When I saw that Notre Dame’s football team was ranked #1 for the first time since 1993, it made me smile. Dad would have been absolutely thrilled.
As I’ve written before, Dad was a huge Fighting Irish fan. Dad wasn’t a huge sports fan, but he did love Notre Dame football.
The school lights up a #1 sign when any sports team at Notre Dame is nationally ranked #1. I like to think that Dad can see that light glowing bright and strong wherever his spirit is now.
Sometimes it’s the little things that remind you so strongly of loved ones that have departed.
I think dad was more enamored by the history of sports than by the action on the field. He loved to talk about the legendary baseball players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. His European roots meant he also enjoyed soccer, and would watch matches on the Spanish TV station to get his fix. My dad and I would giggle over the Spanish-speaking announcer, who would turn the word “goal” into a minute-long phrase. He also loved to follow his favorite college football team, which of course was Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish. What other team could he possibly root for? He would watch a game anytime one was on TV, and had plenty to say about the coach at the time, Lou Holtz, but he didn’t necessarily keep up with all of the stats and recruiting news.
We watched more baseball games together than football, but I clearly remember two bowl games in consecutive years that had dad and I on opposite sides. Notre Dame and Colorado met up in the Orange Bowl in 1990 and 1991. The first year Notre Dame won handily 21-6; the second year, Colorado managed to eek out a 10-9 victory. My mom still remembers the shouts that came from the couch during those games. It was one of the rare memories I have of a bonding moment with my dad.
As a typical teenager, I had to be the opposite of my parents, so I chose to root for Colorado instead of my dad’s beloved Notre Dame. I wish we had had the chance to go to a Notre Dame game together, I think dad would have been thrilled. Dad, I promise to root for Notre Dame this upcoming season in your memory.