When someone mentions Ohio State on campus, the topic is met with a despondent grunt and an ashamed shake of the head. In one of the most anticipated matches in this lopsided yet intense rivalry, the Irish were riding a four-game win streak to open the season, averaging 46 points per game and had high hopes for a rivalry victory at long last. After all, the last time Notre Dame beat the Buckeyes was 87 years ago in 1936.
The Buckeyes were the most threatening opponent for the Irish in the 2023 season, but also the most pursued triumph. With “College GameDay” on campus, the buzz was tangible, the weather sublime and the fans cautiously optimistic they could pull off an upset. As the game unfolded, the Irish seemed to be holding their own with a halftime score of 3-0 Buckeyes. In the fourth quarter, Notre Dame pulled ahead 14-10 and the dream was becoming a reality with sparks of excitement igniting the atmosphere.
WE HAD THEM THIRD-AND-19 FROM THE 22 WITH ONLY 15 SECONDS TO GO!
After a long day of reverie, the stadium sat like a giant bejeweled starship suspended amidst the midwestern sea of darkness. Could the Golden Domers finally do it?
Notre Dame fans clutched each other in restless anticipation as the clock ticked down and the match ground to its climactic finale ... students began flooding into position to rush the field in celebration.
UH OH, 3rd-AND-GOAL FROM THE 1 ... BUT ONLY 7 SECONDS TO GO!
Outside as a squadron of squirrels gorged themselves on a plethora of post-party scraps, inside 80,000 stared on in rabid fervor at 21 shining helmets on a brilliant green field. Wait, only 21 … ? Alas, you know what happened next.
The height of the hopes only increased the velocity with which the dreams crashed to the ground. In horror and shock, students now clogged the stadium exits, and the spirit of the thrill was replaced by grumpy disappointment.
By the next day, I had forgotten about the game’s outcome, but to my dismay, my roommate would not get out of bed. All she could do was roll over and moan in the agony of a fresh wound. At first, I balked at this behavior. Why would someone surrender their emotions to a team's outcome over which they have no control? But then I started to think about all the things that we hold in our minds and hearts above the rest as sacred.
To me, the Notre Dame football team does not fall into that category, but if you were to ask me if the Notre Dame family falls into that category, I would give a hearty yes. If the football team is an emblem for the spirit of Notre Dame, in her history and in her unity, then isn’t it actually important to care, to feel deeply interwoven with the collective than to be indifferent?
The passionate response to this Notre Dame loss is an affirmation that the football team is held supremely in the minds and hearts of its worldwide fanbase.
I now see people’s disappointment as an expression of the strength in the collective ability of the Notre Dame family to effervesce. Being a family means fighting through the thick and thin with a fighting spirit of resilience. There will be joys and heartbreak, victories and losses. Jesus’ arms are still open wide for a hug.