alma mater I believe before making our way to the Basilica. As we made our way toward the library we realized we were in a foot race with the band. My Dad is not the quickest of men, nor the lightest so after an already intense weekend, I sort of decided to yield to the band. My Dad had a different idea and sprinted his 250 lb frame around the corner, in front of the Guard. I followed. We laughed the rest of the way into Mass.
I will treasure that jaunt from the stadium to the Basilica for the rest of my life. I've been to a game every year since. Last year I could not go with him, I went with a buddy. It wasn't the same. Not going to let that happen again. No one understands Notre Dame Football like I do, better than my Dad.
I'm not sure if the intent of this thread was how Notre Dame Football connected generations of alumni, but speaking as a subway alum, I know Notre Dame connected me with a guy I consider the most important subway alum.
Just a few of my memories:
1. 1971 - One of my earliest memories of any kind; me at Age 4 running around the living room babbling my usual nonsense . . . until my 6"4", 250 lb father (who was just intrinsically so imposing that he never had to hit me and rarely even had to raise his voice to get good behavior) looks up from our 13" black and white TV and bellows at me at the top of his lungs "Now you listen up -- Notre Dame is playing football on TV. So you can sit down and shut up and watch, or you can leave the room." I sit down, I shut up, I watch; clearly this ND football thing is pretty important.
2. 1979 - Joe Montana, chicken soup. If I go to college, this ND place might be worth looking into...
4. January 1985 - Accepted to ND. Much to father's delight and mother's dismay, I turn down several other schools (subsequently denominated as "aspirational peer institutions") in order to attend school with real college football atmosphere. Several weeks later, I score 28% on an AP Physics exam (perhaps foreshadowing future careers as accountant and lawyer). Physics teacher tells me to take test home, show it to my parents, and report back their response. My father's response: "You go find this teacher tomorrow and you tell him that I said he can go pound sand -- my son was accepted at Notre Dame and that's good enough for me" (perhaps my biggest bonding moment with Dad until the blizzard of 1993, when I shovel entire driveway by myself, prompting Dad to exclaim "that was worth every penny I ever spent to feed you").
3. November 1985 - Freshman year at ND; chills run down my spine as I hear Ara announce, as the 58-7 Miami debacle is winding down, "from these ashes, a phoenix will arise." Of course they will.
4. August 1988 - Senior year at ND; arrive on campus in August and we promptly hang a sheet out our window overlooking North Quad: "Hate Miami Now, Avoid the Rush"; the sign stays up until the game nearly two months later. Several days later, we head over to the ticket office to camp out for tickets -- four days before they go on sale. We are the second group in line.
5. October 1988 - Pat Terrell (#15) leaps into the air, bats down two point conversion attempt thrown to Leonard Conley (#28); absolute pandemonium and joy (I remember their numbers because a portrait of that play hangs in my living room for the next nine years).
6. January 1989 - sun setting over Sun Devil stadium in Tempe Arizona; 40,000+ ND fans serenading Major Harris, the West Virginia team, and the rest of the stadium with John Denver ("Country Roads, take me home, to the place I belong, West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country roads") as ND dismantles West Virginia to win the National Championship. I am so happy, I don't even stop to worry about the fact that I have spent every penny I have to get here; every penny spent thereafter until graduation is put on a credit card until I start working. Best investment ever.
7. 1993 - in law school in Williamsburg; roomate (ND '90 Keenan Hall, Keenan sucks!) and I skip classes for a week and return to ND to see second loudest game I've ever heard as ND whups up on Charie Ward. If only we hadn't stayed to see the next game as well...
8. 2002 - Wife is in months 5 though 7 of pregnancy with our first child during Ty's improbable opening run to 8-0. Displaying the qualities that make her the love of my life, she sits patiently on the couch through each of these games while I lay my head on her belly and whisper to my as yet unborn son, "Now you listen up -- Notre Dame is playing football on TV. So you might as well just sit down and shut up and watch, because you can't leave the room."
Had the same experience with my unborn son in fall of 2002. We sang the fight song so he would kick along.
He just turned a year and he has had ND clothes in his size from day one.
We are just saving for the class of 2025 and hoping that there is a football team for him to play linebacker on.
The one about the ND player circa '49 in the Bataan Death March in WWII. It is one of the most touching things I've ever read. If anyone could somehow find a link to that it certainly would stand out among the rest of all of these great posts.
Do you know if this is the same article as the one in SI? It sounds like it, but I wasn't sure.
Though I seldom took it off before...I've worn my class ring every day since I heard this.
Copyright 2002 USA Today
Notre Dame's Tonelli faced horrors of Bataan, refused to die
By John Lukacs
Special for USA TODAY
SKOKIE, Ill. — On the afternoon of Nov. 27, 1937, in South Bend, Ind., Notre Dame needs a miracle, the kind found in Hollywood screenplays, not football playbooks.
It is late in the fourth quarter, and the Fighting Irish are tied 6-6 with Southern California. Suddenly, Notre Dame fullback Mario ''Motts'' Tonelli takes a hand-off deep in Irish territory, and the bleachers erupt as No. 58 races down the field. After 70 yards, the 5-11, 195-pound Tonelli is tackled, but he scores the game-winning touchdown seconds later.
Afterward in the Notre Dame locker room, Tonelli confesses, ''I don't remember that run. I don't know just what I was thinking about, except just to run.''
Fast forward five years, to April 9, 1942, on the Bataan Peninsula, Philippine Islands. Columns of gaunt, stubble-bearded American prisoners of war, flanked by Japanese troops brandishing bayonets, weave along a jungle road under a blistering sun. Through the dusty haze, Sgt. Mario Tonelli sees a macabre trophy, a mutilated human head bobbing on a spear, as Japanese cavalrymen gallop past.
''We're in trouble,'' Tonelli whispers.
Instinctively, Tonelli buckles his steel helmet, ready for action. But there will be no fourth-quarter Hollywood heroics on the Bataan Death March.
Unlike thousands of other young soldiers, Tonelli's tale doesn't end in a shallow, unmarked jungle grave. Perhaps it's fate. Or destiny.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of, by any definition, one of World War II's most horrific tragedies and the incredible story of one football player's extraordinary will to survive.
Motts Tonelli, 86, was a survivor long before the millennial trend of reality television popularized the term. The yellowed newspaper clippings in the laminated scrapbooks spread across the kitchen table in his suburban Chicago home are proof.
And for the former football star and war hero, it's been that way since the beginning. At 6, he suffered third-degree burns on 80% of his body when a trash incinerator toppled onto him.
Tonelli's immigrant father, Celi, a former quarry laborer in northern Italy, stonewalled a doctor's notion that his son might never walk again. He fastened four wheels to a door and taught his first U.S.-born offspring how to move about using his arms. Within months Tonelli was back on his feet, and by 1935 he was the pride of Chicago's prestigious DePaul Academy, a prep standout in football, basketball and track.
Dozens of colleges courted him. After a whirlwind recruiting trip, he was sold on Southern California. But his mother, Lavinea, after a visit from Notre Dame coach Elmer Layden and a priest fluent in Italian, decided otherwise.
''You're going to Notre Dame,'' she said. ''It's a Catholic school, and you won't be far from home.'' ''And that was it,'' Tonelli says, laughing.
Tonelli spent three years with the Fighting Irish varsity, leading Notre Dame to the brink of a national championship in 1938. Following the College All-Star Game in 1939, he received his gold class ring, on the underside of which he had his initials and graduation date—M.G.T. '39 — engraved. He wore the ring proudly during a stint as an assistant coach at Providence College in 1939 and one season of pro football with the Chicago Cardinals in 1940.
In early 1941 Motts joined the Army and was assigned to the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment in Manila. Although the ''Pearl of the Orient'' was a prewar paradise of sun-drenched tropical beauty and cold San Miguel beers, Tonelli hoped to fulfill his one-year commitment and return to his new wife, Mary, and the Cardinals by the 1942 season.
