Misery loves company, and I have lost my company.
As strange as it was to watch Temple across Notre Dame Stadium from the student section last week, it was a different experience entirely to watch last night’s game from a couch in the Chicago area without a single classmate or family member to share in the experience.
I was absolutely glued to my phone—text messages and Twitter galore. At one point, I thought, “What are you doing? The game is on.” I’ve never before been on my phone like that during a game. But then I realized that the constant communication was filling the void left by the absence of all my friends around me in the student section or in the Keough quad game watch.
That Notre Dame was struggling against Michigan made me feel that void much more acutely than I would had we been winning, or even struggling against another opponent.
But this was Michigan.
I was shaking in the aftermath of the two fourth-quarter pass interference calls, completely enraged. “I can’t remember the last time I was this pissed,” I texted my dad, who replied, “2011.”
Oh, yeah. 2011.
As hard as it was to be at Notre Dame in 2011—as utterly depressed as the whole campus was—I think it’s harder to be away. I would take a united, depressed student body over being surrounded by people who think this loss is something I should have been over by 10 o’clock this morning.
“How was the game last night? Oh, they lost? I’m sorry, that’s a bummer.”
Yeah, it’s just one big bummer.
I reserve a special level in my brain for Michigan—and that level doesn’t equate with “bummer.”
If you’ve ever seen Moneyball, you’ll remember the scene in which Brad Pitt says, “The problem we’re trying to solve is that there are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then there’s fifty feet of crap, and then there’s us.”
In my brain, there’s USC, there’s Johnny Manziel, there’s Alabama last January. Then there’s fifty feet of crap, and then there’s Michigan.
Last January, when we lost the national championship game, I cried physical tears. I cried more over that game than I did over breakups in high school. It will probably stand out as the most heartbreaking sports moment of my life. But even then, with so much riding on that game, that team, that season, I didn’t feel like I do now.
Which is really, really angry.
When I try to pinpoint what it is that makes me hate Michigan so much—what really fuels my anger—I think of my day in Ann Arbor before that 2011 game. I think about how outrageously malicious Michigan fans were (which made it surprising when Alabama fans were downright sweethearts in Miami). I think about how they got in my face as we tried to get out of the stadium.
And the pattern continued since then. Last year during Christmas break, all the kids I knew from Michigan shoved “the SEC is too good” down my throat. After our 2012 win over Michigan, fans I knew toted the “Well, three out of four isn’t bad” mantra. Even all the stuff this week about us “chickening out.” Spare me.
I hate losing to Michigan. They make it really hard for me to accept defeat gracefully and with class. They make my blood boil, they make me change the channel when “Pure Michigan” commercials come on, they make me want to punch a Wolverine (that was a thought in 2011).
And they are making me feel the emptiness of not having my fellow Irish fans around me so much harder. Angry tweets just do not compare to the Sunday morning South Dining Hall commiserating.
I guess that’s why God made ND Nation.
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