I think we knew, out in the tailgate lots in our droves and swarms, the sea of blue and green easily flooding the tide of crimson, that our numbers may not be enough to match their strength.
I think we knew, waiting in line at the Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Game Watch, as our “Here Come the Irish” echoed down the alley, booming over a feeble “Goooooo Tide!” that our cheers wouldn’t help the team preparing to take the field.
I think we knew, sitting quietly and politely at the bar, more like a church group than a pack of rowdy, ambitious football fanatics that the calm was sure to bring a storm.
But still we watched. The few hundred ND fans watching erupted into a cheer louder than the one in the stadium as Lee Corso ran out dressed as a leprechaun, putting his faith in our team and validating our own delusional optimism.
It boomed louder as the team shot through the tunnel onto the field, enthusiasm and Budweiser spilling as we pounded tables and shouted.
We watched in awe as Brian Kelly spoke into the mic with the confidence we wanted to feel. And for a second I think we did.
When we won that coin toss it seemed like a play in its own right. It was our first victory — an omen of the night to come. We were going to bask in that victory and use those first two minutes, just as Kelly had said, to begin our victory.
Our loyalty swelled with the first tackle and crested when the men held the Alabama offense to one yard on the first play.
This was it, we thought. The tide would end our drought.
But then there was a flag, and then another, and then a drive ending with red and white pom poms being shook from the bleachers as the Tide put their first points on the board. We watched the points tick up and up and the pom poms and high fives and we knew.
During the first commercial break a fan from the first floor — the Alabama hangout — paid for “Sweet Home Alabama” to blast into our arena. The waiter smiled as he held the knob on maximum volume until someone forced it off. As he walked away he whispered, “Roll Tide,” and I wondered if he’d make it downstairs in one piece.
With gaping mouths cupped in sweating palms we watched Golson flee the pocket only to get knocked down. We watched Manti miss tackles — a sight we thought we’d never see. And with them we saw visions of seasons’ past: 3-9, the fake MSU field goal, Syracuse in the snow, the Bush Push, mediocrity, embarrassment.
They were supposed to be different, we thought and we cried. This championship was going to be our championship — the only one in our lifetime. We hung our heads and hurried out of the bar, passing through Alabama celebrations on the way.
Hours removed I still think we knew it wasn’t our year, we weren’t yet the team destined to reverse history, though we came close. But didn’t it feel good? Didn’t it feel good to believe, every weekend, when we took the field that we had a chance? That there would be a good show? That the team would play with heart and we’d cheer with even more? It felt good to believe in Notre Dame football, and even more so, it felt good to be proud of Notre Dame. This game shouldn’t change that.
Instead let us welcome home our players. Let us delight in our season, congratulate our seniors on a tenure well played and await anxiously for August to arrive.
And let us pick up the mantra we’ve come to know all too well, but perhaps one with a bit more merit this time around: “Ok. Next year.”
Tara Hunt is associate editor of this magazine. Email her at email@example.com.