Those plans were irrevocably altered in the early morning hours of Dec. 8, 1941, when Tonelli was roused from his bunk near Clark Field by an air-raid siren. At 0230 hours, a frantic trans-Pacific message had crackled over the airwaves: ''Air raid on Pearl Harbor. This is no drill!''
'Alamo of the Pacific'
After the initial lightning thrusts of the Japanese crippled the Philippines-based U.S. Far East Air Force and Asiatic Fleet, Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered about 15,000 American military personnel and 90,000 Filipino troops to retreat into Bataan, a steamy jungle realm of rice paddies, nipa (Asiatic palm tree) huts and colossal volcanoes, to fight a delaying action and wait for reinforcements.
But with the War Department's mandate from the White House to defeat Adolf Hitler first, these ill-prepared, inexperienced troops, captured with little food and obsolete weapons, would be sacrificed to buy time for their countrymen. As a result, historians nicknamed the gallant stand on Bataan the ''Alamo of the Pacific.''
With an empty canteen, Tonelli began the 65-mile march near Mariveles, a port on Bataan's southern tip. Through dust clouds, he spotted artesian wells bubbling with cold spring water, but he dared not stop: The Japanese savagely executed all who strayed from the march. At dusk, the parched prisoners improvised by spreading their shirts on the ground to collect the dew.
''When morning came, we'd wring them out for something to drink,'' Tonelli recalls.
At dawn, cracks of rifle fire echoed throughout the hills. Some guards pumped bullets into those unable to continue; others delivered death with samurai swords.
Sympathetic Filipino civilians caught throwing food or flashing the ''V for victory'' sign in the direction of the haggard Americans were rewarded likewise.
Japanese tanks often swerved in deliberate attempts to run over wounded GIs lying on litters.
He wears the ring
Tonelli was reflecting on his relative mortality when approached by a guard plundering the possessions of the weary, sunburned prisoners. He demanded Tonelli's Notre Dame ring, and Tonelli refused. The guard reached for his sword.
''Give it to him,'' yelled a nearby prisoner. ''It's not worth dying for.''
Reluctantly, Tonelli surrendered the ring. A few minutes later, a Japanese officer appeared.
''Did one of my men take something from you?'' he asked in perfect English.
''Yes,'' Tonelli replied. ''My school ring.''
''Here,'' said the officer, pressing the ring into Tonelli's callused, grimy hand. ''Hide it somewhere. You may not get it back next time.''
The act left Tonelli speechless. ''I was educated in America,'' the officer explained. ''At the University of Southern California. I know a little about the famous Notre Dame football team. In fact, I watched you beat USC in 1937. I know how much this ring means to you, so I wanted to get it back to you.''
The surreal encounter ended, and the gridiron and battlefield rivals headed their separate ways.
''I always thought that someday he'd try to look me up,'' Tonelli says. ''I guess he probably didn't make it through the war.''
Number comes up
Nearly 700 Americans and 10,000 Filipinos died on the Bataan Death March, but for those who survived, the nightmare was only beginning. Tonelli absorbed numerous beatings in three squalid prison camps — O'Donnell, Cabanatuan, Davao — over the next 2 1/2 years, but each night he would reach for the silver soap dish where he concealed his Irish ring. Each glimpse of the ring reminded him of better days and provided hope for the future.
Following a hellish, 60-day journey on a filthy, cramped merchant vessel in late 1944, Tonelli was sent to slave labor camps on mainland Japan. When he arrived at Nagoya No. 7, a prison camp near the village of Toyama, in the summer of 1945, Tonelli was a 100-pound skeleton, a mere shell of the bullish fullback that once roamed Notre Dame Stadium, Soldier Field and Comiskey Park.
''I felt that (Toyama) would be my last stop,'' he says. ''I was going to die there or be liberated.''
His body ravaged by malaria and an intestinal parasite, Tonelli wobbled to a table where a Japanese officer assigned prison garb and identification numbers.
Tonelli glanced at his new prison number. It couldn't be. Tonelli fought to hold back the jubilant tears.
Scribbled on a piece of paper was the number 58, the same number he wore throughout his football career.
''From that point on,'' he says, ''I knew I was going to make it.''
From the NFL to politics
The atomic bomb ended the war, and Tonelli was home by October, weighing 183 pounds thanks to ''a miracle of American roast beef, butter and milk,'' commented Chicago Daily News sportswriter Francis J. Powers.
Cardinals owner Charlie Bidwill signed Tonelli to a contract, and Sunday, Oct. 28, two months after being liberated, Tonelli suited up in a football uniform for the first time in five years.
Tonelli played sparingly in the Cardinals' 33-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers and decided it was time to look for new challenges.
It didn't take him long. Tonelli was sworn in as the youngest commissioner in Cook County history in 1946, and after a distinguished 42-year career in politics and public service, he retired in 1988.
One of the estimated 1,000 remaining Bataan Death March survivors, he speaks about his wartime experiences at local schools.
''Well, that's the end of the story,'' Tonelli says to the visitor sitting in his kitchen. ''Any other questions?''
''The ring. Do you still have it?'' asks the visitor. ''You want to see it? C'mon.''
He places a small, golden object in the visitor's left hand. Although worn by the effects of time, both the university seal and the inscription on the inner band remain legible.
''It's kind of worn down, isn't it?''
Tonelli flashes his trademark smile.
''It's over 60 years old,'' he explains. ''Imagine what it's been through, where it's been. The history it's seen. It's been through a hell of a lot, kid, but it's still here.''
Just like its owner.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
I have been reading this thread with tears in my eyes. I can't begin to express my thoughts as eloquently as so many have done. But I think it is absolutely essential that we not allow all that our beloved Notre Dame has meant to so many for so long to be lost.
412 may have signed the letter, but thankfully there are millions behind them. As a subway alum, I can't imagine another school and its followers that could make me feel so good.
right up until my senior year in HS, thats all, go play for Notre Dame.
In 1995 I brought a friend to campus for the SC game. The man was a retired marine who had just retired from his second career. He told me his dream was to see a home ND game before he died. He was a combat veteran and a real tough guy. At the luncheon on friday he cried when the band came marching in after Holtz spoke. That night we ran into John Lujack and Leon Hart at dinner-two idols of his--we went over and said hello. He was in awe. The game of course was classic and at dinner saturday night he held hands with his wife and told me that with the exception of the birth of his children the weekend was the best experience of his life.
The kind of game that is typical of the "win over all" mentality that ND football, when successful, engenders in the students and alums. We had "no chance" to win that game - against the #5 Trojans - and yet we won in every conceivable facet of the game.
My father was there for that game, too. I was a senior at ND. It will forever be a part of our shared ND history.
There were always three teams in my house. The Raiders, Yankees and Notre Dame. Being from the northeast made the Yankees a natural and the thing that I really remember about the fondness for the Raiders was my father talking about the Raiders-Chiefs late 60's rivalry. The wars they had were apparently epic. I was born in 1970 so I really only have the words of him and others.
Notre Dame though stood out even among those others.
My father used to tell me how he used to listen to the games on the radio with his father. The Army games from the Polo Grounds, the SC rivalry and every great game from his childhood. He had never seen a game in person so it burned(jokingly) him even more that I was on campus before him.
I travelled from NY to Wisconsin with my grandmother and her sister and husband to visit relatives in July, 1978. We stopped in South Bend the 2nd morning and of course there was the Dome. Shinning and glistening to greet us. It was of course just like you saw on TV only more impressive. We drove around the empty campus and even at 8 years old my jaw just dropped at all the sights.
We parked right next to the stadium and started to walk around when we noticed a gate to the stadium open, somewhere around Section 5 or 6. We went in and I went down and had my picture taken on the field. I was quickly whisked off the field by the yelling of maintenance type workers ala Rudy.
