The Irish Ascending

Pretty much everyone that knows me, knows that I am a sports nut.  From my earliest memories, I have loved sports, and a wide variety of them – I’m not an Aaron Booth who knows everything there is to know about one particular sport, I have cultivated a mediocre knowledge of all of them 🙂  It certainly helps that this is what my Dad was into growing up, but I have taken it to a whole new level.  Football, basketball and baseball are the big three with everyone (including me), but this love of sports extends to many others as well.  I love watching golf on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.  I enjoy the tennis majors, and was especially into it when Agassi and Sampras were in their heyday.  I watch a TON of Olympics every couple years or so.  I even got into beach volleyball (and college v-ball) when I lived in Idaho and was playing fairly often.  I love playing sports, but unfortunately as I get older, and take on more responsibilities, I have very little time for that, and so I feed my obsession by watching them.

My sports love has been in phases.  And by this, I mean that my favorite sport has changed throughout my life.  It really started with a love of baseball.  This was my father’s favorite sport to play, and it was passed on to me.  As a child I loved to hit, catch, practice, etc.  I was on tee-ball and baseball teams.  My best friend and I would play countless whiffleball games in the backyard, and use our imaginations.  I went to a couple of Detroit Tigers games as a kid, and remember chants of “Loooooouuuuuu” coming from the stadium.  My Dad grew up on the Cardinals, so they have always been my favorite team, and I love watching them.  And I was absolutely obsessed with baseball cards.  I probably have 50,000 to this day, stored in my parents’ attic.  But as I realized that I would never be a ballplayer (due to lack of physical ability and the fear of a fastball), this began my first real shift.  Now, keep in mind that during these times, I still loved to watch all sports.  It was only my “favorite” that changed.  And as I became a teenager, basketball moved to the forefront. 

As a short, skinny nothing I was never going to be a great athlete.  My football career consisted of…well, nothing.  My basketball career consisted of playing poorly in junior high.  But college basketball was becoming a favorite.  I remember watching the 1987 National Championship game in my grandparents’ basement and seeing Keith Smart sink the winning shot.  That was a seminal moment in my childhood.  From there, I started to follow the Hoosiers, and look forward to my favorite couple weeks of the year:  the NCAA tournament.  I even ran a poll during high school where buddies and I would make our picks, throw in a dollar, winner take all.  During this time, the Indiana Pacers also started to succeed and be a perennial power, and so this also helped.  To this day, I can still name all the starters (and most of the bench players) from those teams that got to so many championship series.  I started out as a diehard Pistons fan (growing up in Pontiac, Michigan), but really shifted to the Pacers with the emergence of Reggie Miller.  But as I got older, and those players started to retire, another shift took place.  To football.

Football was always close to the top.  It was bubbling right beneath the surface.  Some of my favorite moments as a kid revolve around sitting in front of the fireplace on Saturdays and Sundays, watching my favorite teams:  the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and the Dallas Cowboys.  And as I got older, the obsession grew.  From an infant, I was weaned on ND.  Dad was a fan, so I was a fan.  1988 must have been a big year for me, because as I remember the IU championship, I also have vivid memories of Rocket and the last ND national championship.  Those were the days that ND was challenging in the top 10 every year.  My glory years.  Shortly after that, the classic Cowboys teams of my youth would come to the forefront, and I would follow the weekly exploits of Aikman, Smith, and co.  But once the late 90’s came, where would the next shift be to?  Turns out, it was more of the same.  The Colts drafting Peyton Manning in 1998 was a big moment.  We didn’t know it yet, but  the fortunes of the entire city were about to change.  No longer would Indiana be known as a basketball state, we are now Colts Country, with a Super Bowl Champion and possibly the greatest player the game has ever seen.  I can’t tell you how fun it has been to watch the success of our hometown team year after year.  And football has consequently been #1 on my list for quite some time.

But through the years, one constant has remained:  the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  I have never loved a different team in college football (I can’t say the same about any other sport), or any team in any sport more than I love my Irish.  I know more about their history than I care to admit.  I live and die with them every Saturday (as my wife can attest).  And for the last 15 years or so, it has been very difficult to be an Irish fan.  The last few, it has approached torture.  My wife has even asked on several occasions, “why even bother”?  And she has a good point!  But unlike many of the bandwagon Saints fans of this year, who never really paid attention to them until now (sorry, had to take a shot, lol), I can’t do the opposite, and absolutely could never abandon them.  They are a part of who I am.  And now a new day has dawned in Irish lore.  Out with our old team and coach – goodbye Jimmy, Golden, and Charlie – and in with Brian Kelly.  We’ll see what history has in store, but it is looking good.  We have now hired a proven winner, who can get the most out of his players.  We’ve hired an Irish Catholic.  The cupboard is far from bare, with a good foundation of recruits.  It might not get fantastic immediately, but give us a couple of years and we’ll be back.  Here.Come.The.Irish.  For real this time.  Haters (you know who you are), beware.

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One Response to “The Irish Ascending”

  1. Mr. Rockett Says:

    for the record, i never hated the irish. in fact, i thought they were for the most part a class act (dan devine excepted!). what i hated is that they often (not always) always seemed over-rated to me (win 8 games and be considered for the national championship) sort of like USC the past ten years. i also hated how they always seemed to have ‘bama’s/the bear’s number — beat them couple times when they really shouldn’t have, one in particular the Bear gave away. but i also thought the same over-ratedness applied even more to penn state, ohio state and michigan. the sec phrase was always, “they only play two real games a year, let them play the six-required sec schedule.” (but i loved it when michagan slaughtered florida one year in the nat. champ bowl, i think cotton on year!) spurior was there, now urban is easier to be kinder to.

    my attitude toward ND softened even more as my new son-in-law visibly suffered under ND’s ineptness. thought charlie might do well…not! while sympathising with Willingham (sp?) shoulda got one more year. anyway, i understand josh’s sports saga…mine started with baseball, went to football, tennis and am now back to baseball… go colts/saints.

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