Five Foot Nothing: Game Watching

jones brown

Credit: Matt Cashore

I gather from conversations that people weren’t exactly thrilled with the fact that this past weekend’s game against Air Force aired on CBS Sports Network. You couldn’t find it online and you almost certainly don’t subscribe to that channel, so what’s an Irish fan to do?

For those whose cable/satellite services didn’t include CBS Sports Network and who wanted to see the live telecast, that meant finding an establishing that would be showing the game.

My family is notorious for avoiding public places during Notre Dame football games. But as a cursory search of websites of local Notre Dame clubs around the world reveals, many people relish the opportunity to watch Notre Dame football games along with other Irish fans. To them, the more, the merrier.

My family does not ascribe to that philosophy, to put it mildly. My brother even sometimes avoids friends in his own dorm. My dad, who is president of the alumni club back home, pretty much has to drag himself to game watches out of a sense of duty. At the risk of offending either, I’ve concluded that their viewing habits betray their own awareness that they’re just not “right” when they’re watching Notre Dame football. While watching at home, my dad routinely sends the dog scurrying under furniture, where he cowers in the corner while my dad screams at the television. My mother, who is a pretty serious Notre Dame fan herself, long ago began the practice of finding a television in another room to watch the game. In case you’re keeping score, that means that even within our own family, we sometimes watch the games alone.

Paradoxically, my dad has plenty of practice of suppressing his rage and other emotions during Notre Dame games, as he has spent over 30 years working in the Notre Dame Stadium press box, where the kind of outbursts he indulges at home would result in his immediate banishment, commitment to a psychiatric facility, arrest or all of the above.

But even my dad recognizes that his view on watching Notre Dame games in his screaming version of peace isn’t and shouldn’t be universal.

I think it’s easy, as a student (or even a young alum), to feel like the Notre Dame football community begins with the team and ends with you and the group you watch it with every week. You may tailgate with other fans, but they aren’t with you through the intensity of watching every play. And even when we’re in the Stadium with another 80,000 people, we focus on the people we bought our tickets with and try to ignore the obnoxious guy three rows back.

But when you’re watching a game at a public venue, it’s hard to ignore the community that surrounds you. Everyone is straining to get a good look at the screens, everyone is cheering or groaning, everyone is calling on your waitress for refills. People yell between tables when they see others they know. During the third quarter, I looked across the restaurant and saw my own brother, sitting there with his friends, and went over to say hi.

During the 2012 season, I preached a lot about the community of Notre Dame football—how one special team could unite us all and make us feel like we were part of something bigger. It’s funny how Notre Dame football always manages to do that, even when we have to venture out against our will. Win or lose, there is strength and comfort in that solidarity – whether we’re watching the Irish among our very best friends or with the new best friends that we pick up over the course of four hours.

Maybe my family will never fully embrace that, but at least every couple of years, television scheduling can get us to appreciate it.

This content can also be found at Notre Dame’s official football blog, Strong and True.

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