Calling my father that night to tell him where I had been that day was better than any chritmas present you could put under the tree. He was jealous but excited for me just the same.
Time went by and we eventually made the same trip as a family.
This time however, the gate was locked and I will always have the image in my head of my father laying on the ground taking pictures of the field at the top of the tunnel thru the fence. Take about what Notre Dame means to subway alums. Here's a 40 year old guy taking pictures of football field thru a gate. You would have thought he was at the SuperBowl.
Anyway there are of course other great memories.
The 79 Cotton Bowl. My parents went to church while I sat on the couch sick eating tomato soup as Joe led us back. I'm yelling and screaming as they are about yo go for two and in walk my parents thinking I am insane only to see that the Irish are about to complete the comeback.
His first time in 1985 for the SC game.
Our first game as a family the following year for Air Force. We even got the styrafoam wishbone from the pep rally. We had our picture taken with the cheerleaders the next day in the stadium after the game.
The 88 Miami game of course. We celebrated in the living room together like it was us that just batted down the 2 pt conversion.
The 90 Miami game. We saw first hand what the rocket could do.
The Pittsburgh game where Rocket took it to the house and then the guy was barricaded in the stadium bathroom with a gun after the game. At least that's what we were told.
As I have written in my "Poster description", my father passed away en route to NY after the Indiana game in 1991(The Irv Smith catch and run game). He had a stroke and fell on to the driver of the van and there was a car accident. He probably would have survived the stroke but the doctors said the head trauma was too much. He passed away on October 18, 1991, spending 41 days in a coma. He's with me everyday still and has the first choice of seats on the couch on Saturdays in the fall.
There is more I could say but I think this sums it up.
For me will forever be connected. Without his love for Our Lady and the Fighting Irish I would never have gone there.
To my Dad ND stood for excellence and perseverance, always striving to be the best even in the face of what seemed to be insurmountable odds.
Some of the best moments of my life I shared with my Dad at ND, watching great games and celebrating victories.
ND was such a big part of his life, and now that he's gone I feel like everything must be done to turn the program around in order to honor his memory and others who made ND great. We OWE it to them.
...I didn't grow up knowing about, much less loving ND. One of my most embarassing moments in grade school occurred when the nun asked the class where Notre Dame was located. My hand shot up and I answered "Paris". Who knew?
No-one in my family had been to college so I didn't get a lot of guidance regarding choosing a school. I arrived at ND in the fall of 1964 without ever having been on campus. I was vaguely aware that ND played football but they hadn't been prominent since I'd started paying attention to college football.
I went to the fieldhouse for a pep rally that first weekend because that's where the crowd was heading. They introduced this new coach named Ara something and the crowd went nuts. Being unnaturally insightful, I immediately saw that this was different from high school football.
The rest is, of course, predictable. I think ND lost a total of 5 games during my undergraduate career. When the time came, my daughter enrolled and witnessed the '88 championship. My son was next and he barely missed the '93 FSU game.
He married a domer two years ago (married by Fr. Scully) and my fondest memory of the Fall of 2002 is sitting in front of the TV with my daughter-in-law and her mother going nuts as ND beat FSU.
Last fall my wife and I, our son and daughter, our daughter-in-law and her mother, plus some nieces and nephews (10 in all) flew in for that dreadful USC game. The weekend was still special because our daughter-in-law announced the upcoming arrival (later this spring) of our first grandchild.
ND football draws us together. I hope it always will.
bore you. Let's just say when my alma mater East Tennessee State University played ND in a NCAA game, I pulled for ND without thinking about it. It pains me to see the way things are going because ND affected me in so many things that I will never be able to repay ND for all the wonderful things I've learned simply by being a fan in all things ND.
My family goes back to about 1925 with Notre Dame. My Grandpa was class of 1930. We’ve had an almost uninterrupted stretch into the 1990’s of some family member as a student. One of my most prized possessions is my grandpa’s 1928 pennant.
Both of my parents understood the value of Catholic education and sacrificed greatly to send all five children through ND and St Mary’s. My mother was a great believer in music and arts and three of the five of us were in the band at ND. My older brother ended up a fine arts major. My sister was one of first 3 women to march in the band. I was about nine when I first started understanding and following ND football. Just in time to watch my sister in the band. I remember watching the ’73 NC game with Alabama and being jealous of my sister for her being able to be there. She married a Domer. So did I.
Since I started school in fall of 1980 I’ve missed 3 home games and have seen ND in 20 different venues. As a student, I suffered through the Faust era after an amazing week in New Orleans freshman year despite Devine’s last team’s loss to Georgia.
My mother enjoyed tailgating even when her health was failing. We might run into her aunt, whose husband scouted for Leahy in the 40’s and was mayor of South Bend for a while. Her aunt still goes to almost every home football and basketball game even in her 90’s. An uncle always came in from PA for 2-3 games a year. At the end my mom’s battle with cancer she needed a wheelchair pass to get to the stadium. She passed a few weeks after the 1988 NC win over WVU. She had encouraged us to travel to the Fiesta bowl and not worry about her – she’d watch from home. Her funeral mass was held in the Basilica and closed with the Alma Mater. My eyes now well up whenever I hear it now. She’s buried not far from my Grandpa in Cedar Grove.
My father in law was the ultimate subway alum. He was buried in an ND sweatshirt. He knew the history better than anyone I’ve met that isn’t an alum. He really “got” the whole ND thing. My mother in law gave me his memorabilia collection highlighted by a copy of the Denver Post with Rockne’s death as the banner headline.
Football helped make ND what it is, and ND helped make my family what it is. Losing the tradition of excellence on the field makes me feel like I’m losing something that is an important part of my family. My kids wear their jerseys and other ND gear, sing the Victory March and go out to the tailgate, but I want them to have a bit of what their great grandpa had. Winning football is part of that.
...is more than yellowed newspaper clippings and flickering newsreels. It is kept fresh and vibrant by kids from all over America who come to South Bend to live out their dreams. The Spirit is not a figment of the imagination. It is real - binding forever, past to present, all those who have felt it."
(from Wake up the Echoes)
I’ll let a former coach say the rest:
” It is important that I express my thoughts about this university - which you may or may not agree with. This school was founded by Father Sorin in 1842. It was founded as a tribute to Our Lady on the Dome. I believe the overwhelming majority of our football team believes in Jesus Christ. We may have some whose religious beliefs are such that they do not recognize Jesus Christ. That's fine also. I don't wish to change anybody's religion or philosophy. This school was built as a tribute to the Blessed Virgin, the mother of Jesus Christ. I firmly believe that if you really look at this school, you realize it has been blessed. The people who attend this school are blessed. Father Sorin said it best in 1842, "I've raised Our Lady aloft so that men will know without asking, why we have succeeded here. All they have to do is look high on the Golden Dome and they will find the answer." When we do what is right, we bring glory and honor to Notre Dame. When we win in football, we help this university. To reach your potential, you must learn to love this university. Put your faith, confidence and belief in Jesus. That is what this university is all about. It's your decision, but I firmly believe that Our Lady on the Dome will watch out for you. Spend some time at the Grotto, and you'll discover that this school is special. There is a special mystique about it. You are special for being here, a student at Notre Dame.
There are millions of people that live and die with Notre Dame football. There are an awful lot of Catholics and non-Catholics, Irishmen and non-Irishmen, successful and less fortunate people that follow the University of Notre Dame – and you should feel a sense of obligation to them. They follow Notre Dame football because it is synonymous with success. I really look forward to this season and working with you. We are going to be positive, and we are going to have fun in what we do.
