On a cold Saturday night in November my 97 year-young grandmother was sipping on an Irish mist and watching her favorite team, the fighting Irish of Notre Dame. She never misses a Notre Dame game day or night. The team would go on to win that night and become the number one football team in the Nation AND the number one graduating school in Division 1 college football. They are now headed to the National Title matchup in January.
The Notre Dame football team has had many ups and downs since their last National Championship under famed coach Lou Holtz but their fans have always been ardent supporters of their beloved Fighting Irish. Some say you either love them or hate them but the fun part for the fans is in loving them. So why do so many love the Notre Dame football team? That is an interesting question.
I was raised in a strict Notre Dame household. My father played on the 1966 National Championship team under Ara Parseghian and my father likes to point out that his 1964 team were Co-National Champs as well. When Notre Dame was on TV in my home, the entire time was blocked out for him to watch the game. I remember when I was five years old and I was returning from a birthday party and I asked him to open my new puzzle box, he took the box and held it in his hands. As he was watching the game a player dropped an important pass and my father instinctively launched my new puzzle box across the room having it smash into the wall with pieces flying everywhere, at least he got the box open for me. Needless to say I got the point that you don't interrupt Dad while Notre Dame is on. My Father's Uncle, John Kelly, was captain of the 1939 team and this was an incredible honor to our family. In a sports dominated Irish Catholic family this was the epitome of success, pride and respectability. It was something the entire family carried as sign of pride telling all they knew.
Throughout the years I have come across Notre Dame fans from all different backgrounds. There are a few elements of Notre Dame football that have attracted fans over the years. There is of course the Irish Catholic fans who revel in the cultural and religious symbolism. There are Catholic fans who see Notre Dame as carrying the Catholic banner along with Boston College. Many people view Notre Dame as a historical underdog which goes back to the days of anti-Catholic bigotry in the United States. Still more are enthralled by the mystical characteristics of the campus like the golden dome, touchdown Jesus, the lake, the grotto. People are also captivated by the incredible marching band headed by the Irish guard, a group of 10 students wearing kilts and celtic garb and they are all at least 6'2, they are based on the gallowglass warriors of medieval Ireland. The marching band itself plays the greatest fight song of any sports team with it's refrain "cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame, wake up the echoes cheering her name".
To put Notre Dame in perspective for some is to see a culture, a team, a faith and way of looking at the world in full bloom. If you do not understand the lure of the fighting Irish just go down to your local bar or pub in our area when a big game is on and see the all the people with their ND shirts and hats and the reactions to all the plays. See the history that they know about the team and the school, learn about their personal experiences of going to the Notre Dame campus or simply have a great time.
Come down to Molly Maguires at 132 East River Road in Rumson on Monday January 7th to watch the game with Claddagh Na nGael and alot of fighting Irish fans. Now that the fighting Irish are back on top it's a great time to celebrate all the positive attributes that they represent.
Claddagh Na nGael is an Irish cultural group based on the Jersey shore. We currently have fiddle and tin whistle lessons for children, Irish language instruction for all ages, socials and game watches. Please come by and meet some friendly neighbors interested in Irish culture in our area.