From Carol Schaal ’91M.A.
Ah, yes, the annual All Sports banquet. Notre Dame student athletes, forgoing sweats for Sunday go-to-meeting clothes, shared a nice dinner and listened to people giving speeches and calling out names of various award winners.
It could be funny, it could be fusty, but the banquet just wasn’t cutting it. “The student athletes didn’t feel it was personal and exciting,” says Charmelle Green, director of the Office of Student Wellness and Development.
So welcome now to the O.S.C.A.R.S. Okay, the name is a bit of a stretch: Outstanding Students Celebrating Achievement & Recognition Showcase. But, oh, the event. Forget fusty. Think instead of a May evening that truly honors student athletes by using their creativity to design a ceremony that’s fun and festive and funky.
The made-over awards showcase, now in its fifth year, is still dressy—"semi-formal attire is required,” the invitation reads. And it’s still a meal. No booze, of course, but you can get drunk on the abundance of goodies piled on small tables in the Joyce Center Heritage Hall concourse: shrimp and empañadas and fresh-carved meats and phyllo rolls and mini quiches and crudites and, if you’re still hungry, cookies and cheesecake and death-by-chocolate desserts.
And you can swoon over the sight of buff bodies glammed up for the occasion. “It’s nice to see them not in sweats—looking elegant,” said Father Bill Seetch, CSC, as he ambled through the concourse filled with athletes who took the semi-formal admonition seriously.
But the real fun begins as the hundreds of students, now happily stuffed, grab seats in the basketball arena where they face a stage and giant screen flanked by oversized golden Oscar statues. And on that giant screen are running head shots of the team captains of all the various sports, accompanied, to the delight of the audience, by a photo of each captain as a small child.
The standard stuff gets a neat twist at this event. A young woman walks onstage playing the national anthem on her saxophone. Professional comedian Michael Somerville ’94 has jetted in from New York to serve as emcee. The Monogram Club spoofs itself in a video. Father Jenkins, CSC, giving an award to Fernand “Tex” Dutile of the Law School, slips in a sly mention of The Vagina Monologues, without actually saying the name of the play. And Brady Quinn proves what a good sport he truly is as he stars in a video take-off of the Visa commercials that ends with Adrianna Stasiuk dumping her drink on his head: “Pouring a drink on the head of Brady Quinn—priceless. For everything else, there’s Charlie Weis.”
Students come up and sing or play guitar. Irish band members face off against drummers wearing shades and USC T-shirts to determine who has the best drum line. “That’s the same thing you play all the time,” an ND drummer tells the USC players dismissively.
Among all the spoofs and jokes and fun, serious things are happening. Following a video capturing volunteer work by various students, the Chris Zorich Service Award, which recognizes the contributions of student athletes to ND and the community at large, is presented. And the Trophy Award, a new honor established by The Office of Student Wellness and Development to recognize one team for its service to the community, is introduced. The list of awards is long.
No orchestra starts playing to speed things up when the students give their thanks for the various awards, because the messages are short and heartfelt: “It’s just a reminder of how lucky we are to be athletes at Notre Dame,” says one honoree.
The highlight video ending the showcase proves that there is more than football at Notre Dame. About 750 student-athletes participate in an amazing variety of varsity sports: baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s fencing, football, men’s and women’s golf, hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, rowing, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s track and field, volleyball.
The video gives them all their due—from a montage of intense action, which ends showing a young woman with blood running down her face, to slower, emotional scenes. It reminded me of the afternoon I saw a totally focused student at Loftus running hurdles. She did it again and again. And again. To her, and to all 750 student athletes, I extend my abiding respect.
_Carol Schaal is managing editor and webmaster of this magazine.
A list of award winners is available online at_ http://und.cstv.com/genrel/050306aah.html.