When I was just a young girl traveling on the bus heading to parochial grade school, we used to sing a baudy at the time version of the Notre Dame Fight Song. I suppose I knew the melody because my mother was a Notre Dame fan. And she could sing. I don't think she knew we were singing the other version (which I will post at the end of this) because she might not have liked knowing it. She was half-Irish and half-German, not surprisingly growing up in a neighborhood of Chicago called Beverly.
My grandfather Michael Keehan worked as a accountant/comptroller for one of the Midwest railroads and he especially loved his little Rosemarie, my mother. He died when I was still rather young but I have memories of him. Mom said he had quite the Irish sense of humor--right down to the dribble glass and the bevy of friends that went along with that. So watching Notre Dame football games in our house was mandatory.
Many years later, when I went off to college in Evanston at Northwestern University, I brought my love of football with me. I was loyal to my Wildcats but was not adverse to visiting the campus of Notre Dame and seeing for myself what their kind of school spirit looked like. It was impressive, from the telling of ghost stories to the mud-soaked celebrations of its student body. The Golden Dome was authentically advertised: stunning.
Back in Evanston, Notre Dame and NU were still playing each other and in those bleak gridironed 1970s, my loyal self was in the stands when the Irish came to town. At one point, the NU Marching Band played our Alma Mater and a group of Notre Dame fans in front of me were sitting while the rest of us were standing. I loudly announced, "I would stand if they were playing the Notre Dame Alma Mater!" The group of about three or four rather husky-looking Irish fans turned and looked at me, and they stood up. But they said back to me, I better be standing if that Irish music started playing. I told them I would be. I laugh to myself now when I think of that. Good thing I did not break into the version of the song I knew. They did play the Notre Dame song and when they did, you can bet I was on my feet, willingly.
What I love about Notre Dame is kaleidoscopic in its intensity and variety. There is an undeniable beauty in the school spirit that permeates the place. Members of my elongated family have attended and graduated from South Bend. But it is not from them that the elegance and strength that is Notre Dame came to me. I do think it was hearing stories of the great Knute Rockne or better, the glow of some kind of illusory knowledge in my Mom's eyes that Notre Dame was more than the sum of its parts, defying logic. Mom valued good coaches. Her other best team was the Dallas Cowbows, Tom Landry and Roger Staubach. She grasped, she got what set a team apart, those who could play with class and talent, charm and determination. She respected those qualities.
When she passed away on July 1, we talked after the funeral that if either Dallas or Notre Dame had a particularly good season we would know why. Even in the midst of dementia, when The Fight Song would come on the television, she would smile or point at the screen. This fall Notre Dame came out of the blue and woke those echoes slumbering for so long in Indiana. We figure that Mom was given only enough oomph in heaven to influence one team this year and true to her nature and childhood, it is Notre Dame that came out No. 1. I am not worried about the outcome of the BCS Championship. In my estimation, they have played their hearts out for Her in true Irish fashion. The game is somewhat anticlimatic. Do I want them to beat Saban and Alabama. Darn right, I do.
And Dallas fans, if I were you, I think next year might just surprise you.
Here are the fun lyrics that I sang so long ago. To remind us all that in the 1960s, school kids were silly.
"Beer, beer for old Notre Dame.
Lower the rafters, booze in your name.
Send those freshmen out for gin.
Don't let a sober sophomore in.
We never stagger. We never fall.
We sober up on wood alcohol.
As our loyal sons go marching down to the bar for more."
As remembered by yours truly.