In reply to: The broken link: What has ND's football tradition meant to you? posted by Board Ops
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.