The following guest post was written by Molly Moran and was originally scheduled to appear on The Subway Domer. As Subway has since retired, Molly wanted to see if we’d be interested in running it and we were more than happy to oblige!
So without further ado, take it away, Molly!
Life is a series of moments. Some are legendary and get told over and over, becoming more embellished and ornate to the point they are unrecognizable. Other moments you swear never to forget but indeed, they erode over time. And still other moments you don’t understand the value of until years later. This is a story about the latter. Allow me to the set the scene.
Me: A seventeen-year-old Molly. She has wanted nothing more than to go to Notre Dame ever since she could sing the Victory March word for word. (I could do this before that age of 5, thank you very much!) She’s an optimistic dreamer looking forward to attending the university, changing the world, and making her parents proud.
My dad: A humorous and sarcastic man who is guarded with any serious feelings. He claims to remember watching Notre Dame games from his crib in downtown Cincinnati as early as 1949.
Setting: The family garage. A half painted concrete structure that shelters the family cars and must be passed through to get into the house. My dad keeps the mail tucked away on a shelf, sandwiched between two golf shoes. Every piece of mail passes by him before getting to the recipient.
Mood: As a senior in high school, I’m anxiously awaiting all the acceptance letters from the schools to which I applied. I applied to three, only one of which I really want to attend, Notre Dame. My dad is lighting a pipe and preparing to relax in the hammock outside.
My dad, is calmly packing his pipe and preparing to strike a match when I sarcastically ask whether or not my full ride offer has arrived from Notre Dame. His hand wavers, the flame begins to eat away the length of the match, and he turns slowly to face me with an expression I still remember. It was serious and hurt, and his eyes wouldn’t meet mine at first.
Dad: (hesitant, not wanting to hurt me) You didn’t get in buddy.
A lump formed in my throat, and I got that horrible feeling one gets when they are trying desperately not to cry. I could feel the tears willing themselves to spill over my eyes and down my cheeks. I swallowed fast several times, trying to force the lump from my throat so I could speak. I had disappointed my dad, I was sure of it. Why hadn’t I studied vocabulary more or been more proficient in math. Surely if I had known what “flummox” meant the day of the SAT I would have gotten the one or two more points I needed to impress the admissions board. I sure knew what it meant now. Perhaps I could have…
Dad: He has lit his pipe at this point, and is puffing on it. He removes the stem from his mouth. (Interrupting my thoughts) Molls, I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I bet if had more money they’d have taken you. His eyes shine with the suggestion of moisture, as if he too has suppressed his own lump.
What was he talking about? It was ridiculous; it wasn’t true…it was exactly what I needed to hear.
Dad: I’m proud of you bud. (Pause) Hey, we don’t have to root for them anymore (chuckles half-heartedly)
Me: (long pause) No. We have to root for the Irish, dad.
Dad: (audible relief in his voice) I’m glad you said that. I don’t think I could root for anyone else
I embrace my dad, and he stands there, taken aback and a bit rigid before he too hugs me back. His arms tighten slightly, ensuring me that he’ll always be proud.
When I went inside that afternoon, I had classified that moment under “never want to remember, repeat, or relive”. I vowed that if anyone asked if I got accepted and or was I going to attend, I would simply say tuition was too much and I wanted to stay close to home. However, as the years passed and my love and admiration for everything Notre Dame grew, and grew, this memory pushed its way to the front of my mind. Something about these past few seasons really made me reflect on what that moment did for me.
Notre Dame has an extensive base of fans that didn’t attend the university; subway alumni. It’s a heavy label to bear. On one hand, your part of a diverse group of people who feel just as strongly about the team of a university they never attended. That speaks volumes. However, the fact you didn’t attend the university sometimes leaves people wondering how much your opinion should matter or why you root for them in the first place. Good question. Why do I root for Notre Dame if I didn’t go there? What reason or connection do I have? Essentially, I wasn’t what Notre Dame was looking for so why are they such a perfect fit for me? Well, in some weird way being rejected from Notre Dame meant I was accepted into another elite group of people I knew.
My grandpa, great uncle, and my dad are the biggest Notre Dame fans I have ever known. Not because they had season tickets, or signed paraphernalia, and not even because they went there, because they didn’t. They are all subway alumni. However, their hierarchy of needs was God, Family, and Notre Dame football…and at times I’m convinced it beat out family, if only for four hours.
This trio of men instilled in me an unwavering and undying love for a university I didn’t attend. This trio of men also happens to be some of the most gifted storytellers. They are all full of those legendary moments that get retold over and over. Tales of a team clad in blue and gold coming back from behind to win the game, tales of the same team never falling behind, tales of coaches who didn’t just roam the sidelines and teach young men how to play a game but coaches who were figures larger than life off the football field. Their stories seemed unbelievable until I was able to confirm them by seeing for myself, through my own wide-eyed stare, on the numerous VHS tapes that hold within their confines, the legends (and some of my favorite bedtime stories) from my childhood. The stories were real and what seemed embellished was really just their way of trying to convey the indescribable facets of an almost unbelievable entity.
“Notre Dame” is often synonymous with “tradition”, so much so that it can be hard to draw a distinct line between the two and untangle them from one another. Much like Notre Dame has its own traditions, rooting for Notre Dame has and always will be a Moran family tradition. Those who have gone before me and those who are still among me love what Notre Dame represents, what it believes in, and what it fights for. That moment that I had forever filed away as embarrassing is now a moment that I am writing about proudly. The University of Notre Dame rejected me, but I am Molly Moran and I am a subway alumna.
I just visited the campus a few weeks ago for the Michigan State game. As my dad and I pulled onto Notre Dame Avenue and the golden dome emerged from between countless fingers of leaved branches, a lump formed in my throat, and I got that horrible feeling one gets when they are trying desperately not to cry. I could feel the tears willing themselves to spill over my eyes and down my cheeks. This time, I didn’t swallow. I didn’t force the lump back down. I let my tears slide quietly down my cheeks, over my lips, and onto my lap. My skin erupted in goose bumps, and warmth ran from the base of my neck to the tips of my fingers and toes. I looked over at my dad, puffing on his pipe. His eyes were shining with the suggestion of moisture, and his cheeks looked as if they had been wiped away.