Some people were born Notre Dame fans. They were bathed in the light of the golden years. Tanned and bronzed from the championships, the Heismans, and the fact that they are somewhere around 178 years old. I am not one of those children of the summer.
Indeed, if I reflect back, I have a difficult time pinpointing the moment I became an Irish fan. There’s no obvious reason for it. I am a born and raised southerner. My parents are from the northeast. Sure, they’re Catholic, but my Dad’s a BC Alum…oh…that’s right. I’ve been a contrarian dick for quite a while!
Revising my last paragraph: I can say my earliest Irish memories are the result of (1) convenience – since their games were always on, (2) being a spritely short dude, I can relate to a leprechaun, and (3) it was an easy way to gently sports jab the old man. I became a self-aware Irish fan somewhere around the mid-90’s. I can’t reflect on the Tony Rice/Tim Brown/Raghib Ismail/Jerome Bettis days because they pre-date my “fandom” as it were. (Interesting side note: I did have a Raghib Ismail Toronto Argonauts trading card that I would not trade for anything because I just thought it was the best thing ever he was nicknamed “The Rocket.” Had no concept at the time he was an ND guy. Oddly, I did not have the same affection for Roger Clemens).
Then comes 1993, “College Gameday,” Beano Cook, and the promise of multiple Heismans for some guy named Ron Powlus. There was no Internet. No 247 Sports. Just. Beano. And by God, I was going to witness this. I was going to record this. After being bitten by a radioactive spider and trying my hand at Superhero-dom for a while, I settled on being a stat nerd. Faithfully for the better part of 3 seasons, I would sit down and record every single throw of Heisman Ron’s. It was rudimentary — pass #, complete/incomplete, yards, TD?, Int? but it was there. I wanted to have the play-by-play data in my little red notebook to memorialize Ron’s numerous Heismans. Some day, on my death bed, I was gonna sit there with my grand kids and regale them with play by play information of how the Heisman was renamed the “Powlus.” I don’t mean to spoil things, but that Heisman moment never came.
In the meantime though, I watched and came to love Autry Denson, Marc Edwards, Joey Goodspeed (Heisman caliber name), Pete Chryplewicz (He lead the 1996 team with 27 receptions and 4 TD catches), Derrick Mayes (favorite all-time receiver), and my favorite defender of all time…Allen Rossum. No one will ever assign this as the glory days of Notre Dame football, and yet for me, this is the era of the players I still love the most.
By the time the Powlus era came to an end, I was hitting high school. I didn’t have the statistical evidence of the greatest QB to ever play for Notre Dame, but now I wanted to attend Notre Dame. As a student! For college credit! Weird thing happened…After joining a lot of clubs, learning a lot of math that I’ve long since forgotten, and forcing myself to actually read books and not just buy the Cliff’s Notes, I made that dream come true. It’s probably the last time I really cared and sought out to do anything so grand and long term. I’ve never regretted that for even a day. Well….being a student during the final year of Davie plus the Willingham years, it’s dishonest to say I never regretted it, but I feel generally confident in my decision.
Somewhere along the way of scribbling down Powlus’ throws into my notebook, I gained a morbid interest in charting offensive plays. I’m a small guy. Not Hobbit sized per se, but not not-Hobbit sized either. Suffice it to say, playing football wasn’t really in the cards. Charting plays, learning tendencies, and trying to absorb the strategy was my way of relating to the sport. Around 2010 or 2011, I started to on occasion write posts on a loosely formed blog called “John Lynch’s Dad” that I authored with a buddy of mine. The topics, content, and general quality were both sprawling and disorganized. As the years passed, several ND blogs have afforded me the opportunity to be equally random with slightly greater readership. I get the added bonus of occasionally having in-depth #snacktalk.
I started at HLS as a staff writer. Then, during Tex’s first or second semi-retirement, I stepped up to an assistant editor position. I lacked the bandwidth to make that work, and fortunately Tex is a far more hopelessly addicted ND blogger/vlogger/podcaster/simulator/tweeter/responsible adult than myself. So, I get to return to the fold primarily to return to my passion for #sportsmath, statistical breakdowns, and to finally record Powlus’ breakthrough season. I look forward to the tens of you who will read my work. To the rest of you – congratulations on having a life.
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