For Love of the Irish

The hard crack of the collision reached the upper level almost immediately through a roaring crowd. Shortly thereafter, a yellow flag was thrown, desecrating the sacred ground of Irish turf and igniting thousands of chanting football fans into an eruption of fury.

The referee had committed an unforgivable sin. It was a clean hit. I saw it through binoculars. Larger than life.

But the play was over. And the penalty—withstood. The Celtic giants, unscathed by the dirty work of one overzealous official, returned to the frontline, wiping from their mouths the mud that was as gritty as their toughness. There is no glory in looking back.

I watched the snap, again through binoculars. It was another run by Notre Dame’s naval opponents—amazing how efficient Navy boys can move on land. A defensive counter-maneuver of gold helmets was set in motion when suddenly my magnified tunnel vision went blurry-green.

“Excuse me,” she said, a young twenty-something, clad in a blue Notre Dame sweatshirt and jeans of Irish-green, had scooted in front of my binoculars. Larger than life.

Her boyfriend, wearing a fighting leprechaun embroidered hoodie and ball cap, shuffled behind her by a few seat-lengths. He was awkwardly carrying two large Styrofoam soda cups, a plate of loaded nachos, a giant pretzel, and a bag of salted Virginia peanuts—quite the chivalrous chap—though he looked as uncomfortable as a newcomer at Mass.

On his next step he tripped over a seat cushion hanging off the wooden bleacher in front of us, like the smarts of a padded kneeler left down on the back of a church pew. But like any devoted Irish fan, he recovered with the swiftness of a Catholic priest during communion, not allowing one crumb to hit the floor. Played like a champion.

Yet this was the third time the couple had filed through our row, carrying at chest level (as in a Eucharistic-style procession) the edifying (and edible) cheesy-salty sacraments of this holy venue—but even devout Catholics know better than to go through the communion line twice.

My father, with whom I’d made this 316 mile pilgrimage from our hometown to America’s college football mecca, muttered something under his breath, but out of respect waited until the young couple was beyond earshot. And truth be told, he only said what all of us seated nearby were already thinking. A voice for the voiceless. That’s the Notre Dame spirit.

A few seconds later, this play was over. The penalty—declined. We adjusted our caps, zipped up our jackets, wiped the caramel corn from the corners of our mouths, and readied our high-fives for the next play on the field. Glory is in looking forward.

Go Irish.

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