I want you to pay very close attention to what I am going to say, because I don't want any misunderstandings about how I feel. I'm here to win football games for the University of Notre Dame. Not some of our games, and not most of our games; I'm here to win ALL of our games. Every doggone one of them! We aren't here to come close. We are here to win every single football game we ever play at the University of Notre Dame from this point forward. I want you to be the best, the very best, in all areas of your life. I want you to be the best student that you can be; I want you to be the best person you can be; and I want you to be the best football player you can be. The only reason a person should exist is to be the best he can. To play at Notre Dame is to seek perfection. I'm basically a perfectionist. I've heard all the reasons why you can't reach perfection. I want to tell you something. We are either going to reach it, or we're going to come so close that the average person won't know the difference. To strive for perfection means you've got to be totally dedicated. It can't be an occasional thing - it's got to be a total dedication in everything that you do. If you don't have total dedication to perfection in your life, then I believe your attitude toward life is flawed. Perfection at Notre Dame will not only be demanded, it will be expected. I don't ever expect to lose another football game as long as I'm at Notre Dame, and I sure don't expect to lose one this year. I expect to see a perfect football team, because that's going to be the criteria to evaluate it. A loss is absolutely disastrous. You cannot give me one reason in this world why we should ever lose a football game at Notre Dame - not a one! There is no reason we should ever lose another football game at Notre Dame, and we aren't going to. Less than perfection is a personal embarrassment to me, to you and to this university. For us to ever represent the University of Notre Dame with less than perfection is totally inconsistent with our goals, our objectives and our beliefs."
- Lou Holtz
The Irish went on to win 23 consecutive games and a national championship.
a head coach who "got it". Wow.
September 17, 1982.
My first trip to Notre Dame. I was 16 years old. My father, ’58, and I took the admissions tour, even though I was not yet close to applying.
Afterward we took the father’s tour, where he showed me his window in Farley Hall, where on football Saturdays he and his roommates would lower a basket on a rope with a sign: “Starving students, please help.” The rewards: apples, sandwiches, cash and coin, the odd bottle of whiskey.
We found his name on the list of donors in the atrium of the Hesburgh Library.
The Badin Bog, later the birthplace of Bookstore Basketball.
Of course the bookstore, crowded to the rafters even on a Friday afternoon.
The Fieldhouse was still standing then, but just barely. When my father died in 1995, I got the bricks he stole that day. Still have them.
The pep rally in Stepan Center. I’d never felt such thunder when the band marched in. My dad kept goading me to lift some girl, any girl, up on my shoulders. I was too shy and overwhelmed to do it. One of life’s regrets.
Later that night, we watched ND lose to Ohio State in soccer on rainy Cartier Field. I played the game then, so it was great to watch people who knew how. You haven’t seen road rash until you’ve seen a midfielder slide 10 yards on wet Astroturf wearing shorts.
The next day, after breakfast in the Oak Room, we watched a charity basketball game. Alumni from 5+ years ago, versus alumni from –5 years ago. Shumate, Carr, Dantley, Hanzlik, Tripucka, Jackson, Laimbeer, Paxson. Final score was about 365-344. Defense? What’s that?
Afterward, they auctioned the jerseys… Carr’s was first and sold for maybe $85. Tripucka was next and went for 10 times that. Shocked and amazed.
That night was the first night game at Notre Dame Stadium. Of course, it couldn’t be anybody but Michigan and Bo Schembechler.
I remember students marching around the field carrying bedsheet banners. I thought it was amazing. Never have seen that since.
“ANTHONEEEEEEEEE! COME OUT AND PLAY-AAAAY!!”
He came out all right. Took a punt 75 yards for a TD early in the third quarter. And wasn’t heard from again that night. It wasn't enough. Final Score – 23-17, Irish win.
My decision was made. I knew my family’s situation… my father had just been laid off. Notre Dame would be the only out of state school I would attend. I applied there early, and at 5 schools in Illinois. In November 1983 I got a fat letter from South Bend. Aside from the acceptance, the most important part was the financial aid applications.
In March 1984, my father had his first two of three heart attacks, followed by triple-bypass surgery. When my financial aid package arrived - a 90% ride for freshman year with loans, grants and work study - I wanted to call him in the hospital, but my sister said no. The surprise was, he came home the same day. He read that letter, sat down at the kitchen table and cried.
Sealed the deal.
All from one historical football weekend.
That wasn't my first game, but I definitely remember that weekend and the first-ever night game. Was at the pep rally in Stepan and my old man bought one of the jerseys at the auction (also got a ball autographed by the "all-stars.") Sounds almost like you were following me that weekend.
My first game in personal attendance was green jersey game v. SC in '78 - I was five and have vague recollections of Star Wars halftime show...don't really remember the game much.
That was the first ND game I ever attended as well. I was 10 years old. We lived in Ann Arbor, where my father (A ND undergraduate alumnus) and his family settled after attending UM Med School. Being a young doctor, my father was on call almost every weekend, meaning we could never take a trip to ND for a football game. My father often talked about how wonderful ND was, but since I had never been there, it might as well have been in a foreign country. My only experience with college football was attending numerous UM games. God help me, but until that September weekend in 1982, I was first and foremost a Michigan fan.
So that weekend, my Dad and uncle took me to that ND-Michigan night game. The spirit on the ND campus, despite the Faust malaise that was setting in, so vastly surpassed the feeling on the UM campus for any of its games, even an Ohio State game. It was then and there I became an ND fan for life and resolved to attend ND. I feel sorry that today's students haven't been able to witness that type of sustained spirit between the students and football team. ND is still a wonderful place, but it has been less than it can be over the last decade.
I did not grow up an a Notre Dame family and tradition and I chose to attend the University sight unseen. When making my decision I did research about the school, its history, its traditions and its leaders. One of the quotes that I read at that time has stood out to me for those thirty-plus years:
"If all men fail me, there is one treasury that is always full, that of our Most Holy Lady. When this school shall grow a bit more,I shall raise her aloft so that, without asking, all men shall know why we have succeeded here. To that Lovely Lady, raised high on a dome, a golden dome, men may look and find the answer"
That quote, that symbol told me right away what Notre Dame is all about. To the uninitiated that was a powerful message. But how does that great symbol translate into everyday life? How does the fabric of a place get woven from such a symbol?
I came to learn in my time at ND that that inanimate symbol comes to life and breathes through the concept of community and those traditions that support it. The community engendered through worship and prayer, the community present in the academic interactions with instructors and fellow students, the community present in sharing lives with others in residence halls and student organizations and, yes, the community that is most visibly demonstrated in the gathering and sharing in our athletic teams' efforts.
Each of these community-building traditions of Notre Dame played a part in helping me stake out my place in the world, helped me define the kind of person I wanted to be, helped me develop the kind of standards that I wanted to hold myself to, helped me identify those ideals that I would not compromise.
What does Notre Dame football tradition mean to me? Many things, but nothing greater than a living, breathing example of how we should strive to keep our ideals as we seek to achieve success in life. What better example is there for the inherent rightness of striving for excellence and doing so the right way, through creativity and hard-work rather than through cutting corners, settling for just okay, or achieving victory at all costs?
I choose to look at Notre Dame's football tradition and our adherence to the standards set by our predecessors as a living extension of the symbol of Our Lady on the Dome... Father Sorin's great dream. When we are faithful to our tradition I think of our program as a beacon to a cynical world that yes, you may beat us, but you are going to have to bring your best because we believe in and practice the things we stand for.
What does Notre Dame's football tradition mean to me? To answer that I have to first say that everything I am, everything I have and everything I believe in was molded by Notre Dame and its traditions...and the deep-rooted tradition of a football team striving for excellence was every bit a part of that molding. ND's historic vision of championship football has provided me with the inspiration that it is worth doing correcty if it is worth doing at all. It has shown me that there is no substitute for hard work, that cutting corners is not an option in business and in life. It has lifted me when I am surrounded by the cultural choir that insists that something won't work, can't be done, is doomed to fail. It is a reminder of the most important lesson there is...strive for excellence in all things because you will be better for the striving.
