Sep 9, 2012, 11:39 AM EST
Slowly, silently, without you even realizing it, the student section has the ability to mark the relentless passage of time.
As a freshman, you stand down in the corner. The entire football field and student section stretch out vastly before you. There seems to be no end of space between you and the other end zone, between you and the seniors, between you and a time when you won’t be in the student section. Your four years at Notre Dame—your four years of Notre Dame football—are infinite and hold an infinite number of possibilities.
It is shocking how different you feel as a senior.
Your seats are better, for one thing. The field is laid out in front of you from a vantage point worthy of your status. But then there’s a moment when you look to your left, and instead of seeing all of the other students cheering in front of you, you realize they’re behind you.
Am I older than all of those people?
Yes. Yes, you are.
Sure, you’re still in the student section, so by definition you’re younger than most of the stadium. But it dawns on you how quickly that will be over. The juniors are jostling and pushing for your seats, the sophomores behind them, the freshmen beyond them. You’re about to be an alumnus, which means your tickets could be anywhere. And so could you.
This season, my senior season, is marked by one of the most difficult schedules Notre Dame has seen in a long time, and we’re starting it off inversely to how last year began. We’re 2-0 now. Yesterday wasn’t a profoundly beautiful display of football, but the Irish went out there and got the job done.
And I need them to—to keep getting better, to keep fighting it out, to keep winning. Because just like the possibilities of Irish football seem infinite as a freshman, they seem fleeting as a senior.
But I’ll tell you, they seem sweeter, too.
Maybe as a freshman you had more possibilities and felt less urgency. But just think back for a moment to who you sat with then (the haphazard group you got together in the first two days you spent on campus) and who you sit with now. As a freshman, you enthusiastically did the cheers with the band, but you were out of time with the rest of the student body. Your hand motions were too fast or too slow, you messed up on the jig, you tried to start the wave in the second half when the game was close before the seniors shut your attempt down (seriously, no).
As a senior, it’s your last year in the student section, but you’re surrounded by people you love. They hold you up when you do the jig, they sway in perfect time with you to the alma mater, they pull you out of the way when a big, unsteady kid almost knocks you over. We have a 2-0 start—something to cheer for and scream about together as our team moves forward to figure the season out. The football is sweeter because of who you get to stand with after four long years of doing just that: figuring it out. What I’m hoping for—what I’m really counting on—is that next year, when I’m not in the student section anymore, I’ll still be standing with many of them.
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