I am writing this on the day before Thanksgiving. Very soon, the ND-USC football game will have been played, a winner decided, a national championship game for the Notre Dame football team either on the calendar or down the tubes.
Why am I such a wreck?
It’s been many years since Notre Dame football was in the championship conversation. I’d almost forgotten what it feels like to see the Irish ascend the rankings; to care about what those SEC guys are doing; to jeer all those warm-weather teams.
But this year, I remember. And what I remember most of all is sitting in front of the TV for a Saturday afternoon football feast with my dad, watching the Ara Parseghian-coached teams win and win and win again. The glory days.
Football at that time didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Penalties, strategy, working the clock . . . I knew nothing of these.
I did know that seeing the Irish win made my dad happy. And so it made me happy, too.
But on Thanksgiving Day, when I ask my dad what he thinks of the Irish, of their No. 1 standing, of their possible run to a national championship, I will get a smile, a nod and a safe, generic response. “They look good,” he’ll say.
And I’ll be reminded once again, just in case I may have forgotten, much as he has forgotten, that my dad doesn’t even know what year it is, let alone how his favorite football team is doing. To my dad, this wreck of an Irish fan, a glimmer of how much Notre Dame once meant to him still does seem to remain: He knows the team name; he knows it’s good if they win; he seems happy to see me happy.
So this Irish fan’s daughter, this week a nervous wreck of an Irish fan, will hope and pray and scream and rant and beg for an Irish victory, even as I cover my eyes when things get tight, when the thunder doesn’t rumble and Notre Dame might not be winning over all.
And as I anxiously peer at the play, I also will be remembering the glory days, those long-ago Saturday afternoons when my dad and I would cheer and shout and share the feast of football victory. And I will hope that my dad, even if it is only for a flash of a second, will remember them, too.
Carol Schaal is managing editor of Notre Dame Magazine. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.