I have been watching Notre Dame football since the age of five. My dad, a Notre Dame alum from the class of 1954 had two loves in his life....my mom and Notre Dame football. Every fall Saturday, we could look forward to a fire in the fireplace, Dad in his comfy chair, Mom in hers with needlepoint in her lap, and the dog under the coffee table. It was a way of life.
I graduated from Notre Dame in 1989, but my "real" senior class was the class of 1988. (I took a year off when Mom died.) If you follow college football, you know that Notre Dame won the national championship that year by beating West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl. I was there. 50-yard line tickets and everything.
Unlike most of the other people who graduated from Notre Dame, I don't actually know one damn thing about football, but I watched it anyway, since it seemed to be expected of me as a Domer. (You know....Domer. Golden dome?) Anywhoose, I dutifully attended as many games as I could, roasted the requisite number of tailgate wienies, and trudged my way up and down the stadium steps enough times to qualify me as a triathlete.
Things started to change for me, however, when the current Notre Dame quarterback, Jimmie Clausen announced his acceptance to ND at the College Football Hall of Fame and then went to the celebratory dinner in a Hummer limo. Then there were the usual stories about misbehavior off the field, and I found myself saying "Hmmm. Those boys certainly aren't like my classmates on the National Championship Winning team."
I don't know a thing about whether or not Charlie Weis is a good coach or not, and I have no opinion either way as to whether or not there should be a play off system in college football. What I do know is that for the first time in my 42 years on this planet I screamed myself hoarse today.
For the other team.
At first, it felt very odd. Then, I felt a little bit naughty. Finally, I went full throttle and decided that I wanted nothing more than Syracuse to beat the living daylights out of the Irish. At the beginning of the third quarter, I told Stewey that the score was going to be 24-23, Syracuse. And it was. When the clock ticked to 0:00 I jumped up and down and cried and clapped for the Syracuse team and their fired coach and their frozen fans who had come so far to watch their losing-record, 20 point-underdog team play Notre Dame at home -- and beat them on Senior Day.
And then, when the fired coach of Syracuse halted his post game press conference and shushed his team to pay respect to the Notre Dame Alma Mater, I cried again.
I lost something today. I think it's my rosy-colored glasses that had me believing that Notre Dame was a "special place" where winning wasn't everything and we were more than a football school. Now I'm not so sure. There is less and less talk about academics, or faith, or social contribution than there is about the dollars involved in bringing the team "back to glory".
The final straw for me was the shake down letter that I received from the Development Office. It was polite on the surface, but I couldn't help but feel that if I don't cough up my $5,000 next year, I will be a "lesser alumna"....one who doesn't REALLY feel the "Spirit of Notre Dame". (I watched the Sopranos. I know a shake down when I see it.)
So the bloom is off the rose. I am sad and lost and ashamed. I cheered against my team today and they lost. The seniors didn't get to celebrate anything on their last day in Notre Dame stadium, and there will now be months of speculation that the entire program needs re-vamping.
Next Saturday the Irish will travel to L.A. to take on USC. I'm pretty sure that the earth will stop revolving on its axis if I say anything remotely positive about the Trojans, but methinks it will be a lot easier this year to watch Notre Dame get its proverbial ass kicked. Again.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Back to our regurlarly scheduled programming. Soon. Very soon.