The history and tradition of Notre Dame football is, for me, part of the metaphor of living a good life... a metaphor I learned at Notre Dame those many years ago. Every day I pray that my son at ND will find the same lessons I did. And yes, to understand the importance of a football team striving to achieve excellence against all odds is one of those lessons. I want him to learn that success is nothing to be embarrassed about if it was achieved honestly. There are too few of those lessons being taught in today's world at large and I don't want ND to lose what took others so long to achieve. We are who we were and there is nothing wrong with that.
university could be that important to you. It does, it means so much to me that I wished I hadn't been so meek and lacking in confidence that I never applied to ND. Who knows, maybe simply being on that campus might have been all the inspiration I would have needed.
Your post is so well worded that you can tell only a great university could have allowed you to say what many feel in our hearts in such a vivid manner. You are just one of many who realize that you may have been a far different person if you hadn't gone to ND.
Just reading about the grotto makes me wish I were on campus at this very moment. I'm not but I'm listening to the ND ladies. Every ND team is my team and will be against any team or in any year.
We should never be ambivalent about excellence in everything we do, and we should never aspire to be anything other than what we are. Notre Dame is about the unabashed pursuit of excellence, about shouting, "We're number one!" and believing it. We should celebrate what makes us unique and great instead of trying to do what makes other schools great.
it makes for a very visible mission statement...one that need not be re-engineered by the whims of men of lesser vision. Nothing need be done but stewardship of what was established by Father Sorin and articulated by Father Hesburgh.
I am certain you made your Grandfather proud.
Dr. Murray Sperber from "Shake Down the Thunder", at the conclusion of which he stated that no other school in history has ever engaged for so long or with such commitment the tension between being excellent in the classroom and on the field. We may be chasing a dream but it's one we've always chased and should continue to chase.
read a book about Knute Rockne and the Four Horsemen in 5th grade and the seed was planted. Although I had passing interests in other schools, when it came time to choose, I didn't hesitate when the time came. Without ever seeing the campus, and having talked to only one ND alum, I immediately said "yes" when I got my acceptance letter. It was the wisest decision I ever made. I would do it over again in a heartbeat, given the opportunity.
Nine years old.
My first game in person.
Tickets were a birthday present from my grandmother.
Gold helmets dominating the green turf and crimson opponent.
Nothing like Notre Dame: before, that day, and since.
My dad had two loves in life, his family and ND football.
I attended my first game with my dad in 1965, an Irish victory over Northwestern. I attended my last game with my dad in 2001, an Irish loss to Tennessee. In between those two games there are to many great memories and games to list. When we were at ND, our problems always seemed a million miles away. We always had that bond, even while in HS and college when you don't think you dad knows anything, we had our love of ND. We were always looking ahead to the game or season.
We buried my dad the day of Maryland game in 2002. I have been to games since, but that first game (Purdue 2002) without my dad was a very difficult day. He was definitely there with us.
It was 1957, Mighty Oklahoma versus Notre Dame (2-8 the year before?). My folks had rented a black/white tv, with about a 13 inch screen, to see what this "television" rage was all about. After the game, 7-0 Irish, breaking the Sooners all-time win streak, my older brother and I grabbed our football helmet (singular, we took turns wearing it, the guy running the ball got to wear it, the other guy was out of luck) and painted it solid gold. It was one of those leather ones with the crossing bars and no face mask, like on display behind the glass at ND, circa 1940. I remember the thrill and pride wearing it afterwards. Been a devoted fan ever since that day, almost 47 years ago.
What does the ND tradition mean to me? Well, ND means alot to me. I cannot tell you the warm feeling that I have when I think of ND and think about the times that I have spent on campus.
My father (a subway alumnist) use to say, when we were growing up, that all the nuns at St. Charles (Woburn, MA) use to tell the class to "pray
for the boys at the Golden Dome".
My entire family is involved in the wonderful tradition that is Notre
Of course, Saturday night dinners are alot nicer if ND wins on the gridiron!
GOD Bless the Irish
My grandfather emigrated from Ireland. He was born in 1864 (believe it or not) and came to America in 1882. Obviously, I never met him (I was born in 1957). Both he and my Dad (born in 1900), were coal miners in Southwestern Pa. They both became fans of Notre Dame in 1913, after hearing about Gus Dorias, Knute Rockne, the forward pass and the victory over Army.
Every member of my family since then have been ND fans. My parents actually took their honeymoon trip to an ND game in 1939.
We only watched and listened to ND games growing up. When I was a kid, I actually thought that other universities had teams so ND had someone to play and beat, like the Washington General and the Globetrotters.
My brother fought in Vietnam in 1966-67. All of his letters in the fall of 1966 started with "How did the Irish do?".
I have lots of memories of listening to and watching Irish football games with my Dad and my brothers. My 81 year old Dad would get his Blue & Gold and sit down to figure out the Irish depth chart for the next season. He went to one Irish game per year until he was 83.
He died in 1985. My oldest brother (not the Vietnam vet) died in 1994. They instilled a love of Notre Dame (the university, not just its sports programs) in me.
I have done the same with my two sons and my daughter. They are the only Irish fans in their respective schools in this rabid LSU Tiger town. My 17 year old son wants to attend Notre Dame. I am hopeful.
People (other teams' fans)have questioned why I am an ND fan and sometimes try to tell me that I have no "connection" with this university. I tell them that they are full of shit.
I was fortunate to be a student at Notre Dame during their 1993 championship run. The day before the Florida State game I attended a talk by baseball great Tony Gwynn at the ND law school. The audience asked Gwynn who he thought would win the game.
Gwynn stated unequivocally that Notre Dame would win, although Florida State had superior players. The reason Gwynn believed Notre Dame would win was the spirit of "winning" on campus. Everywhere Gwynn went on campus, he heard people talk about winning this game. He believed the Irish Spirit would carry Notre Dame to a victory, and he was right.
That spirit of winning, of overcoming insurmountable odds, permeated the campus in 1993. I don't believe this spirit was something new. This was something born of a long tradition of being the underdog and winning despite the odds. Even outsiders like Tony Gwynn could feel this spirit. It's special, unique to Notre Dame, and worth carrying forward to future generations.
I remember sitting on the coauch in My Grandfather's house in Cranston, RI watching the ND/USC game on Television when I was 7 or 8. Anthony Davis was the big name for USC that year.
My Grandfather followed the Irish from the Days of Rockne when he was a teenager. I'm sure he didn't see it this way, but Notre Dame and its football team engendered all that was good about being Irish, Catholic and American. It was something for him to look forward to and be proud of in an otherwise tough world for Irish Catholics.
My grandfather told me that he wished he could have gone to college at Notre Dame. And he told me that someday maybe I would. And I did.
None of this has much to do with magic in the air when the football team is winning. It’s more about the magic of Notre Dame. I'm certain that others have similar stories and many could write them more eloquently than I. I've felt that magic during football season once ... Michigan 1998. I'll save that for another post.
My love for Notre Dame began as a child. My father left our family in 1984 when I was five and my sister three. I didn't realize it then but I was constantly searching for that paternal figure and role model to fill the void. That person was my grandfather, a first generation Irish-American Catholic and WWII veteran. Born in 1913, he grew up in Buffalo's Old First Ward which was predominantly Irish Catholic. The reasons why an Irish-American Catholic growing up in the early 1900s loved Notre Dame are obvious and have been covered well here at NDnation. He was that prototypical subalum.
Saturday afternoons meant Nana Ro's stovetop popcorn and Notre Dame football with Grandpa "Jiggs." Notre Dame was a source of Catholic pride. I felt that pride and the binding force it had within the family and community. The pride went beyond the football field. Notre Dame did everything well and did it the right way. He had always told our family and anyone who would listen, "John's going to go to Notre Dame." The idea seemed far, far out in left field. It was a dream, not a realistic goal. We lived on my mother's single teacher salary with no child support. People from our town didn't go to places like Notre Dame. Regardless of how lofty the idea was, he never relented. "Wait, you'll see" was his attitude. His passion and belief rubbed off on me.
