Thursday, December 17, 2009

Notre Dame Memories (Part 1)

Subway alumni share their memories with their offspring more than the ND alums do because the son shares the father's status as SubAlum. I have no evidence of this, not even anecdotal; just something I've surmised in talking to sons of ND Alums and comparing it to my experiences with my father and my sons.
My first ND memory actually was my father's memory of the 1961 Notre Dame-Syracuse game in South Bend. I was 8 years old and only remember that I stayed at my grandmothers house while Mom & Dad went to the game. They drove up and back the same day, no easy feat in 1961 before expressways and 80 miles an hour, and got home late that night to pick me up. They brought me a Notre Dame pennant that I still have hanging in my "man-cave."
Anyway, Notre Dame was behind 15-13 to a pretty good Syracuse team featuring Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis (shown above), when they tried an improbable 51 yard field goal in the rain with mere seconds left. Not surprisingly in the era of straight-on kickers, they missed. However, the kicker was "roughed" by the Syracuse rush and so Notre Dame got to try the kick again from 36 yards away with no time on the clock and, you guessed it, made the kick and won the game!
Notre Dame - 17, Syracuse - 15.
(Syracuse fans dispute the referee call and in fact, Syracuse appealed to the NCAA to take away the Notre Dame victory on such an obvious "homer" call...waah, waah, waah. Judge for yourself. It looks pretty blatant to me.)

Anyway, my father threw his hat in the air in celebration of the great Notre Dame victory. Like most of the men of that time, he wore a fedora hat and had his business card tucked into the inside brim. Of course, he couldn't find the hat in the excitement of the aftermath and came home hatless. (A small price to pay for witnessing such a win.)
About 3 weeks to a month later, he received a package in the mail. It was his hat, cleaned and blocked with a simple note enclosed, "Go Irish." He never knew who did it, but that was my first memory of what is means to be a Notre Dame fan.
Dad and I went to 3 Notre Dame games together over the next 26 years and we had some great experiences, but the anonymous return of his hat in 1961 remains my personal favorite Notre Dame story.

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