You have to write an essay – and a good one at that – in order to be admitted to Our Lady’s University. But just anyone can buy, be given, or stumble upon a ticket to a home game. And I’m not exactly sure that’s appropriate. I think there should be an essay application for anyone – student, alum, subway alum, or first-time fan – who wants to enter the House the Rockne Built…except the other team’s people, who we know are illiterate. So I’ve taken this year’s actual essay questions, written by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and inflicted upon high school seniors, and I have reconfigured them to apply to ticket-holders. I encourage everyone who will be attending a home game this season to take this very seriously and consider responding to one (1) of these five (5) essay questions:
1. In his 2005 inaugural address, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, challenged our community: “We at Notre Dame must have the courage to be who we are. If we are afraid to be different from the world, how can we make a difference in the world?” When you leave Notre Dame, what is one way you will bravely face the world, stay true to your values, and make a difference large or small?
1. In his 1908 Victory March, John F. Shea, alumnus and Massachusetts State Senator, challenged our community: “We will fight in every game, strong of heart and true to Her name. We will never forget Her, and will cheer Her ever, loyal to Notre Dame.” When you enter Notre Dame Stadium for a game, how do you understand being strong of heart, despite the opponent’s ranking and the sports writers’ nay-saying; even with the peacock-worshipers’ interminable timeouts, do you appreciate what it means to cheer Her forever (or at least for the whole game including overtimes); and despite your feelings about a particular player, coach, or athletic director, and despite your deep-seated opinions about changes at the University (and changes to the Stadium in particular) have you really and truly learned the virtue of loyalty and do you properly practice it?
2. What is the single greatest thing you’ve ever done for the Fighting Irish – complete loss of voice and headache for a week, painful leg and buttock cramps after hours of standing, scorching sunburn or pernicious chest cold due to exposure for half a day, smuggling in enough liquor to ‘light up’ your whole section, actually eating a Stadium hotdog and liking it – an act for which you received no outward recognition, but which you know, in your heart, absolutely contributed to an Irish victory that day?
3. We know you fell in love with the Fighting Irish…but what first caused you to experience the phenomenon we call ‘tears of joy’? Was it when you first watched the Band play the Victory March in the Stadium, or when the gold helmets first poured out of the tunnel, or the first time you charged the field after a last-second victory? When did those salty trails of pure happiness first stain your face?
4. Why are you interested in attending the University of Notre Dame?
(Seriously…we ask a question like this? I don’t know if it’s self-serving or obtuse. Anyway…)
4. Why do you want to attend a Notre Dame home football game?
(The only acceptable answers are “Because I want to witness magic in my life,” or “Because it’s where Heaven and Earth meet,” or “Because, as a mortal, I know I will die someday, and if God is good, He will take me late in the fourth quarter with the Irish up by two touchdowns.”)
5. By now you are well aware that Notre Dame has been playing football for 126 years, is the last great independent team in the entire sport, has won 13 National Championships, has produced the most Heisman winners and the most All Americans, has been led by six hall-of-fame coaches, went undefeated in the regular season last year while being the first team ever ranked #1 on the field and #1 in graduation rate simultaneously, and with two classic feature films and countless legends is undeniably the most storied team in the country. Use this opportunity to tell us how you, personally, as a fan in the Stadium, are going to make this litany of success just a little bit better this year by your efforts.
Son, in 199 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard, incontrovertible facts: There is a God, and I'm pretty tight with Him.
Now I’m going to tell you a whole lot of things I’ve kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew me. I was along before your time, but you all know what a tradition I am at Notre Dame. And one of the most important things I ever said was, “Friends, sometime when my University is up against it and the breaks are beating the students, tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win at everything for Padre. I don’t know exactly where I’ll be then, friends,” I said, “but I’ll be looking right over your shoulder.”