For many in these Chicago precincts, it is a fight between good and evil, enlightened and primitive, smart and dumb. With the good guys wearing Notre Dame’s colors.
For some reason, Notre Dame has been canonized as Chicago’s darling college football team. Neither the University of Illinois or Northwestern University, both more eligible for hometown team designation, aren’t even a close second in the hearts and minds of Chicagoans. Without having to look it up, I’m willing to beat that both schools have more alumni in this area than does Notre Dame. Yet, that doesn’t count. All you read in the papers and hear on TV is Notre Dame this and Notre Dame that. You’d think for all the coverage that it was the Cubs in the World Series.
Beats me why.
Notre Dame considers itself to be the greatest Catholic university in America, yet it has stood out for other reasons than its legendary football team. There was the arrest of the team’s quarterback Tommy Rees on felony charges that were pleaded down to misdemeanors (resisting law enforcement and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor) in connection with his arrest outside an off-campus party in the spring.
Makes you wonder: for all the back-patting by ND because of the high percentage of football players that graduate, the school apparently doesn’t hold them to a higher ethical standard. Rees’ problems were small change compared with Lizzy Seeberg, a 19-year-old freshman at Saint Mary’s College. She committed suicide after accusing a Notre Dame football player of sexually assaulting her. She went into a deadly depression, some charge, because of what some might call a university cover-up of the assault. In any case, that unnamed player will be on the field for Monday’s game.
Then there’s Declan Sullivan, 20, a student videographer, who was killed in 2010 after coaches sent him into a 50-foot tower to record a football practice when winds were reaching 50 miles per hour.
We Catholic conservatives also have it in for the university for inviting Barack Obama, probably most extreme pro-choice president in history, to give a speech on campus. And then having a small group of pro-life protestors arrested for trespassing.
Generations of Chicago children have been brainwashed about Notre Dame’s eminence. For them the greatest movie of all time is the 1940 biographical film, “Knute Rockne, All American, starring Pat O'Brien as the sainted Notre Dame coach and Ronald Reagan as the Gipper. The school modestly tries to position itself as the underdog Irish; this year’s script has one school valiantly struggling to regain its past glories against the mighty Crimson Tide, which makes a habit of winning national championships.
Actually, it’s the Notre Dame fans more than the school itself is why I haven’t jumped on this year’s bandwagon. The fans suffer from an incurable case of Bighead Syndrome. I know this because of my childhood years in Chicago, the year-round braying in the neighborhood and media became an intolerable. The idolization persisted though the more recent period of mediocrity, and the rest of us have been expected to share the devotee’s angst.
Rack up some of my attitude to jealousy. Notre Dame had great football teams; my alma matter, Marquette University, dropped football in my sophomore year. (The school also dropped Notre Dame from its basketball schedule because of the fans’ unsportsmanlike and obnoxious behavior in our games in South Bend.)
Sure, take pride in your school and team, but can you give the rest of us a break?
Disclosure: I have relatives who attended Alabama. But I have as much trouble rooting for Alabama as I did when I was a kid and a White Sox fan, because was like becoming a New York Yankee fan.
Fair is Fair: The nation's most obnoxious fans are Alabama's, according to the Bleacher Report. Notre Dame only comes in at Number 5.