Son (or as I commonly refer to you on the Internet, #BabyTex–yes, you have a hashtag),
The last time I channeled a How I Met Your Mother bit three years ago, I wrote it as if I were talking to my future hypothetical children. A lot has changed since January of 2013. Firstly, the ending of that piece couldn’t have been more wrong. To quote Deadspin later in that same month, I got that thing 80% correct.
Anyways, a lot of more important things have changed since that time. Namely, your mother and I got married and welcomed you into the world. Needless to say, you changed my life forever this past June. I’ve found that being a dad is the hardest and most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done.
The daily routine has changed drastically. My sleep could hardly even be called a pattern or a cycle–that implies some semblance of regularity. Free time and how I wish to spend it has changed monumentally as well. Instead of picking up a video game controller, I am picking you up instead.
To put it another way: there was life before you and there is life after you.
On Saturday, September 5, 2015, you are going to have a similar line drawn in your life: a life before Notre Dame football and the life after being exposed to it.
Granted, your three month-old brain will not retain a single memory from the day’s events. If you are still awake by halftime, I will be shocked. Despite that, I am fully prepared and ridiculously excited to expose you to this crazy thing that is Notre Dame football.
You’ve already had some small doses of college football. In fact, this was you last week when college football kicked off with an FCS matchup between North Dakota State and Montana:
But let me tell you, that was…well…child’s play in comparison to how insane things will be around the house when Notre Dame is on TV. Actually, let’s be real here, I’m going to be the one losing my damn mind.
You see, I love college football, son. Baseball is probably the only other sport that gets close for me. However, when it comes to Notre Dame football, I have the absolute craziest emotional attachment to it. Because of this, you are going to be wearing any kind of ND branded onesies that I can get my hands on. If someone pointed me towards blue and gold diapers, I would probably buy them for football Saturdays. During a baby shower, the attendees were writing funny messages on your diapers.
I wrote on two. Michigan on one. Southern Cal on another.
The madness doesn’t just end on Saturdays either, kid. I’m editor-in-chief of a Notre Dame website. I write about this crazy little game constantly. You will soon learn that I suck at spelling and wonder why anyone ever trusted me with such a role or why people read me at all. So of course, I doubled down and started a podcast after somehow landing a radio gig that lasted a few months.
All of this sounds like a lot of fun, right? Well, eventually Notre Dame is going to lose in the most heart-wrenching fashion possible and I’m just going to look miserable after it happens. You will then wonder why I even bother with this madness. I promise that I will do my best to not wander into bad Notre Dame daddy territory. I can’t promise that you won’t, at some point, think that I am flat out insane.
But with all that being said, I am unbelievably excited to share this part of my life with you. I’m hoping that it will creating some bonding moments for us. Above all else, I’m hoping that in this crazy journey that I’m about to drag you on, you’ll be able to realize the following:
1) The Emotional Attachment Has Little to Do with Football
I love Notre Dame. I love it because I’ve made life-long friends and had some of the best times that I both can and can’t remember. Well over 90% of these great times happened when Notre Dame was off the football field.
When football happens, there’s an electricity around campus because every home game at Notre Dame is like a homecoming game. This isn’t just limited to ND alumni, it goes for subway alumni too. Talk to any fan about where their love of Notre Dame came from and football will likely be a part of the story, but inevitably so are friends and family. You will find that the later has a much bigger impact on the story than the former.
Notre Dame fandom, and really most college football fandom, I believe is either passed down from family or a bug that you catch after you spend some time on campus. For me, I didn’t have family that passed down rabid Irish fandom, so I was a part of the later group. I always loved sports and was happy to dive in head-first into the history and tradition of Notre Dame football. But it was the time I spent with friends on campus that made my love for the game stick in the fashion that it has.
I could tell you a lot of great gameday stories, but I could tell you even more about the times I spent before and after, in between, and in the offseason.
So when I see those gold helmets on TV or in person, all of that emotional attachment swells up to the surface. Combine that with my natural love of sports and it creates one hell of an emotional drug. In fact, those memories are why you will always hear me refer to Notre Dame far more often as “we” than the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers who will more often get the “they” treatment.
I’m hoping we can create some of those memories together and I can brainwash you a tad. I always loved the “I went to my first ND game with my dad…” story and I want nothing more than for you to have such a story for yourself.
2) All That Being Said, You Don’t Have to Go to Notre Dame
Look, I love the place, but you may get the warm and fuzzy feelings elsewhere. Or, you may love ND just as much as I do and not get in. Whatever the case may be, don’t let my zeal for Notre Dame make you think that you have a single path to walk and stay on to make me proud.
Further, don’t ever think for a second that your ND fandom requires a ND degree. Subway alumni are awesome. I’ve met plenty at tailgates, at our local ND Alumni club (yes, degrees aren’t required for that either), and through blogging on the internet. In fact, our staff at HLS has a near even split between subway alumni and ND alumni. It’s one of the things that makes our fanbase something special.
Hell, I’ll even go as far to say that my love of ND football doesn’t need to transfer to you. Sure, I may wonder where I went wrong, but you have to blaze your own path, not mine.
That being said, if you go to Michigan or Southern Cal, I will disown your ass. No, I’m not joking.
3) There Are Things More Important Than ND Football Wins & Losses
Yeah, that sounds super hypocritical for a guy that spends a ton of free time obsessively writing, podcasting, watching, and reading about ND and college football, but it’s the truth. Lose that perspective and you are just going to be a miserable person.
It’s cool to be mad or sad about a loss, but you can’t let it ruin your whole day or night. Back in 2011, your mom got a taste of the “I care too much about ND football” experience when Michigan beat ND in a game damn near everyone was sure the Irish had locked up. We didn’t talk much on the ride home that night, and really, it probably took until the morning until I wasn’t completely miserable to be around.
More recently in 2014, the FSU loss ripped my damn heart out. Your mom knew the routine. She headed off to watch TV in another room as I had a couple extra bourbons along with a call into ND Fan Radio and a call from the Subway Domer. After I hung up with him, I honestly wasn’t even slightly upset. You see, your mom was pregnant with you, but we hadn’t announced it yet. So even though I was drunk and angry about the result, I had something incredible going on in my life that was so much bigger than a football game.
I hope to lead by example here. Like I said earlier, I don’t want to be bad Notre Dame daddy and sequestered away from the family to watch a game. I want to be “hey, I’m spending time with my kid so this loss isn’t the worst thing in the world and I’ll just vent on a blog post or podcast after some good family time” daddy.
4) College Football Is the Most Perfect Imperfect Sport
While emotions are certainly the driver of college football, the true beauty of the sport lies in the imperfections that surround it.
The game is played by young men of wildly varying talent levels. Even the best of the best in college football still haven’t reached their full potential yet and they will inevitably screw up–sometimes in spectacular fashion. Even the system for determining the champion every season is far from perfect.
Unlike the NFL, college football is far from the game being played at the highest level and it is so far from perfect. You shouldn’t want it any other way.
These imperfections lead to some of the craziest results imaginable. An unstoppable force can find themselves beaten by one guy playing out of his mind or the victims of one of their own playing the worst game of their college career. This makes every Saturday a crazy roller coaster–well, more like a roller coaster in total darkness. You never know what to expect.
That’s the magic of college football, son. And I can’t wait to kick off this crazy, stupid, amazing journey with you this weekend.