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Nowhere else but Notre Dame

Joe Hettler | Thursday, August 21, 2003

There are several places to worship on Notre Dame’s campus – in the dorm chapels, at the Basilica and inside Notre Dame Stadium. It’s at these cherished grounds that Notre Dame’s student body gives thanks to their saviors – Jesus Christ and Knute Rockne.From Notre Dame’s first football game – a loss to Michigan in 1887 – Irish fans have been obsessed with the pigskin. This is a place where the forward pass and four guys on horses became part of college football history. A place where opponents enter as No. 1 but leave with dashed hopes and a blemished record. A place where football means more than a 100-yard field and two goal posts – it means tradition.Just look around campus and you’ll see how football has meshed itself into many aspects of Notre Dame.The library’s mural was supposed to depict the Word of Life, with Jesus teaching his disciples on the 132-foot building. But when Notre Dame students looked at the mural, with a huge picture of J.C. and his hands raised, facing the end zone of Notre Dame Stadium, it became too clear – The Savior of the World also did a side gig as a referee. Hence, “Touchdown Jesus” was born. Jesus isn’t the only Biblical figure that has roots for the Irish. Directly beside the library is a sculpture of Moses created by Josef Turkalj. The sculpture is supposed to be Moses chastising the Israelites who had fallen into idolatry in his absence. Therefore, Moses’ hand is pointed straight into the air to proclaim there is only one God. But the fact that he’s facing Notre Dame Stadium disproves this theory. Instead, Irish fans know what Moses is really proclaiming – Notre Dame is No. 1. Only at this place does a driving wind die down for Irish kickers (just ask Harry O). Only here can you find a priest calling for a fair-catch (Corby Hall) or see where Reggie Brooks caught the game-winning 2-point conversion in the famous “Snow Bowl” in ’92. And only here can you see the steps where George Gipp supposedly caught pneumonia (Washington Hall), inspiring Rockne’s timeless “Win one for the Gipper” speech.It’s here where you can walk between the Joyce Center and Notre Dame Stadium and take a picture with a man that didn’t lose a football game for more than four years. Or go across the street to sit beside Mr. Notre Dame himself, Moose Krause. Inside the Joyce Center, you’ll see the Walk of Fame with everything from bowl trophies to classic pictures.It’s here where dorms have tryouts and cuts for their respective interhall football teams. Where these teams play in full contact, usually have at least one coach and several referees at games and compete for a chance to play the championship game inside Notre Dame Stadium. Every Sunday, hundreds of students flock to the interhall fields to watch their friends and roommates knock each other around. Football is more than just football at Notre Dame. Even though the school didn’t invent the game, it has embraced it during the past 100 years. The game has become a significant chunk of its history. It’s made heroes out of 19-year old kids and 154-pound coaches that speak with a lisp (Lou). It’s changed the face of the University for the better. It’s become synonymous with the words Notre Dame.But with all this, we should still keep one thing in mind – God might not care who wins college football games on Saturdays, but His mother sure does.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.Contact Joe Hettler at jhettler@nd.edu