(Photo: Chad Ryan)
Saturday, October 7, 2023 about 11 PM: At the conclusion of the 33-20 upset Notre Dame loss marked by mistake filled and listless play by the Irish at Louisville the largest crowd in that stadium’s history stormed the field in a wild celebration. Hugs, High fives, and fistbumps, shrieks and shouts of joy, all against a backdrop of Cardinal red.
A week later, at almost exactly the same time, 261 miles north, the scene repeated itself. Except this time it was against a backdrop of blue, gold and green. The same Notre Dame team that the week prior couldn’t buy a block along the offensive line, and couldn’t make a play on defense stared the top scoring team in the nation and the defending Heisman Trophy winner in the eye, and proceeded to dominate and dismantle all night long. When the winning was complete, the capacity crowd of 77,622 showed their love and appreciation with a raucous postgame field storming celebration.
In defeat and triumphant victory Notre Dame Football never fails to bring joy, to someone.
You love Notre Dame or you love to beat Notre Dame, that is Notre Dame Football’s superpower.
Saturday was “just” another game at Notre Dame Stadium and “just” like all of them, it was special. The 50th anniversary of the great 1973 National Championship team was celebrated, Names like Penick, Casper, Pomarico, Potempa, and Townsend and many others were greeted with a thunderous stadium ovation when they gathered in the north end zone and were introduced.
Another legend, Joe Montana was there. Joe of course, also got a thunderous ovation…. and he almost bumped into me during the post-game frenzy. Fortunately for him I suppose, the aura with which he walks about probably protected him. I say that only partially in jest.
And minutes after the Irish win, I encountered a twenty something fan literally in tears because she had gotten a fist bump from a favorite player.
That is the depth of the Fighting Irish devotion, and the power of the Notre Dame tradition.
Sam Hartman has now “been Irish” for just 10 months. But it has been 10 months of total immersion and it is pretty obvious that he has been a quick adaptor to the culture. Post-game USC, he observed, “Just to see the fans and the support we get continuously and the walk, and the football culture here. I hope it never changes. If I’m blessed to have kids, I hope I can bring them back and they play a highlight.” He later added, “You now, I met Joe Montana today. That was pretty sweet,” and, “I’m so grateful for this fan base and everything. I freaking love the Irish!” Oh and Hartman, as usual, ended his stint before the media with a, “Go Irish” as he left the podium.
The Lady on the Dome, Rockne, Gipp, Leahy, Lujack, Father Hesburgh, Parseghian, Moose Krause, Rudy, Montana, Holtz, Brady Quinn, and Manti Te’o, right through Father Jenkins, Jack Swarbrick, Marcus Freeman and one year wonder Sam Hartman.
They and a thousand others have built, nurtured and maintained one of the great traditions in all of sports. As Louisville fans last week and Notre Dame fans this week stormed the field in joyous celebration, the clout of Notre Dame football’s “superpower”, it’s omnipresent tradition, was on full display.