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