I have a confession. It's hard for me to admit, as I'm not sure how this revelation will change impressions of me held by my loved ones. But I can't let this fact continue to be suppressed any longer, as its eating away at me, bit by bit. So here goes.
I have become a fan of Notre Dame football. So sneakily it happened, so unexpectedly. I'm still trying to work with this new knowledge of myself and how it will impact the rest of my life from here forward.
In theory, if I was ever to be interested in this game, it would have emerged sooner. Peripherally, it has been around me my whole life.
I remember holiday visits to see my maternal grandparents, and my grandfather would at some point be watching a game, and I likely was listening to his jokes during commercials and reading otherwise.
In high school, I attended home games, but in marching band, we had duties to perform, and I saw the game as little more than an outdoor backdrop to my conversations. I'd be reveling in the company of my friends, laughing with delight, when suddenly our communion would be broken as the male counterparts broke off their words to madly cheer for the play on the field.
In college, I only knew when games were because I showed up at the home football games sometime after the half, in order to clean the stadium with the others as soon as people dispersed.
In my life, I have sporadically watched football games in their entirety, but only when others had control of the television.
Sure, I put myself in the path of temptation. I allowed season tickets to be purchased. And I need to see things through to their proper end, so when the team was away, we faithfully settled in front of our television and watched the performance.
Sometimes I would be confused when something new to my eyes occurred, so Eric would dutifully explain the nuance. But it didn't take long before I knew penalties and offensive positions: a holding would be called, or I saw the offsides and false starts. Don't even get me started on pass interferences and face masks. And 12 men on the field makes me laugh hysterically (only if it's not my team at fault). I'm still shaky on the defensive positions; cornerbacks and safeties and all the rest meld in my mind, as I'm too busy watching the offense (sorry guys--I'll appreciate you in due time).
The Air Force game had me contemplating a daytime pass on the computer, as it wasn't going to be regularly televised, only available on a certain cable provider instead of network television. However, I chose to follow the game's progress on the radio by my computer screen, so that I could see a visual from ESPN's gametracker.
There I was, huddled in my room, ear craned to the radio, eyes on my monitor, shushing Eric if he tried to speak while a play was being relayed. How did I come to this sad state?!
One down side to this evolution is that my emotions so quickly run the gamut during a game.
But I have great memories. I watched the Michigan State game in its entirety, unwilling to turn off the television when our fate seemed to be determined, only to watch us pull off an amazing victory in the last minutes, We came from behind to put 21 unanswered points on the board in the last quarter of the game. (Okay, I can't remember if Michigan State scored in the 4th quarter, but it sure sounds impressive when I say our points went unanswered, right?)
And who can forget the upset of this year's UCLA game? We were putting forward a lackluster performance, appropriately losing what should have been a dominating game for us. UCLA was draining the clock at the end of the game, so Charlie Weis was forced to take all three timeouts in quick succession to give us a chance to turn things around. We got the ball and marched decisively down that field with under two minutes remaining. That crowd (myself included) went ballistic as Brady Quinn threw to Jeff Samardzija, who ran for the winning touchdown with seconds remaining. How we celebrated in the stands!
Sometimes Eric is surprised by me. When Eric was willing to give up on the Michigan State game, I insisted that he could do so, but I would be firmly planted for the duration, for we too had to experience the losses with the wins. And I still remind him of that glorious end, that fourth quarter he would have missed out on experiencing but for his stubborn wife. And the UCLA game? We almost didn't go since Eric was feeling great yet fighting a cough and didn't want to hack through the game. In the end, after we almost passed out from the intense screaming, he was glad he'd come at my urging (and his cough was absent from the game, those of you who want to accuse me of letting my marriage suffer because of this addiction).
I can hold my own with my colleagues, recalling key plays and commiserating about disheartening losses. I could claim detailed knowledge of Notre Dame football is sort of in my job description and thus warranted, but then I'd obviously be revealing my denial at how dangerous this has gotten. Here I am, trying to make excuses for the concessions I make to watch or attend: "I could quit anytime. I could go a beautfiul fall Saturday without walking the mile to the stadium and eating savory dogs and popcorn. Honestly. I don't really need the hot chocolate when the weather is brisk and the chill is heavy in the air and Touchdown Jesus makes the perfect backdrop. I could give it up if I really wanted to...I just haven't yet."
Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Tom Zbikowski, Darius Walker, John Carlson, David Grimes, Rhema McKnight, Chinedum Ndukwe. All of their names are familiar to me now, and not just because many are fun to say.
My addiction suffered a withdrawal after the embarrassment of the USC game, and remained suppressed until last night when those familiar faces were again on my television. I cheered with the best of them. And I admit, I played my sad version of a drinking game with my leftover New Year's sparkling apple cider at my side (all juice, no alcohol for my concerned friends and family). Each time Notre Dame dropped a pass or LSU made a first down, I took a swig from my bottle. I was disgusted with them by the time fourth quarter rolled around and I was constantly lifting that brew.
With the end of the season, I'm not sure what will happen next. Will we continue to hold season tickets? Will I grow bored with the sport? Will I get help so my family won't have to hold an intervention in response to this cry for help? We'll see. Until then, if you need to hear details about last night's Sugar Bowl, I'm a respectable source for starters.