|Dear Irish Legends:
The week of November 8, 1993 is one I will never forget. It was the weekend of the Notre Dame vs Florida State game.
My cousin, Tim Walsh, called me earlier in the year. It turned out, his son Adam, could not choose where to go to college. He narrowed his choices to the Air Force Academy and Notre Dame. Tim asked if I could recommend a good weekend to be on campus to show the University off to Adam. My answer: Florida State weekend. And forget the hotel. Adam is rooming with the Leprechaun!
Thats right, I was the "green guy". The Leprechaun. The excitement on campus that week grew out of control with every passing day. I was giving over-the-phone interviews to radio stations all over the country. At 5:00 in the morning, they were conducted from the luxury of my loft bed in St. Edward's Hall. A photographer from the yearbook stopped by a couple times this week to snap pictures of me getting ready. I have never experienced anything like this before in my life. And the scary thing is, I know it.
The droves of tailgaters started arriving on campus on Monday. The game was being played in 5 days, right? People were already blasting the fight song out of their windows. Students were chucking footballs around on the quad. Bedsheets that said "Beat the Seminoles" or "Irish: True #1" were hanging out of dorm room windows anchored by tennis shoes. We weren't waiting around for game day. It was now "game week".
Friday is the big day. Pep rally day. I'm the emcee. That afternoon, my mother calls my room and is surprised to hear my voice. Her friend, a police officer, called her saying that the Indiana State Police received a call from some FSU fans who threatened to kidnap the Leprechaun. I assured her that I was fine. In fact, it would be the Irish who would steal something from the Seminoles that week.
I've got to get some sleep. How can I? There is noise in every corner of the campus. Except one. The corner that will be the noisiest come Saturday. The stadium.
I walk up to the gates of the house that Rockne built. The stadium staff are used to this tradition by now. I carry my duffle bag, a pillow and blanket, and an alarm clock up to the southeast corner of the stadium. I pick out a spot somewhere around row 50 and catch an hour of sleep before the pep rally.
My cousin Adam meets me by the Joyce Center that evening and asks if he will be able to get a good seat at the pep rally. I tell him to stay close to me and he will.
The cheerleaders and band traditionally march around campus 30 minutes before the pep rally, playing the fight song and other ND tunes. The idea is to get the students to follow us into the Joyce Center. Who are we kidding? The arena has been filled for 2 hours. All the students are already inside waiting for us.
We approach the Joyce Center and you can hear the crowd before we even cross Juniper Road. As we enter the tunnel, the noise becomes louder and louder. I'm the first one in and the crowd is going nuts. I point out a spot on the floor and tell Adam to grab it before it disappears. The band strikes up the Victory March... the crowds is yelling at the top of their lungs... and you can't hear yourself think.
I tear of my jacket, I'm so excited! ESPN is carrying the pep rally live to a national television audience. Hundreds of national media members are on hand. I take the microphone and utter the same words I begin every pep rally with, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Notre Dame vs. Florida State pep rally!!!" I am screaming these words into the microphone. By the time I get to "welcome", I can no longer hear myself as the crowd has taken over. I look over at my cousin and he is sitting about 10 feet from Lou Holtz. He knows where he is going to school next year.
A lot of speculation circled around who the "guest speaker" would be that evening. Some people were saying it would be George Wendt. Others suggested it might be Joe Montana. I didn't even know who it would be until a couple hours before the rally. It was time to introduce her.
"Ladies and gentlemen, when people mention Notre Dame, they often think of great comebacks. There was the "chicken soup" game with Joe Montana in '77. Or the "Snow Bowl" against Penn State in '92. But our next speaker probably represents great comebacks better than anyone.
"Two years ago, the Notre Dame women's swim team bus spun out of control in a snow storm, and crashed only a mile from campus. Two swim team members tragically lost their lives. Another suffered a broken back. The doctors told her that her chances of even walking again were slim.
You could now hear a pin drop in an arena that only 10 minutes ago, was louder than an airplane engine.
"Then just last week, that young lady got into the swimming pool, swam the 100 meter freestyle, and came in... 1st place. Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Haley Scott.
The crowd erupts!
Notre Dame could have chosen a celebrity or a great football player to speak. Instead, we chose Haley. She told us that night how you should never believe what the oddsmakers tell you. That you should never believe that you can't acheive your goals. That you should never let anyone tell you you're not going to do it. That you simply had to believe in yourself. And if you did, you could acheive anything.
We traditionally close the pep rally with the Alma Mater and the Victory March. Afterwards their are about a thousand autographs to sign, a thousand pictures to take, and a thousand people to meet. Craig James from ESPN wants an interview on Sportscenter. I'm loving every minute of it.
My cousin and I then walk over to the stadium. He doesn't have a clue as to what's going on. We walk in through the locker room door. The pants are hanging perfectly in the lockers with the little NDs facing forward. The jerseys are neatly folded on a stool in front of each locker.
"Where are the helmets?" Adam asks.
