Here’s an article that is going to get me excommunicated by a large segment of my family.
We can argue the pros and cons of the Second Vatican Council, we can pound the dining room table over the pros and cons of either the Democrat or Republican Party. But when it comes to Notre Dame football — well, now we’re talking serious stuff.
A bit of context: I have written before about one of my grandfathers, the Southern farmer. But my other grandfather, whom I never met as he passed away three years before I was born, was a second-generation Irish American from the Midwest. You couldn’t get further away from my other grandfather than James T. Brennan. He was an executive in a local company in St. Louis and retired to California for his health in the 1920s.
He attended Notre Dame, but graduated from the University of Illinois, and from everything I have ever heard about him, there was only one university worth a dime and only one football team to root for, and it wasn’t the University of Illinois.
A quick family lore story for some perspective, again way way before my time. My father bought the family’s first television set in the early 1950s and when he brought it home, his father, my grandfather, who our family lived with, berated him for wasting his money on such a gimmick. He refused to look at the thing, but when he heard the sounds of a Notre Dame football game broadcast, suddenly my grandfather never had another issue with the economic validity of purchasing a television set.
Growing up in a Catholic household in Los Angeles in the 1960s was a lot like growing up in the 1950s, especially as it relates to being a Notre Dame fan. It was almost as much a part of our Catholic life as our baptismal certificates. When I was in grade school and encountered kids who did not share my love for Notre Dame, I thought they were somehow not quite authentic Catholics, teetering close to some kind of heretical ledge.
Notre Dame provided the role of the “good guys,” and other schools, especially a certain school I can only identify by its initials (USC), were constant sources of villainy and skullduggery. The Irish Catholic coach of USC at that time, John McKay, was viewed within our household as nothing short of a traitor, and those were the nice words tossed in his direction.
I will save a lot of reputations by not recounting in explicit detail about my first ever Notre Dame/USC football game in 1966, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. Let’s just say every time Tommy Trojan rode by on his white horse Traveler, the Knights were not very knightly.
I should have seen this coming; St. Paul cautions us about putting away the things of our childhood and my time has come to put Notre Dame away in a manner of speaking. The reality is that Notre Dame was and is like any other institution, run by human beings and prone to error. It was probably never the bulwark of Catholicity in America we held it to be for so long in our imaginations.
One of its most famous football legends, the mythical George Gipp (“The Gipper”), seems to be more an inveterate gambler with a penchant for sports, billiards, and poker, but not so much for the interior of a college classroom.
More seriously, much more seriously, Notre Dame saw fit to honor a U.S. president and other notables who were unyielding in their wholesale support of abortion in this country. And if Joe Biden becomes the second Catholic elected to the highest office in the land, I am almost positive he, too, will be honored by Notre Dame, if past experience is any predictor; and a man who supports abortion anytime, anyplace, and for any reason, will get a rousing ovation from faculty and student body alike.
If such a scenario comes to pass, Notre Dame and I will have to part company. I can find other college football teams to apply unrealistic expectations on, and make believe that what is transpiring on any given Saturday on a football field has some kind of deeper meaning. I will probably still watch my share of Notre Dame games; they are a network favorite and it’s almost impossible not to watch them.
But if indeed another pro-abortion U.S. president or other pro-abortion Catholic of note receives more honors from Notre Dame in the future, I’m taking the Little Sisters of the Poor and the points.