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Five Foot Nothing: Rivalry

Oct 21, 2013, 1:53 PM EDT

Notre Dame Fighting Irish players celebrate their 14-10 win against the Southern California Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Lauren Chval graduated from Notre Dame last May. She will be chronicling the 2013 season through the experience of being a first-time alumnus. You can follow her on Twitter at @lchval or check out her blog Image Moved about all things athletics and entertainment

I applied to USC during my senior year of high school.

No, really. It’s true. I didn’t tell my dad, and when the acceptance letter came and he found it before I could snatch it out of the mail, he thought I was playing a very elaborate prank on him.

“What is this?” he asked, holding up the giant envelope, the mere sight of the USC logo prompting terror-filled flashbacks of Anthony Davis dancing on his knees in the end zone and “that damn horse” galloping around the Coliseum over and over and over again.

“Well, I haven’t opened it yet, but it looks like an acceptance letter,” I said with the cheeky sort of attitude that only a 17-year-old can really pull off.

Once my dad realized I was serious, he (jokingly, I think) threatened to have me arrested for unauthorized use of my mom’s credit card to pay the USC application fee.

For a multitude of reasons, Notre Dame’s rivalry with USC never hit home with me like the Michigan one does. I think it boils down to more exposure to Michigan fans over the years. I’ve never set foot in California, let alone inside the Coliseum.

It’s not that I don’t feel the rivalry—it’s that the rivalries make me feel different things. When I think Michigan, I think hatred. When I think USC, I think…determination.

The Notre Dame-USC rivalry is about two teams that at times dominated the national college football landscape in ways that Michigan has failed to do since before World War I.  It’s a rivalry fueled by excruciating losses and exhilarating victories that spelled the difference between national championships and bridesmaid status.

The rivalry – unquestionably the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football – has its roots in a time when football was different. There was no social media, no jumbotrons, no Crazy Train. Obviously, all of those things have their places now (my job is heavily based in social media). But Notre Dame and USC was a rivalry with annual national championship implications back before it was commonplace for a Heisman trophy winner to tweet a picture of himself fanning out a handful of cash.

I know I probably sound like the oldest 22-year-old alive, but I love that Notre Dame and USC is still about respect and grit. I love that both coaches were so gracious in their postgame press conferences. No matter what each team is ranked (or isn’t), it always means something when Notre Dame and USC play. There’s a reason that the 1958 game is playing in the background of The Godfather Part II.

I’m proud of our defense this weekend. I’m proud of our team and our student body, and the way that they came together at the end of the game and started swaying arm in arm before the band even started playing the alma mater. I’m proud that Notre Dame is still a place where tradition and respect mean something. That even when your record is 5-2, playing for honor still means something.

It’s the old school way, just like Notre Dame and USC are old school.

  1. 1historian - Oct 22, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Good piece

  2. 4beav - Oct 22, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Agree. I always enjoy your perspective,,, USC letter be damned. 🙂

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