(Written by Matt Garrison)
The first time I met my brother in-law, we started talking about sports and the teams that we like and watch. My brother in-law (being born and raised in Pittsburg) to no surprise of mine, listed off the Penguins, Steelers, Pirates and Pitt football as the teams that he lives and dies for. Ok. Check. Get it.
When I started to mention the teams that make or break my sporting world, the look of almost disgust I got back from him was a little surprising. (Also, take in the fact that we went golfing and we were neck deep into a case when this conversation started). He needed a little more explanation behind my teams.
So here is the deal with me, my sporting tastes are all over the place, I love the Red Wings for hockey (as just about anyone from Michigan does), I am a die-hard Ireland rugby fan because I love the sport and I lived there for many years. I am a HUGE Bears fan because I grew up watching Walter Payton, and lived in Chicago and my wife was born and raised a Bears fan.
My brother could understand those fandoms, but when I mentioned Notre Dame Football is, he took issue with it. When the words Notre Dame passed my lips it looked as if I had kicked his dog (which would be my nieces’ dog and I would never do that to them).
“How can you be a Notre Dame fan?” “You are from Michigan, your family went to Michigan State and you did not even go to school there.” All true. So I guess I ask myself “how did I become a fan of a small school in northwest Indiana, which has a long tradition of football, but as of late, (except for the last few years) has been a shadow of its former self?”
This is what I came up with:
I am old and there was no internet: I grew up with 3 channels and no internet. These days (insert old man sitting on his porch shaking his fist at kids in the neighborhood driving too fast and listening to all that rock and roll music ‘voice’) you can watch any sport, anywhere, anytime either through cable or a live internet stream.
When I started to watch sports, we had 3 channels and I had to watch games holding the rabbit ears in the right spot (for the longest time I actually thought it was snowing at most games). Insert NBC/Notre Dame t.v. contract (which by the way is genius). Notre Dame was always on, we would get a few Michigan games, and some State games, but Notre Dame was ALWAYS on! Ergo, I became a fan. (I guess this is why there are so many Cubs fans around the country because of WGN, damn you!)
Jerome Betis: Fullbacks. You have to love them. Although he was a running back trapped in a fullback’s body, there are not many backs in college football that were like him (insert old man voice again). Ps- he was also a Michigan guy so what ND can out recruit too.
Michigan State: Season tickets when my sister went there in the late 80s and early 90s, got to see some great Notre Dame games, thanks Sparty! (Also, the first time I had a drink was at a tailgate at Michigan State for a Notre Dame game)
Lou Holtz: Love the man, I know people make fun of him for some of his ramblings on ESPN and the DR. Lou jingle can be a bit annoying (now that I have it in my head I cannot get it out “Doctor Lou, Doctor Lou”). The man could recruit and recruit at Notre Dame which we all know it is tough to get players into because of academics and he knew how to win the right way. One of my favorite quotes: “On this team, we’re all united in a common goal: to keep my job.” Yes indeed. Also, don’t try to steal his hat.
Notre Dame Campus: I love going to college football games, any change I get to go, regardless of division level or team, I love the atmosphere that surrounds it. I had a change to go to a lot of top DI games, Ohio State, Michigan, Pitt, Northwestern etc… but there is no other place that I love to watch football than at Notre Dame Stadium. Don’t get me wrong, the Big House is great (and I love to getting after it on the golf course prior to kick off), and the Horse Shoe is pretty cool, but tailgating in the Joyce parking lot before the game, watching the band come into the stadium and cheering on the players during their walk cannot be beat. (Also I consider lighting a candle at the grotto and saying a prayer like going to church, so hey two birds, one stone).
There are other things along the way that have supported my passion for ND football (and a lot that have made me curse it). Things like making Mark May eat his words, and the haters who only argue that ND needs to be in a conference only make me love ND even more. Also, as much as it pisses me off the Evert Golson will not be at the helm of the ND offense, I respect the fact that ND, for the most part, does not care who you are, if break the rules, you are out.
Win or lose, ND is my team. I will watch every game to the end, whether they win by 30 or are getting pounded, I will take it all in, the good and the bad, I will celebrate the wins and eat the poop sandwiches when they lose. I know there will be both down the road and that is the fun of it. So bring on the first Saturday of college football, I have missed you so.