In most aspects of life I consider myself a very rational person. When it comes to being a Notre Dame fan, though, rationality tends to go out the window.
Sure, I enter most seasons overally optimistic — except for this season when I predicted 8-4. Clearly when I aim low it bodes well for the Irish. I’ll remember that from now on.
Wanting to believe your team is better than it probably will be is one thing, but it’s not too off the wall. No, what I am talking about is the tendency of Notre Dame fans (and the fans of any sports team, realistically) to start to think they actually have an effect on the game even if they are sitting in their living rooms hundreds or thousands of miles away.
When the Irish played Oklahoma it was easy. The only thing I had to do was make sure no one handed me a beer. I was getting up to grab my own every time and the Irish were winning, so obviously the two were related. Boom, Irish victory.
Unfortunately things were a bit more difficult on Saturday when ND faced Pitt. To start with, no one was going to hand me a beer — that was the easy part. As the Irish struggled early on, nothing I did seemed to be having an effect. Standing in the kitchen and watching? Nope. Not watching field goals? Worked twice, and then failed. Not checking Twitter? Not helping.
When Tommy Rees threw an ugly INT halfway through the 3rd quarter, I decided watching on the big screen just wasn’t going to work (partially because I convinced myself changing venues might help the team, partially because the stress was becoming too much for me). My former ND roommate Beans and I threw on our jackets and went out on the balcony, deciding that watching the NBC Sports Live Extra app streaming video might make a difference. Sure enough as soon as our phones had loaded up Ray Graham was bolting 48 yards down the field. Ok, so watching on our phones didn’t do anything to help the team…and we were really damn cold.
Heading back inside it seemed that hope was dwindling. My fiancee had gone into the other room to watch something else as she couldn’t handle watching the undefeated season fade away. Beans and I tried to figure out what we could do to send some positive mojo toward South Bend (while simultaneously begging for Everett Golson to re-enter the game).
When the fourth quarter arrived I had plopped down right in front of the TV, leaning against the ottoman just as the Irish started to pick up some steam. For the next 15 minutes of game time (and what turned out to be a whooooole lot more of real time) I wasn’t going anywhere. No food. No beverage. No bathroom.
By the time the Irish sent the game to overtime, I had my lucky routine down perfectly:
1) Lean back against the ottoman with right leg sticking straight out and left leg pulled back.
2) Rest on hands at side with palms open and facing directly to the sides.
3) After play, lean forward while pulling legs back.
4) Roll up pant leg on right side, adjust sock, lower pant leg.
5) Roll up pant leg on left side, adjust sock, lower pant leg.
6) Lean back with fists clenched to stretch wrists and ease pain from base position.
7) Watch play
Beans, sitting just to the side of me, had his routine down as well (by the way, after a good play we were only allowed to bump fists with my right hand and his left. Can’t mess with the celebration):
1) Sit cross-legged, rocking back and forth from the waist up
2) Place right hand with all five fingers on the floor, tapping the group 4 times (his lucky number) twice before each snap.
3) Keep left hand very close to beer for much needed drinks in between plays.
Nonetheless, there was no way Beans and I were going to mess with what was working on Saturday. At the end of the day you probably need a professional to explain just why sports can make us a bit (understatement) crazy.
For a Notre Dame fan, I think it at least partially comes down to this: we love this team and everything it means to us. It represents a game we love to watch — a game that reaps rewards for incredible toughness and dedication. It represents what is a bright light in a dark world of college football. It represents the identity of a university that not only stands for good in the world but for hard work and outstanding achievement. It represents our current/former/future home and what (for alums) were 4 of the best years of our lives. It represents the friends that we lived with, ate with, studied with and prayed with — the friends that don’t leave us when we leave South Bend. It represents every person that cares for and loves Notre Dame. It represents our second family — our Notre Dame family.
When it comes down to it – when something represents something so important in your life you’ll do anything you can to help it succeed. When realistically there is nothing you can do to make a difference, you start grasping at straws. Or, as in my case, you start grasping at pant legs and socks.
Yes, it is a little bit sick, and is a heavy dose of irrational. But it is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
So, what are your superstitions when it comes to Notre Dame football? What did you do to “help” the Irish win on Saturday?