If I were to choose a defining moment it would be my grandfather's death on Feb 13, 1991. I was 11 and beyond heartbroken. We played the Victory March at his wake, and then we played it again, and yet again. There's not a time I hear the Victory March and don't think of him. The Rosary Beads he had secretly ordered for my grandma from the ND Bookstore arrived the day after he died. At some point during the days after his death, I bought a small notepad from the local drugstore. I tore a single sheet from the packet, dated the sheet "Feb 13, 1991," wrote a few words about his death, and finished with, "I John T. _____, swear that I will attend the University of Notre Dame."
The acceptance letter arrived six years later and I knew his Irish eyes were smiling. I had never visited campus but my mind was made up once the acceptance letter arrived. It was never a question of if, only of how. It was more than choosing a school. It was the realization of his dream and fulfillment of my promise made six years before.
No one in our town talked about one classmate that was headed to Cornell, or our valedictorian going to the honor’s program at Pitt. I was going to Notre Dame and that was something special.
ND football means Irish-Catholic pride to me. My father born and raised in Pittsburgh loved the Irish.
My sister recalls that dad used to listen to the games on the radio every Saturday. My dad grew up in an predominantly Irish neighborhood. Everyone lived ND football in the fall.
She mentioned to me the other night, that Johnny Lujack's father had a coal delivery service in my father's neighborhood. Johnny's dad became a celebrity of sorts in their little burgh.
My family came to California in the 1940's.
I remember as a very little girl, watching the ND/USC games on TV with my dad. I knew there was something special about the blue and gold..my dad..Irish football..my life..I lost him in 1980..but his love for the Irish burns in me and became my own many years ago..I could not imagine
a better tradition to pass on to my daughter..
She is now 3 years old..has known and could sing most of the fight song since she was 2.
She told me last night how much she loves "Rudy" "because he tries hard mama".
I told her that what it takes..hard work and love.
We may not be alumni but, I grew up believing God, Country, Notre Dame.
And so will she.
As I stated before, my dad thought the sun rose and set @ Notre Dame. He died on December 13,1996 having not lived long enough to see my son's acceptance letter dated, "December 13th, 2002".
I went home early the day the letter came, I drove to my son's High School and placed the unopened envelope on his steering wheel. He later told me later that night that he sat in his truck for a long time, afraid to open it, when he finally did, he said the first thing he noticed was the date-he said it sent chills up his spine.
Call me nuts but I believe he had a hand in it...god truly works in wonderous ways.
ND football means this: that I can hold fast to my values and still be successful. That, despite the pressures from those who would have me either mortgage my values for success (see, e.g., Southern Cal and FSU) or forego success to uphold a "higher virtue," (see, e.g., Univ. of Chicago, Duke and Stanford), I can both be a man of principal and be a success in the secular world.
Penn St. '92
These are the games that stick out in my mind, not because they were mere football games, but because they affirmed that an ND team, burdened with everything that Bob Davie later told us we were burdened with, could defeat those who refused to carry the burdens.
That, my friends, is ND football.
Michigan 1986. I know we didn't win the game, but it was a sign that we were no longer anyone's doormats. We put notice out to the college football world.
Sc 1986. A trememdous win for the program against our top rival in a game which we were behind by quite a bit going into the final quarter.
I agree about the Michigan game in 1986. I was a senior. Having suffered through three years of Faust, there was an electricity and excitement and thrill in the stadium for that game that I will never forget. I remember jumping up and down, screaming my head off towards the end, amazed that we were hanging in there when, under Gerry, we so often had not. I was surrounded by my friends, all of whom were doing the same thing -- friends, by the way, that I have remained close to for twenty years now.
I remember Lou stepping off the sideline after ND scored at the end, swinging his leg to indicate that we were going to kick it and go for one PAT, not two. There was no hesitation, no vacillation. That small gesture told everyone that there was now someone in charge and that there would be no more gimmicks, no more inch-deep, Faustian, razzle dazzle. Notre Dame was going to play solid, tough, hard-hitting football again, kicking for one to tie the game up because Lou believed (even if the team didn't yet) that our defense was going to be able stop them and that we were going to get that damn ball back, march down that field, and win that damn football game.
And we almost did.
What a game. What a coach. What a rich awesome legacy is (or was) Notre Dame football.
When we were kids, ND really only came on over the radio. ND was, to me, that team that Dad listened to and that, if I was good, I could sit in the den with him and listen to. But we really followed UCLA.
The Bruins had moved from the Coliseum over to the Rose Bowl and we got season tickets. So I was first and foremost a UCLA fan. Except that when the Bruins were away and on TV, my Dad would mute the television and listen to the radio. Though I was young, I could tell that what I heard and what was on the screen were not the same. I'd ask what was going on and be shushed - "Notre Dame is on. Be quiet son, I have to hear this."
In 1988, the Irish defeated Miami. I didn't fully understand why that mattered, but it was clear that it did. In the intervening weeks, the Irish came to be on LA television more than ever before. And to cap the season, they defeated the "damn Trojans" that had been worshipped all season by the LA Times.
The next fall, I went to barely any UCLA games and instead focused on the Irish. Two years later, I applied to ND not thinking that I would get in. When I received my admission on December 22, 1991, I was shocked. But I still was not sure that I would go. After all, ND could not be that much better than the local schools, right?
Wrong. On Palm Sunday weekend 1992, my folks and I visited ND. I'll never forget the first time driving up ND Ave. and turning right - back before they shut down the road between the Stadium and ND Ave. Looking at the Dome nearly brought tears to my eyes. I think it did bring tears to my Dad's.
The details of the weekend are inconsequential. The talk at the Huddle at which my folks told me that, if I really wanted to go to ND, we'd make it work - that was monumental.
I've since had great ND games with my Dad - and some awful ones. But none as fun as the blowout of Stanford this past year. While the game was nothing special, the weekend was just the two of us, brought together by ND football.
Yes, ND football taught me life lessons. But it also created a bond between father and son. I treasure it for both reasons.
It would be a very long and personal story, ala "Field of Dreams" if I were to get into my relationship with my dad regarding Notre Dame football, or really just football in general. In all honesty, it's probably the main reason we still have a relationship to this day, as there was a long time when we didn't have much of one at all.
What I will say is this--Notre Dame football, for me, was epitomized in the 1986 season. That was a special team and a special season, despite the fact that the team was 5-6. The only game that was as exciting to me as the 1986 Sc game was the Niners-Giants playoff game last year. Simply breathtaking.
By 1987 and 1988, I just flat out expected Notre Dame to win. I expected them to beat Miami and WVU. But those expectations were borne from the 1986 season, and the team that needed to learn how to win.
Lou Holtz is the best, and we need another guy like him.
I hated ND because all my friends were huge ND football fans. They associated ND with football and knew nothing else about the school. They thought the University of Notre Dame was a huge school in the midwest. I didn't root for ND because I felt I had more knowledge about the actual school and place than any of these so called "fans."
Most people in America have this same identificaton. They might know that Stanford and Harvard are great academic institutions but they couldn't tell you anything about Brown or Washington University or who Johns Hopkins is. Unless you've been historically established as the best in something the majority at large won't identify you as such. No matter how good California Institute of Technology is academically it will never carry the cachet of MIT, even if they are the "better" technical school. I say this to clarify that impressions are very important. Certainly employers will have an idea of a school's academic reputation but I like to look to masses to find answers and opinions also.
Two events made me realize how special ND's reputation was: One, was right before I was getting ready to head off to college. I went to a party with my older cousin. He introduced me to his friend who was an avid ND fan. I couldn't believe the reverence and appreciation he showed me. He had never been to ND but had more paraphernalia than anyone I had known. Remember, this is in the heart of UT country. He was such a passionate ND fan that he never minded being the lone ND outlier. The school meant so much to him that he simply shrugged off any criticism that came his way. It astoundedd me that someone with such a limited connection to the university could be that passionate and loyal, especially in Texas no less.
