Unbalanced: The luck of the Irish

Author: Carol Schaal '91M.A.

Carol Schaal

The day before the heart-attack Notre Dame-Pitt football game, a Domer visiting from Minnesota told me, “I really think this is the year. Look at the teams that are left. Notre Dame should beat them all. They really could go all the . . .”

“Hush!” I told him. “Don’t say it!”

He looked at me, puzzled and, I think, surprised that a representative of Notre Dame Magazine had so rudely interrupted him.

“Sorry,” I said, somewhat abashed. “But it’s like a no-hitter. You shouldn’t say that. Really. Don’t. You might jinx them.”

Fortunately, he laughed. “I get it,” he said. “In fact the only reason I think it might happen is because I didn’t bet on them this year. They always lose when I bet on them.”

Aha, I thought, a kindred spirit. Just as superstitious as me.

Now my dictionary tells me that superstition is a belief “based on fear or ignorance.” Well, excuse me, Mr. High and Mighty Webster. But perhaps I really shouldn’t take offense. Because fear and ignorance might not be such a bad thing when it comes to superstition.

Can you, Mr. Webster, prove that saying the wrong thing won’t jinx my beloved Fighting Irish? I think not. And if I fear certain actions might harm the team, can you prove that they won’t? Again, I think not.

Now if I were to be scientific and rational, as Mr. Webster seems to desire, then perhaps I should run a study checking on whether my superstitious behavior does indeed change the outcome of a game. If I don’t, during an overly long TV timeout, get up and pace the floor before a field goal attempt, will Kyle Brindza miss? Hmmm, looks about 50-50 at this point.

Or if I don’t, when Rees is put into the game, yell my favorite, albeit uncharitable joke: “Run, Tommy, run!” will his next pass be intercepted? Again, it looks like a toss-up.

It took three overtimes for Notre Dame to emerge victorious against Pitt. I figure they were fighting the bad karma from that no-hitter remark my Minnesota visitor almost made. Thank goodness I stopped him.

Noise, coach Brian Kelly calls it, just noise. Pay no attention to those predictions and polls and dreamers and naysayers behind the curtain, he tells his players.

Wise advice for them, I think. But I’m not player. I’m only a nervous-wreck-of-a-fan who has seen the good and the bad and is finally seeing some major good and does not want to be responsible for a losing effort.

So I’m not taking any chances. When Notre Dame meets Boston College, I’ll be driving my husband crazy by pacing around the living room or covering my eyes or peering around a corner during key plays, because the Irish seem to do better when I don’t watch too closely. “Just sit down and watch,” he’ll finally say, both exasperated and amused by my behavior.

But I can’t. Something big is on the line. Something really . . .


Carol Schaal is managing editor of Notre Dame Magazine. Email her at schaal.2@nd.edu.