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Believing Again

Sep 4, 2012, 12:36 PM EDT

8032091 AP

UNDerground blogger Craig Chval (’15) steps aside from his hockey coverage to offer this special contribution to the Strong and True blog.

My friends would not describe me as an optimistic person. That’s probably true in general, but when it comes to Notre Dame football, the idea is downright laughable.

To give you an example, I was at the Big House on Sept. 10 last year. I watched as the Irish cruised to a big lead, only to fall behind Michigan in the closing minutes. I watched as, improbably, Notre Dame drove down the field to retake the lead with just 30 seconds left.

I cheered, I yelled, I jumped up and down. I hugged people around me that I’d never seen before.

But the first words out of my mouth were, “There’s too much time left.”

Is there something wrong with me? Probably. But I was born in 1992, which means I was not even a year old when the Irish beat #1 Florida State in the “Game of the Century.” Yet I was in the stands for the “Bush Push” game. And the game that saw us lose to Navy for the first time in 44 years. And this game, and this game, and this game, and this game.

I have the Notre Dame expectations without the memory of what it’s like to truly be Notre Dame.

My sister Lauren recently wrote a blog about her anticipation of the season, comparing the night before the season opener to Christmas Eve. I found this to be an interesting metaphor, especially since a family friend of ours (let’s call him Sean) once compared Notre Dame football to Santa Claus.

“When you’re a kid, it’s all magical and exciting,” Sean said. “But then you grow up.”

As much as Lauren likes to pretend, she is a relatively new convert to ND football. Sure, she would watch the games as a kid, but it never ruined her week when the Irish lost. Notre Dame is still Santa Claus to her.

I woke up at 8:50 Saturday morning to dutifully watch my team’s season opener. Maybe it was the early hour, but I noticed that I didn’t have my usual pre-season jitters. “It’s just Navy,” I thought. “If we lose, it will suck, and if we win, it’s just Navy.” I had grown up.

Am I that jaded at age 19 that I no longer have the passion and excitement for Notre Dame that once defined my fall weekends?

Lauren wrote, “Let this year be the year.” My first reaction was, “No way. With a first-year quarterback and a young secondary? Not with this schedule.”

But maybe the trick to recapturing the magic of Notre Dame football isn’t to manage expectations. Maybe it’s to embrace the possibilities.

Let this year be the year. Let me believe in Santa Claus again.

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