Another event that convinced me how special Notre Dame and football was happened when I was a junior in high school. A running back on our team was named All State. He was a good and gritty player. He received letters from a number of good football programs like Colorado, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, to name a few. But it wasn't until he received a letter from Notre Dame did any of us really take a serious interest into his recruitment. Everybody gathered around his locker to see some form letter with Lou Holtz' name on it and everybody hinged upon each word he read to us. No other school could do that, none. Of course he wasn't going to ever receive serious consideration but that didn't matter. Hearing from Lou Holtz was the affirmation that he had made it as a football player, and we all knew it.
I knew that ND held a special part in many peoples' hearts but it wasn't until I visited (about a 2 or 3 years) after Rudy came out that I realized how great the place was/is. You could just sense it. It is indescribable. You are overcome with a spirit of achievement and pride. What amazed me more though was the people who could feel it without visiting. It is that faith (which was explicitly tied to their predecessor's devotion to the football team) that made me convinced that ND was the place for me.
Didn't have all that much connection to ND growing up. I watched the games and was a fan, but had no family who had ever gone there. However, I had a great-uncle who had been accepted and planned to go but was killed in World War II. His sister, my grandmother, began praying that one of her children or grandchildren would someday get to go to ND. She never said anything about it to anyone, but the day I decided to go she told me that it was one of the happiest days of her life because she would get to go with me to ND and light a candle at the grotto for her brother that never had the chance to go to ND. When she came to visit, I think she cried the whole time.
My old man was class of `55. My Grandfather was a former football player and calss of `29. Needless to say, my brothers and I were brought up on a steady diet of ND football.
Some of my earliest memories are of my brothers and me running around campus during the summer months and attending the sports camps. Coach Joe Yonto was the head of the sports camps program. I vividly recall Coach Yonto wearing me and my brothers out for one thing or another...a real hard ass. All the while, my dad got the biggest kick seeing his three sons taken to task by one of ND's finest football coaches. Had ND been an "average football" university, I seriously doubt I would still have those memories still so fresh in my mind. It is the reason I attend every home game I can. And even though I live 1200 miles away from my family, I know every fall saturday where my borthers and father are and what they are doing.
I met Coach Yonto at the Knights of Columbus smoker last year on the BYU weekend. He seemed to be a great ND man.
Lou: That didn't matter. It was the spirit of Notre Dame. The players and the students believed that we could win, we won today because of the spirit of the University. I had nothing to do with it.
He woulden't take any credit. He gave it all to the students and the players.
. . . was accepted at ND post-WWII. He decided to attend a school closer to home, and has always regretted that choice. He never forced it on me, but I always knew that I had to get there.
When I was a kid, I listened to ND football games on the radio and ran out in the backyard to re-enact the plays. I stayed up late on Saturday nights (or got up early on Sunday) to watch Lindsey Nelson call the replays. I thought Ara Parseghian (and still do) was a warrior and leader on the scale of Lombardi.
[This may piss off Andy, but when I grew up, Austin Carr and John Shumate were every bit the heroes to me that Tom Clements and Eric Pennick were.]
When my turn came to decide about a college, I visited ND and watched the Irish crush Georgia Tech 69-14 with a bunch of guys who insisted that we throw back a shot every time the Irish scored. I picked a good weekend to start drinking.
There are many lesser schools I could have attended to pursue my athletic (and other) interests -- I took my visits, etc. But ND was the only school I seriously considered because I knew that I was not going to play in the NBA, the NFL or any other league.
When I finally got to ND, Joe Montana and Bruce Springsteen played campus on the same day. Montana made magical comebacks. The Moeller guys -- Bob Crable and Harry Oliver -- made Bo Schembechler miserable. Vagas up the middle. We were ranked #1.
My friends and I traveled to at least 15 road games during my four years -- MSU, Ann Arbor, Purdue, Tennessee, Alabama, New Jersey, New Orleans. MSU was the first one. A car load of 6 or 7 guys hit the highway on Friday afternoon. After those first couple cases were gone, all of us were lined up and peeing in a ditch on the side of the highway. Law enforcement was nowhere in sight. The Reagan mores hadn't reached town. Chicks rarely dug us, but we had no intention of spending an unnecessary weekend in So. Bend.
My class never experienced a NC. Frank F-ing Jordan, Paul MacDonald, and a bought-and-paid for referee made us sick. The fish and bottle-throwing rednecks in Atlanta enjoyed a tie that ruined a perfect season. Faust dragged us down (temporarily).
But ND football is what we did in the fall. And we expected the legacy that had been handed to Ara by Leahy and Rockne would continue with Devine and his successors. Every single year, we expected to compete for the NC. And our pathetic social lives revolved around each and every game and season.
I even lived with Chuck84 for a semester -- and words cannot do justice to that experience.
Oh yeah, I took my dad to his first game in ND Stadium. That was nice. My kids are next.
Is a flip into the beanbag chair
Bobby Satterfield was a preferred walk-on defensive back from California on the Notre Dame Football squads during 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988 seasons. Although many of you may not be familiar with Bobby Satterfield the football player, he came to epitomize the spirit of Fighting Irish football.
Bobby was at Notre Dame during some pivotal years in Notre Dame Football history. He was there to experience the last year of the Faust regime, a 5-6 season that ended in a 58-7 drubbing by Miami to closeout the 1985 season.
Bobby didn’t see the playing field that forgetful 1985 season, and it would have been easy for him to throw in the towel. But Bobby didn’t quit.
1986 presented new opportunities for Bobby and for Notre Dame Football with the hiring of Lou Holtz as head football coach. On paper the 1986 squad looked remarkably similar to the previous 1985 squad. The records were identical: 5-6 seasons. Yet, this was a different team, a team that played top-ranked Michigan, and eventual national champion Penn St. to the wire. A team that we could be proud of. A team that demonstrated “significant progress”. This was a team that had again found the fighting spirit. Bobby Satterfield was a part of this. Again, though Bobby didn’t see much playing time, he persisted, and continued to contribute in helping the team. Two straight losing seasons, yet Bobby didn’t quit.
In Bobby’s 1987 junior season, the Irish started out strong going 8-1, only to close-out the season with 3 straight losses to Penn St., Miami, and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Although the season was a success relative to the prior two seasons, 8 wins and a Heisman trophy winner in Tim Brown, there remained distaste over how the season had ended. Again, Bobby didn’t see much action, but he continued to persist. Bobby didn’t quit.
Finally, in Bobby’s senior season in 1988, that magical season, the Irish went 12-0 including victories over Michigan, Miami (the famous “Catholics vs Convicts” game), Penn State, and West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl. From two straight losing seasons to 12-0! Bobby Satterfield was a National Champion.
It was during Bobby Satterfield’s tenure at Notre Dame that the coaching staff coined the term “pitbulls” to describe the tenacity and perseverance of the walk-ons that served on the scout team, mimicking the upcoming opponents week in, week out—preparing the team to do battle on Saturday.
During the national championship campaign, Bobby was fulfilling the role of “Pitbull” on the scout team. There was an intra-squad scrimmage on Cartier Field. Bobby was playing cornerback, when Tony Brooks (proto-typical big back with speed) swept right with the ball, Bobby Satterfield came up from his corner position, shed his blocker, and stopped Brooks stone cold in his tracks. It was a hit that got the attention of everyone. To Bobby, it was about respect. It was about not backing down from a challenge, what tho the odds. Bobby was rewarded with the respect of his teammates, and a national championship.
Bobby was invited, along with the rest of the team to meet President Reagan at the White House in January of 1989, Reagan’s last official week in office. It was no doubt, one of the happiest days of Bobby Satterfield’s life. After returning home a few hours later from the trip to Washington DC, Bobby Satterfield unexpectedly collapsed and died from natural causes—only hours after meeting “the Gipper”.
Indeed, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Suddenly, what seemed so important (winning a National Championship) now seemed unimportant. Notre Dame had lost a member of its family.
