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Love lost

Claire Heininger | Monday, October 4, 2004

I’ve fallen out of love with Notre Dame football.

It didn’t happen all at once, of course. You can’t just go from adoration to apathy in a heartbeat. But as I strode out of the student section Saturday – at 11-something of the third quarter without an ounce of guilt – I knew my devotion was officially dead.

As I tried to wrap my mind around what went wrong, the potential turning points multiplied.

Maybe Return to Glory spoiled me freshman year, when the Irish started 8-0, when Ty was brand new and so was I.

So was everything.

Tailgating was a blur of overenthusiastic parents and unfamiliar parking lots, of spinach-artichoke dip and frostbite. The student section was bodies concentrated and bonding accelerated, and we forged unity through push-ups and pride.

Football and I got pretty close that year.

I bit my nails through the final minutes of the Michigan game, and continued chewing as we rushed the field. I tore off the Sports Illustrated cover, won $20 from my little brother and thought the bounces would always go our way.

My heart climbed the inside of my throat when the team charged the field at the Boston College game, boasting green that matched the sea in the stands. It crashed a few hours later, when the jerseys proved a jinx.

But love doesn’t fade because of familiarity, or die because of disappointment.

Maybe it goes deeper than that. Maybe the rift grew last year, when I was caught between my friends and my team.

No longer freshmen trying to out-cheer one another, we went to the opposite extreme – being too good for it all. We were sophisticated and there to socialize. Shamrock tattoos and green glitter? Always. The Shirt? Never.

It was mostly a facade.

I still checked the score. I still read the wraps. And since I made sure to nourish it in secret, my football love didn’t vanish because of neglect.

Maybe I just grew up.

Freshman year, two of my tallest, loudest friends invented the “Tyrone Shimmy,” and spread its popularity by virtue of their visibility and swagger. Now they’re on the Irish Guard.

Last year, we packed two belligerent, blissful rows with thirty of our closest friends. Now half of them are abroad.

But love gets better over time. You don’t exactly outgrow it. I was back to square one – why did my fanaticism become so fragile? Was it all of the above?

Then it hit me – I only have room for so many passions.

I’m passionate about writing, about journalism, about its mentality of “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I’m passionate about my family, my friends and my boyfriend. I’m passionate about Notre Dame, about its decisions, about its destiny. Somewhere along the line, football got edged out.

It’s not like I don’t still get a rush of excitement when the gold helmets glint from the mouth of the tunnel, or feel pangs of disillusionment at a frustrating fumble. But my heart and soul can only stretch so far.

My loves already compete. The Irish Jig just doesn’t compare.