Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Am I a Notre Dame fan?

Please allow me to guide you through the very complicated relationship I have with my feelings in relation to the University of Notre Dame. ND is a part of my family, nothing will ever change that fact. And nothing will make me not proud of it either.

My Grandfather graduated from the University
My Grandmother worked in its library.
That's where they met, fell in love, and married in the log cabin chapel* on its campus.

My Mom, the daughter of said Grandparents, is one of four kids that has three degrees from the University between them. One Uncle has two (undergrad & law) and my other Uncle the other. Although my Aunt didn't go there for school, she married a "Double Domer" (undergrad & grad, MBA I think but am not quite sure) and has three kids that graduated from the University as well. In fact, my Aunt's youngest child (my cousin just a year older than me) was able to baptize his first born at the log cabin chapel* a couple years ago.
*yes, the same chapel

My Grandfather went on to work for the University. He managed "the A.C.C." (now called the Joyce Center), which is the twin domed building next to the football stadium:
My Grandparents are actually both buried on campus, in the official Notre Dame cemetery.
Are you starting to get the point?

The bench dedicated to my Grandfather on campus.
My Father, Mother, MySister and I total zero degrees from the University of Notre Dame. But we weren't shunned from such awesome benefits such as MySister seeing her first concert (Loverboy), me seeing Sesame Street Live and the occasional awesome seats for a football game. Most significantly, my parents had their wedding ceremony in the Basilica. (Click here if you want to know what the hell a Basilica is, or here to just see where my parents got hitched)

I was raised to cheer for the Fightin' Irish. The kind of fan that would yell at the TV like crying bloody murder at a phantom clip during Rocket's Orange Bowl Return and saving the Flanagan SI cover.

Then I decided to attend Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I'm sure if you ask any ND fan, they wouldn't consider their relationship with MU a rivalry. Even though ND hasn't played anybody more in basketball than MU, their fans seem to think first and last with football. I used the fact that Marquette doesn't have a football team to proudly continue my fandom for the Irish while on campus at Marquette. Ask my college roommates to describe how passionate I was watching the games - they'll probably answer with an impersonation I assure you is not embellished.

Then my crazy fandom came to a crashing end in December 2002. Having graduated the previous May, I was thrilled to see that MU and ND had scheduled a game for ESPN's Big Monday (this was before MU joined the Big East - they now play yearly). At the time my Grandmother still had awesome basketball season tickets and I drove my Dad and I to South Bend. Dwyane Wade was starting to get noticed nationally and the new polls released that day had Marquette ranked #10 (the highest I have ever seen them ranked since I became a fan). We lost that game. My misery was capped off by the student section chanting "O-VER-RA-TED." I felt so awful I asked my Dad to drive my car home... Ever since that day, I've never been the same rooting for the Fightin' Irish. Even though that season Marquette went on to the Final Four, my strongest memory from that season was that awful night at the A.C.C. (I don't call it the Joyce Center).

Many people hate Notre Dame. Words like abhor and loathe could even be used. Reasons for people thinking this way are varied as a strong kinship with a fellow rival (such as Michigan) to an opinion that the institution is an example of entitlement and arrogance. Some hardcore pro-ND people even go as far as to believe the hatred is tied to the University's Catholic identity and know that some people just love to knock it... (They also like to cite jealousy, which of course doesn't improve the perception of others)

But some of the strongest fans of the University of Notre Dame that I know are family members I've known my entire life. I love them. Of course I'm biased. Sure, I'm know many people may have a conceited jerk at their company with Rudy as their screen saver - but that guy would've been a jerk no matter where he attended school. Not to mention, all schools have their pompous preachers. I like to judge my opinion on schools by the people that I've known from those schools. For example, I can't tell you how many people - great people - I keep meeting who are Purdue Boilermakers. It makes me root for their team more each year...

Incredibly long blog post story short: I have way too many great experiences with the University of Notre Dame to not be a fan of the place... The team, on the other hand, is another story as I have major reservations around its sports program not limited to rivalries with Marquette (I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the gigantic bag of wrong that led to the recent death of a student videographer.). Sadly, I know I have family members that think I root against ND - their interpretation of my lost 100% loyalty. However, my positive experiences outweigh any negativity.

Which is why, when offered a spare ticket to this Saturday's game at Notre Dame Stadium, I happily insta-accepted.

In closing, there is a quote from comic/actor Brian Posehn from when he was interviewed on the Nerdist Podcast (the 35th minute of episode 42 to be exact) that sums up how I feel about ND, how I like them, and how I don't really like it when other people hate on them...

"I love [heavy] Metal [music] like my retarded cousin... like I can make fun of them... but anybody else... don't make fun of my retarded cousin"

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