The team attended a service in a packed Basilica, to honor their fallen teammate. As the team gathered outside the Basilica, not far from the shadows of Our Lady and the words “God, Country, Notre Dame”, they huddled together silently as the snow gently fell, as if to say a silent goodbye to a friend. Barely a word was spoken, but much was said. A “Notre Dame Moment” if ever there was one.
So from now on when you see my handle, “pitbull”, think of Bobby Satterfield to whom it is dedicated, and think of his undying spirit.
Bobby Satterfield, Pitbull, Notre Dame Man, Loyal Son, Fallen—but not forgotten.
that all of the detractors of the Call to Change and all those students who think football is unimportant would read this and some of the other posts and see that its more than just the game. Football at Notre Dame has been a beacon to millions of followers, a unifying force for thousands of alumni, and an allegory of life to the men who have represented The University of Notre Dame in the past.
Its not about bragging rights at the water cooler. That is a shallow assertion made by young students who have no appreciation for the real Notre Dame. Notre Dame means hope, faith, opportunity and commitment to excellence in everything we undertake.
My dad graduated in 1950. He knew all of the greats in that fabulous run from 1946-1949.
And I never saw a man smile more than he did when my twin and I announced that we would follow the "old man" to South Bend, IN. it didn't matter how much money it would cost him - he was just happy.
My dad was a quiet man (unlike me) and it was only at ND football games that I got to see him get riled up. He would yell and scream with the best of them. Also, as someone else said, it was how Dad and I connected. he never revealed much about his past, but once we set foot on campus, I knew I would hear another great story about his day on campus.
We had our little traditions for game day. In fact, we had it down to a science.
Unfortunately, my dad died last month. And I can't tell you how much it hurt to think that I had watched my last game with my Dad. In fact, it hurts even more realizing that the last game that he and I watched together (in the stadium) was the USC game and the last one that my twin watched with him was the FSU game. Not that winning is everything, but I had hoped for one more championship before he died.
I look forward to next season, but the first time I step on campus without him will not seem normal.
It's time to start new traditions.
My father, a 1953 Arch. grad and a WWII vet began taking me to games in 1972 when my older brother, also an Arkie, was a Freshman. We were fortunate to have only a 2-and-a-half hour drive which allowed us to leave early Saturday mornings and return that night. The excitement of walking across campus on a gameday was like nothing else I had ever experienced. Notre Dame football became the primary bond between us as we grew up. Fussing over the depth chart, diagnosing the schedule, picking up recruiting lists once LOI day had passed. These became year-long obsessions.
We went to nearly every home game for eight years, until I became a student and he'd still visit me each home game. He didn't have a great voice but I can't remember a greater feeling of pride than when the Navy vet would sing "America the Beautiful" with the band, just prior to kickoff.
Now I take my sons to as many games we can get to, and absolutely every USC game. These moments, like all other events on our calendar, tie together generations and create memories like nothing else I can imagine.
1. Waiting 14 years between trips to South Bend to see the Irish due to military service following graduation.
2. It has meant keeping a submarine at periscope depth extra-long to get the news and sports broadcast to see how the Irish did the day before.
3. It has meant sprinting off the submarine in Greece to buy an international USA Today in 1992 to verify we didn't lose to MSU, contrary to the fake radio message my radiomen routed to me.
4. It has meant an annual first game picture with my three lovely children in their Irish best.
5. It has meant hours long road trips to Tallahassee, Morgantown, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and the Meadowlands just to see the Irish when I had no way of getting to South Bend.
6. It has meant getting up early every Sunday morning in the fall just to read and re-read every internet article I could find on yesterday's game.
7. It has meant a monumental buspool for my first game as a student to watch the Irish lose to Purdue in the Hoosier Dome Inaugural game in 1984.
8. It has meant a dozen nuclear power school ensigns huddled around my TV in January 1989 watching the Irish win the Fiesta Bowl.
9. It has meant restraining that same group of ensigns from destroying the TV when the cable went out earlier that season during the third quarter of the Miami game.
10. It has meant an undefeated home record as a senior in Lou Holtz's second year.
11. It has meant following that same Lou Holtz for 18 holes of golf at the Nestle Invitational Pro-Am. The reward for said following, an autographed Irish golf ball and an afternoon of pleasant chat with a great man.
12. It has meant much, much more to me and others who are likely more eloquent.
is ND football
I began going to the games when I was about three with my dad and his dad--both grads--that was over fifty years ago
Although I didn't realize just what it meant, the reverance for the school and its team was almost palpable in their discussions in my early years
As time went on, the dignity they spoke of---I saw---on the field and in the stands
.....the electricity I thought I had experienced fully, constantly was expanded at games that I went to and trips back to the campus
Then, it became mine
We won a National Championship----Ara---"the fieldhouse pep rallies"
Some of us ran a football from South Bend to East Lansing for "The Game"--stood in the freezing drizzle---I hitchiked from South Bend to LA the next week for the 51-0 thumping of the Trojans--slept on floors ---hitchhiked back---total trip cost 45.00
I sat again in Coliseum in 88---that same "life" and magic was there that I remember so well I first tasted when I was three---again in 93 for FSU---and I now believed it was the entity that my father and grandfather spoke about and cherished.
Now. I worry that on my watch, I may not be able to give "the life" to my children.
That would be tragic.
I was raised on ND football by my grandfather, who was a 30s grad.
He loved ND football, and the stories from my mother about him yelling at the TV during games were legendary.
To me, however, the day I really knew that I wanted to go to Notre Dame was Thanksgiving 1988, ND vs USC.
My Grandfather and my Grandmother were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in Florida. All of their kids and most of their grandkids were in attendance to help celebrate. They had rented a reception room in a hotel, and the party was in full swing.
When my grandfather came over to me and informed me that kickoff was a few minutes away. He had made arrangements to have a TV brought up to a side room, so we could sit there and watch the ND/SC game. My grandfather walked out on his friends and family for a few hours to watch the game that day, and from that day forward, there was no place else for me to go to school.
Do they think that ND has drawn students from all 50 states for the last 75 or so years because people had the yearning to "Wander Indiana"? There are dozens upon dozens of Catholic universities that do a fine job of educating their students. Yet only one truly became a 'national' University. And that's because guys like Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy had the audacity to field outstanding football teams and bring them to every corner of America, spreading the Notre Dame name and a reputation for excellence whereever the ventured. Without that national base of students, Notre Dame would never have grown academically to where it is today. And it was the pillar of Notre Dame football that drew students from all over the country to a small Catholic school in the middle of Indiana.
The CSC has several universities around the country. Notre Dame has two things that none of the other schools have... football and the great location in Northern Indiana. One of those made the place world famous.
I've been out of school 12 years now, but were I a student (or fresh out of school) I would have probably reacted to that letter with much the same vigor as some have: I wouldn't want ND to turn into a football factory, become beholden to the cesspool values of Big Time Athletics, or compromise its integrity in any way to further "simple" football objectives.
However, I can tell you honestly that the football program -- and more specifically, the game weekends and attendant events surrounding them -- have become more important over the post-grad years than I would have ever believed possible. As unofficial class "reunions", football weekends have allowed me to build upon a vast network of classmates and helps me keep in touch with friends who I otherwise would probably never see as often. I can't overstate how important these social experiences have become -- and not just in terms of catching up with old chums. I've been able to meet and visit with all manner of alums (and their friends) from a wide range of class years, and even met my soon-to-be wife as a result of newfound alumni relationships.
While a student, I went to the games, roadtripped, went to the Bowls, and had a blast. But as an alum, I see the games as something distinctly different: a homecoming in some sense, but also a chance to meet some new faces and build new relationships, all without having to wait for the 5- and 10- year reunions.
And so, for me, anyway, I see football as intrinsically valuable...perhaps even a "pillar". I don't know if you can get that kind of perspective while still in school. I know I didn't.