The following is a guest post from Jamie Reidy ’92, the author of three books, including “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” – which became the basis for the film “Love and Other Drugs” and “A Walk’s As Good As A Hit: Advice/Threats from My Old Man.” We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
As the Irish prepare for their first trip to Austin in 20 years, my memory keeps flashing back to the ending of the teams’ last clash in Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium.
Irish fans probably remember where they were when Lou Holtz’s boys capped a thrilling comeback with a field goal as time expired. But my location was extra special, as I was one of the only seven Domers sitting in a limousine parked right in front of the entrance to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
When my senior year roommate Chris Soller ’92 and his college sweetheart Laura Mollach ’92 asked me to be a groomsman in their wedding, I happily nodded my head, truly proud. When they informed me the union would take place on September 21st, 1996, I angrily shook my head, truly pissed. Who gets married on the day of the Texas game?! We haven’t played them in years! Why not a crappy away game, like Vandy or Navy?! (Note: I’d like to think that, faced with the same scenario at age 46, I would no longer react so immaturely. That thought would be delusional.)
Surprisingly, unsolicited input from me and Chris’s other roommates did not prompt the happy couple to change the date of their betrothal. Oh, well.
Focusing on the positive, I realized the wedding would be the first I’d attend at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. That made me feel like an official Notre Dame alum. On the morning of the big day, while the bridesmaids did whatever elaborate things bridesmaids do, the ten groomsmen drank beers and donned our tuxes while watching the first half of the Texas game at the Marriott downtown. (It’s a Doubletree now.)
The game, featuring #9 at #6, kicked off at 12:11 EDT. That start time may surprise some younger readers. But, in 1996, most games began at noon. Today, a top ten matchup would at least find its way onto TV in late afternoon, if not primetime. But, back then, networks didn’t hold sway over scheduling the way they do now. I emphasize this point because Laura and Chris’s wedding started at 3 p.m. At the rehearsal, a seemingly 95-year old woman made it abundantly clear that the Basilica ran its wedding schedules with more precision than a NASA launch; if we had not gotten the requisite photos by 3:55, too bad. We’d get tossed like stragglers after closing time at The Backer, apparently. The groomsmen got the message: we wouldn’t be able to see or listen to the fourth quarter of the game.
Chris surprised us with a limo, but we didn’t head to any of the familiar dives due to our attire. Instead, we instructed the driver to take us to an upscale bar in Mishawaka that none of us had ever been to before – Varsity Club of America – where we watched the third quarter. Despite our intention to stay clean, we ordered several plates of chicken wings. Amazingly, our tuxes remained sauce-free, though several of us got sauced.
Back in the limo, we cranked up the famous Westwood One radio broadcast team of Tony Roberts and Tom Pagna while cruising to campus in style, downing cans of Natty Light. Instead of heading directly to the Basilica, we had to make one sentimental stop: the plaque commemorating Holy Cross Hall. (For any readers born after 1972, let me explain that Holy Cross was a sprawling, rickety structure held together by asbestos and located on the other side of Saint Mary’s lake, approximately a 52-minute walk to South Dining Hall. In hindsight, it was a miracle Chris ever found Laura, a North Quad gal.) The groom and other groomsmen had lived in “The Nine Man,” a triple boasting a party room the size of a parochial school’s gymnasium. The University leveled that eyesore in 1990, but kindly installed a nice plaque, in front of which the guys took a picture.
Post-photo op, we hustled back into the limo, where our spirits sunk upon learning that the Longhorns had taken a seven-point lead late in the game. Not exactly the vibe Chris was looking for as he headed toward the altar. But the Irish did not hang their heads like a certain six tuxedoed members of the class of ’92.
With three minutes left, Notre Dame faced a 4th and goal from the 6-yard line. Inside our limo, there may have been more hand holding than an 8th grade dance going on. Naturally, with the statue-esque Ron Powlus at quarterback, Coach Holtz called an option. Incredibly, Autry Denson scored on the play.
As we screamed and hugged, our chariot pulled up in front of the Basilica. Like, right in front of the two huge wooden doors. The area was nearly deserted, which made sense since all the grownups attending the wedding were already seated inside and the student body was glued to dorm TVs. The only person in sight was the ancient lady in charge of the wedding schedule. I can still picture her clipboard, which she looked ready to break over somebody’s skull.
The limo door opened, and Chris got out. The rest of us made insincere motions to do the same. The Irish defense forced the Longhorns to punt, giving the offense one last chance. At that point, the odds of any of us groomsmen exiting the vehicle dropped to zero; what, we were going to jinx the rally?! The mean lady stood outside, glaring.
“Guys,” Chris said, his voice thick with nervousness over the Irish’s fate. Or maybe it was over the prospect of making a lifetime commitment in front of God. Tough to tell.
“Let’s go. I’m getting married.”
With under a minute to go, an inspired Powlus drove the team to the Texas 22. Freshman kicker Jimmy Sanson lined up for a 39-yard game-winning field goal with five seconds remaining. Our Lady, pray for us.
None of us moved. I mean, we felt bad and all, but, for Faust’s sake, the Irish were trying to win this damn game! Inside the limo, we leaned in unison toward the radio. “There’s the snap and the hold and—“ We never heard Tony Roberts finish his sentence because his words were drowned out by the loudest non-stadium noise I’d ever heard on campus.
The spontaneous roar from the dorms all across the quads told us everything we needed to know.
We hopped out of the limo, giddy smiles plastered across our faces. The timekeeper furiously held open one wooden door and we bounced inside. If you’ve never seen groomsmen slapping each other on the ass on their way down the aisle to the altar, it’s quite something.
On the altar, the priest seemed to sag with relief. I don’t recall anything specific from the ceremony, but it was the most enjoyable one I ever took part in. During the lightning quick photo session, we learned that the bride’s limo had a television; the girls had watched the game while we listened to the radio.
At the reception, my mother grabbed me by the elbow.
“And what would you assholes have done if that boy had missed that stupid kick?!”
I started to answer, but that my brain froze.
She nearly kicked me.
“Uhhhhhhh, I dunno, Mom. I guess that would’ve been a crappy wedding.”
She kicked me.
You know who was happiest when ABC asked Notre Dame and Texas to move the game from Saturday and Sunday? Domers who are getting married at the Basilica on Saturday. Since there are no weddings at Notre Dame on Sundays, no brides will suffer Laura’s fate of having to sweat out their husbands being late. That’s actually too bad; after all, the Irish are unbeaten against Texas when a limo full of groomsmen park in front of the Basilica, listening to the game on the radio.