So tonight, rather than express my supposed expertise on some subject I deem to be terribly important, I would like to take this opportunity to rather demonstrate my ignorance on a subject that has long confused me: the wide world of sports. I beg the greater expertise of the sports fans out there to enlighten me where my knowledge is lacking.
I should initially make it clear that I grew up in a family where we almost never attended local sporting events or even watched televised sports (except the Super Bowl a couple of times to catch the commercials). While I have always enjoyed playing sports, especially basketball, I was never tall, skilled, or dedicated enough to play competitively except on local leagues here and there. My favorite games were those endless ones with friends in college where we played until 2 am, and no one kept score. So, I am definitely outside the competitive sports fan loop.
I attended a decent-sized state university with great English program, a fairly competitive basketball team and a lousy football team. Students got into all sporting events free of charge. Imagine the change for me, then, when I arrived at Notre Dame and discovered a breed of people who literally live for the game.
I went tailgating for the first time in September. My husband and I packed up the kids and walked down to campus with some friends. I don't know what I had expected. Maybe a few rowdy undergrads and some hot dogs. I definitely was unprepared for the masses of high-price-paying, school-colors-wearing Sportsfans. These weren't just face-painted freshman (although there were those) but Alumni and life-time followers of The Team. I was feeling a little out of place in my regular t-shirt, to say the least.
The amount of time, money, and yes, alcohol that people put into the support of a sports team was a shocker to a novice like me. I think my mother nearly suffered a heart attack when I later told her on the phone how people line up at the grotto to light a candle for the team. I suppose I felt like taking the distinguished looking elderly gentleman I passed in the bookstore, who was about to drop a ridiculous amount of money on a bronze Notre Dame football paperweight, and shaking him by his shoulders while shouting, "It's just a game!"
These feelings were increased a few months ago when I heard of the huge amounts of money alumni were giving to the school to fire the football coach, Charlie Weis, based on his poor win record over the past five seasons. I suppose I am a bit unclear on how some California big wig Notre Dame Alum just must shell out the millions, during a recession, to make sure his favorite football team wins.
So, like I said, I'm a novice. However, I am admittedly a novice who went to almost every tailgate this past season, and not just for the great free food at the business college's alumni lunch. I like the excitement, and the people, and the sunshine. I am impressed by the long standing traditions like the Irish Guard, and the bagpipes, and the Player's Walk to the stadium. My kids love watching the leprechaun, and the band march(and are marching around the house and the playground for weeks afterward). It is true that at the band's concert outside of Bond Hall before Notre Dame's last home game, I was choked up more than once with unexplained emotion.
So, I watch the games, and I cheer for the Irish. I enjoy that. I might even try to ruin my day if they lose. However, when it comes right down to it, something will distract me or make me laugh and ten minutes after the dismal end to the long fight I will have forgotten all about the defeat.
After all, it is just a game, right?