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Tales of the Rail

Katie Perry | Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I took the 11-hour overnight Amtrak #48 train home to Syracuse for fall break.

When daylight broke through the window after a long night of tossing and turning, I went to the dining car for coffee and an impromptu lesson in the pervasiveness of Notre Dame football.

“Mind if I join you?” an elderly man asked as he took a seat across from another man of comparable age with large wire-rimmed glasses.

“You’ll have to speak louder – hard of hearing,” he said.

“Mind if I join you?”

The man with the wire-rimmed glasses nodded as he gazed out the window.

“I’ve never been a fan of upstate,” he said as we sped away from the Buffalo station. “I’m from the city – New York that is.”

“Well you must be quite the mover,” his new friend said with a grin.

“If that were the case I wouldn’t get mugged so often,” the man with the wire-rimmed glasses said.

“Maybe it’s time to relocate to someplace safer,” suggested the other man.

“Oh no I couldn’t. I’ve never lived anywhere else.”

“New York is not such a bad place to be stuck,” the other man said.

“I’ll drink to that,” the man with the wire-rimmed glasses said. “I’ll drink to anything. On third thought, I’ll drink anything – and it tastes better when someone else picks up the tab!”

“I’ve heard that one before,” the man replied.

“Well pin a rose on your nose,” the man with the wire-rimmed glasses said as he reached for the newspaper and thumbed through to the sports section.

“Hey, Notre Dame,” he shouted across the aisle to me.

I put my coffee down and looked up. Either my sweatshirt and baseball cap gave me away, or he was one of the 50 people in my car who wanted to throw me onto the tracks at 4:30 a.m. after an unfortunate “bag shift” set off my singing ND keychain.

“Tough loss kid, but no reason to hang your head,” he said. “To tell you the truth, I never thought I’d see the return of Irish football – not like this at least.”

The other agreed and the two men spent the next hour gushing over do-you-remember-when’s and how-about-that-season’s. They were immediately lost in a sea of nostalgia.

It’s then I realized how much Notre Dame football is about history and tradition. It’s about something so universal and so American that it gives apple pie and Jimmy Stewart a run for their money.

“It’s good to be back, ain’t it kid?” the man in the wire-rimmed glasses said.

I smiled and handed him my musical keychain. Suddenly, the fight song filled up the cabin as we chugged toward New York – although still very much in a South Bend state of mind.