We walk out into the concourse of the stadium, and there they are. The student managers are painting them for the game. Real gold dust is mixed with the paint. The helmets are emblematic of the Golden Dome which is also gilt. Might as well make them as authentic as possible.
We then walk back into the locker room and down the stairs that lead to ,the famous tunnel. Adam slaps the "Play Like A Champion Today" sign as he reaches the bottom. Well, he's definitely smart enough to attend the University.
Its amazing how this tunnel is so... I can't even find a word to describe it. It is simply "THE tunnel." Hundreds of famous players and coaches, the greatest in all of college football, have all walked through it. It begins very cramped. Dark. Quiet. Ominous. And then, all of a sudden, it opens itself wide-open onto the most famous playing field in the world. The stands seem to stretch sky high (even before the expansion.)
We make our way back up the stairs and out of the locker room. There in front of us, all lit up, is the library mural. Or, "Touchdown Jesus." My mother is there as well, glad to see that I havn't been apprehended... yet. She reminds me that tomorrow is her birthday.
"What are you going to get me?" she asks. I tell her that she'll see it on the scoreboard about 4 hours after kickoff.
Andy Budzinski '95
Dear Irish Legends Letters:
Traditions sometimes develop right before our eyes and we don't even realize it when it occurs. "Traditionally" at home football games just as the third quarter ends, the Nation's oldest marching band begins to play the Overture from Tchaikovsky's "The War of 1812." I'm sure most are familiar with the tune and the resultant, reflexive extension and flexion of upraised arms by the entire student body. It is quite a sight to see thousands moving in one accord. The waves of arms flowing in unison across the northwest corner of the stadium stirs analogies of the singleness of purpose, togetherness, and unity of the Notre Dame family. The remainder of the Irish faithful attempt to join in, but it is the undergraduate youth that do it right.
My class, the class of 1983, has contributed to Notre Dame and to society with honor. Desert Storm heroes, South Pole explorers, Paxson's "shot" that secured a world championship, just to name a few. But we also started the arm waving tradition that is so enjoyable to watch today.
It actually started during the basketball season of 1981. Tripuka, Jackson, Woolridge, and Paxson were having a great year and spirits under the south dome of the ACC were high. I was one of a bevy of lowly underclassmen way up in section 115 caught in the spell of Digger's magic with energy to spare. The band members seated under the home basket, wearing those lime-green vests, had only a few songs that they played over and over. One of the tunes in the songbook was the famous "1812 Overture." For some reason our little cadre of rabble-rousers responded to the song and began to sway like oarsmen on a frigate. Remember that the bleachers in the upper sections are retractable. We serendipitously discovered that if we all moved to and fro in unison that we could set the entire section in motion.
To gain more leverage and to keep everyone in cadence, we raised our arms and chanted "stroke, stroke" in time to the music. Sure enough, we had the bleachers moving several feet at a time, in cadence to the Overture. The arm waving was witnessed by many other students in attendance, and the frivolity of it impressed them enough to want to join in. We were only able to work our little bleacher trick for several more games before our benevolent university officials put an end to our fun. The bolts securing the bleachers in our section began to loosen, which when discovered later prompted instructions not to play the song at any more basketball games. But the football stadium had no retractable bleachers and the fears of property damage were nonexistent. The band, still with there limited songbook, had no qualms on playing Tchaikovsky in Notre Dame Stadium. When it was played the next football season, we remembered the motions and started the arms swaying. Again, it caught on. Now upperclassmen, we carried a bit more influence and when we initiated the dance, the new sophomores and freshmen joined in. And the rest is history.
Now, at the beginning of each fourth quarter as we try to keep in time with the tide of elbows on the other end of the stadium, I tell this story to my three children and they say "Ya, right, Dad. Sure . . ." But it all seems like yesterday, as Tracy Jackson kills Villanova with a 30 foot jumper, that section 115 is churning like a piston keeping time to a song commemorating another war fought long ago.
JC Ferlmann, '83
I grew up about 40 miles from campus, and was able to watch every game on WNDU-TV. Then, I moved to California and had, for several years, to settle for Mutual Radio. Many is the day I recall sipping my scotch, alone, during a broadcast, sitting in my car along Skyline drive, which was the highest point in the area, and was the only one from which I could receive a clear signal. (Of course, that was long ago, when drinking and driving was still considered acceptable.)
I play golf a lot, and have had the opportunity to play with Dick Rosenthal, Lou Holtz and Moose Krause. I played in a charity event with Moose, and a couple of days before called to tell my father we were going to play together. I invited dad along, and, although he was kind of shy at fancy country clubs, he decided to come along. By the third hole, Moose had thrown me out of the cart and was riding around with Dad, regaling him with stories of Notre Dame during the 40's and 50's. Two days later, Dad died, and on his death bed, he told me that day was the best of his life. (He thought marrying my mother and my birth ran a close second)!!!
Just a little Irish tale for you,
If you would like submit your own letters to Irish Legends Letters please send them to email@example.com