Nov 25, 2012, 10:19 AM EDT
The title of my first blog this season was “This Is The Year.”
“The year for what though?” I asked. “The year we win a national championship? The year we go undefeated?”
No, I could never ask for that. I could never jinx my team, my school, myself with a request that big. Undefeated? This year? No way.
It has become a cliché to cite “the people” as being the greatest and most different thing about Notre Dame. As a sports writer, I’ve run into that heartfelt sentiment a lot in interviews. This season, I have run into it a lot in my own reality. I have received countless pieces of truly touching feedback on this column. Loved ones, friends of my dad, alumni from decades before I was born, students who have never met me…”the people” of Notre Dame did not hesitate to reach out to me to tell me that they felt the same things I did. They let me know that I am not alone—we are all in this together.
But I will never forget my first piece of feedback. It came as a text message—just a couple hours after I posted that first blog—from a friend who graduated two years ago. He, more than any other young alumnus I know, had a hard time leaving Notre Dame.
He wrote: “I just read your blog. Please, for me if not for anything else, cherish this year. Whether there be hardships or championships, cherish every second. The games I watch without ND others around I consider games wasted. Never again will you be surrounded by such a quintessential and unique and ultimately unifying experience as singing the alma mater after a game. This final year, whether success or failure ensues, will be what you look upon in the years to come. Do not waste it. The success of a football team does not a senior year make, but the opportunity those games present do. Have that, please.”
Moved, I determined to have that. Every game, I prayed for one thing. I asked for strength.
Give me the strength to believe in my team, give me the strength to take whatever comes, but above all, give me strength to appreciate every game as a moment with people that I love. Because I will never get that back.
I planned to use that text when I had to blog about a loss. I was going to talk about the community of Notre Dame football and how no matter what a season brings, that team draws us together.
But then…we kept winning. Michigan State came and went. Win. Michigan night. Win. Overtime against Stanford. Win. Oklahoma on the road. Win. Miracle against Pitt. Win.
We are an undefeated team. We have a 12-0, perfect regular season. We’re going to the ‘ship. We’re going to Miami.
How did this happen? I could have never asked for this.
It was bizarre, watching this last game at home with my family instead of at Notre Dame with my friends. I worried about it all week. Would we still win if all of us were apart? Maybe the magic of this season only worked when we were all together. Should I drive back to campus?
It’s true; we were all separated for this game. Some of my friends were at home, some were at school, and some were in the Coliseum itself. But it was the same in the end. Just as Notre Dame has been uniting me with fans and alumni across the country all season, it united me with my friends last night.
As the game ended, my phone exploded.
“Omg it’s crazy here. I can’t believe it.”
“Miami??? SO happy.”
“Unreal, Lauren. Unreal.”
In their post-game interviews, both Manti Te’o and Everett Golson talked about the camaraderie of this team being the difference. Closeness. The feeling that they were all in it together.
And I looked across my living room and saw my dad staring quietly at the TV. He had calmed down from his game day state of vein-popping, vocal chord-destroying mania. I couldn’t imagine what it must be like for him—to wait 24 years for another season like this, only to experience it with your own children this time.
And in this moment, I feel connected to everything and everyone. My friends, my dad, my brothers, the millions of Notre Dame fans that I will never meet but will always have something in common with. Everything Notre Dame that came before me and everything Notre Dame that will come after me. In this moment, I feel like it all leads back to us, right now, this season, this team, this win.
We are ND.
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