I grew up hearing the story of a young quarterback named Joe Montana who heroically guided his Notre Dame Fighting Irish to a victory in the Cotton Bowl. The young Montana, despite being sick with the flu, returned to the game and led his team back from a 22 point deficit. As time ran out, Joe threw the winning touchdown pass, and the Irish defeated Houston, 35-34. It was because of Joe Montana, and that game, I became a Notre Dame fan.
I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to visit South Bend to see a game for myself, and when it happened, it was a dream come true. Driving from the airport to campus, I sat pressed against the door, my eyes peering out the window like an excited child. Then it appeared, like Oz, Notre Dame University.
It’s hard to put into words the beauty of the campus. The grass is green, the ground clean, and the buildings are magnificent. Walking from the classroom buildings to the bookstore, I imagined Joe Montana walking the same path. It was better then I imagined. Inside the bookstore I bought the nicest Notre Dame sweatshirt I could find. I had to make sure the souvenir would last a lifetime. Armed with the proper attire, it was off to the pep rally at the gym.
Packed in a gym full of students, you could feel the excitement. The football players were front in center, standing in their blazers and khakis. Of course Joe was long gone, and it was Ron Powlus that quarterbacked this Irish team. The only thing more exciting then the pep rally, was the game.
The weather on game day was perfect, and the parking lot was full of tailgaters. As we walked toward the stadium, the band was practicing. I walked quickly, anxious to be in the stadium Joe played in. We took our seats in the student section. There was cheering, and screaming before anyone even took the field. I sat quiet, looking around in amazement. I looked up at touchdown Jesus, and said a silent thank you for allowing me to be at the game.
Suddenly the stadium came alive as the band began to play, and the team ran onto the field. The noise seemed unattainable by humans. The game began, and Air Force led by Bo Morgan, was the better team that day. The Irish defense couldn’t stop the opponent, and Bo Morgan, played more like Bo Jackson that day.
Though the home team lost, the experience was still incredible. Many fans left the stadium disappointed that day, but not me. Being in South Bend Indiana, inside that stadium was enough for me. Besides, Joe Montana wasn’t available to come and lead the team back to victory.
I’ve unfortunately not been back to South Bend, but I hope someday to return. Though my sons are several years away from college, I keep suggesting Notre Dame. I’ve told them the story of Joe Montana, I’ll tell them a couple more times, and keep my fingers crossed. Two sons at Notre Dame would give me plenty of opportunities to see the Irish play. A mother can dream.