I can’t remember when I wasn’t a Notre Dame fan. It started out being my mother’s fault, as she was a lifelong backer, following the team from the early 1920s when she was a young teenager and continuing to age 92. In the 1920s her all-time favorite coach, Knute Rockne, was in his initial years at Notre Dame. I remember going with her to see the movie “Knute Rockne All American,” starring another of her favorites, actor Pat O’Brien.
She never got to see the movie, “Rudy,” about a dedicated wannabe player who sat on the bench until his last game and was a walk-on in the final action. How she would have loved that!
As she had indoctrinated us with bedtime stories about “The Rock’s” record of three national championships and word-by-word renditions of the “Win just one for the Gipper” speech, she almost always had company listening to or watching the play-by-play. (George Gipp, by the way, was played in that movie by Ronald Reagan). Mary Lynch, the epitome of a quiet lady, was known to shout at the top of her lungs and jump up and down on the living room sofa – something that was absolutely verboten to her children – during close games.
That’s why I knew for sure that she heard me in heaven when I shouted the house down myself last week when Notre Dame beat Oklahoma 30 to 13. More excitement came later when the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings came out and unbeaten Notre Dame ranked No. 3. The first time mom saw a Notre Dame game in person was when we lived in Atlanta and the Irish took on Georgia Tech’s Ramblin’ Wrecks. In the fashion of the day, she attended the game in heels, hat and gloves and sported a fresh corsage on her coat. Sitting in the Tech section with a lot of friends, mother enlivened the afternoon by cheering for the visitors – who won.
Notre Dame is in South Bend, Ind., located across the Dixie Highway from St. Mary’s College, the girls’ school I attended.
For me it was the perfect location and the place I met Jim when he was an ND student. Mom and Dad made many trips up from Atlanta, especially in the fall, and she got the thrill of her life – to see her team in their home stadium. My brother Mike is also a Domer (so called after the Golden Dome atop the campus Main Building as well as the glittering football helmets) as are three of his children.
Our own kids are South Carolina college grads and we have a Cougar, a Tiger (BCS No. 13) and a Gamecock (BCS No. 8) in our family, and this gives us all a lot to cheer for in football and Cougar basketball as well. But we all have our traditions and my heart was first won by those Blue and Gold boys from the Midwest, the Fighting Irish, and they will always be a favorite.
At this writing Notre Dame has but four season games left, and with fingers crossed and many appropriate Hail Mary’s to be offered up for Notre Dame, aka “Our Lady,” my last words – just before the amen – are as always: