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Great respect for great fans

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, October 27, 2005

One of the many reasons I’ve always been a Notre Dame fan is because we treat opposing fans with respect on the road and, most importantly, at home. While attending Notre Dame in the early 1990s, I had opportunity to visit several football stadiums across the country. The Super Dome in New Orleans, the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, West Lafayette, the Big House, Soldier Field (Northwestern), Heinz Field and Spartan Stadium to name a few. For the most part, they were great experiences, but sometimes the opposing fans were overly hostile (throwing food, swearing at women and children, Catholic-bashing), thus tarnishing the event.

Then there are Tennessee fans.

Last year my friends and I had the opportunity to visit Knoxville, Tenn., and watch the Irish upset the Vols in Neyland Stadium. From the moment we arrived in Knoxville, we were treated like friends by the Tennessee fans. You couldn’t walk five minutes without someone saying “Welcome to Knoxville” or “Thanks for playing Tennessee.” I was stunned by the hospitality. As the game was ending and Tennessee was sure to lose, several Tennessee fans shook my hand as they were leaving the stadium, having the class to say, “Thanks for coming to Tennessee. It was a great game.” At the Big House, they would whistle at your wife and call the Pope a heretic. Not only is watching a game in Neyland Stadium an awesome experience, but the courtesy of the fans made it an exceptional experience.

Tennessee fans are like Notre Dame fans – they love their team, and they love college football. Like us, they are truly first-class fans. Next weekend, I’m sure we’ll show them the same class and hospitality that they graciously bestowed upon us. After all, they may need it after Coach Weis and the guys rack up 50 points for another Fighting Irish victory.

Rob LethermanalumnusClass of 1993Oct. 26