The trek towards Middle America is daunting in an Econoline van, 700 miles and 11 hours long. Yet the draw for a 17-strong contingent of Philadelphia area products from the Roman Catholic Church and school systems is irresistible, as witnessed by a core group that has made the South Bend trek to University of Notre Dame football games 17 times now.
The underside of an obscure card table, inscribed with the names of past participants documents the participants from year-to-year. Those making the Hajj for the first time dutifully add (R) to their names to signify their rookie status. We also made habit of marveling at the precision organization, courtesy of Major General (Honarary) Edward Brady (Father Judge ’74), and execution. Staying out of the way – unless called upon – for fear of ruining the mojo.
The group was not nearly as rowdy as might have been – and probably was – years ago. Then again most of use are on the downhill side of 50 or below sea-level of 60! It does seem to mute the wackiness. The one exception being the call to “Huddle up!!” by Staff Sargeant (Hon) Lenny, a call to imbibe shots of intestinal fortitude.
You learn to celebrate Life more managably as you grow older.
Friday was for a tour of the Notre Dame campus, steeped in history not limited to football. As a Philly guy, never quite bitten as badly by the ND bug, hearing the story of John Cardinal O’Hara (former Philadelphia Cardinal of the Archdiocese and President of Notre Dame) next to his marble crypt is one example. The Battle of Gettysburg story of Reverend William Corey, steadying New York’s Irish Brigade in the hours before their date with Destiny at Little Round Top and the wheat field, is quite another.
As for the football experience, the pageantry and loyal following the Fighting Irish inspire is evident at every venue. For me, the excitement generated by the Notre Dame Band of the Fighting Irish, on Friday particularly with the horn section warming up the crowd inside The Rotunda was simply spectacular!
Saturday, the focus was FOOTBALL … not to be overshadowed by perhaps the nicest stretch of weather shining down on the Best Tailgating Experience ever! (OK … Honestly the guy with the satellite dish and 40+ inch screen might have an edge here.) It’s difficult to imagine a better day.
The Miami of Ohio – Notre Dame game was anticlimactic, given the obvious talent gap and the Irish’s ability to step on Miami’ s throat in the 1st Quarter (Final: ND 52 – Miami 17). But the highlight truly is that there’s much, much more to enjoy at the Notre Dame Football experience than just a lopsided victory!