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The first last

Observer Viewpoint | Friday, November 18, 2005

It all began for me in the fall of ’86. Some of the details may be a little fuzzy considering that I was not yet two, but that was when I first came to South Bend for a Notre Dame game. From what I am told, we arrived in the “Bus of Fun,” – an RV that was green and played the Fight Song when you honked the horn. You better believe I was one of those little girls dressed in the Notre Dame cheerleaders’ uniform.

Since that first time in 1986, I have always made it down to Notre Dame for football season. I remember being 7 years old with a broken leg and having to go in a wheel chair because it was too long of a walk to the stadium. When I was 8 we had front row seats and the Leprechaun came over to talk to me. The lady behind me asked what we talked about and I replied, “I wasn’t listening to him. He had really bad breath.” Sometimes when it was too cold to tailgate outside we’d go to the Morris Inn. My brother and I often got in trouble for playing football down the halls.

While my first few years were mostly spent watching the cheerleaders and begging to go to the bookstore rather than appreciating the action on the field, I’ve always had very fond memories of football season.

It was not until I was a teenager that I really enjoyed coming down for the game itself. Once I was in high school my older brother and his friends would sneak me into the student section. It was once I experienced a game from those seats that I knew I had to be a part of the Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame community. By my senior of high school year I pretty much knew I would be in South Bend the following fall (I was just waiting for that letter to confirm it). The last home game rolled around in 2001 and the student section put their arms around each other to sing the Alma Mater. My brother’s friend said to me, “Get up here, Moll! You better sing too since you will be here with us next year.” I could hardly wait to be a student.

That first football season was so much fun. To be in the student section (legitimately) and be a part of the push-ups and jigs was great. In 2002 up until we played Boston College we were undefeated. Though now we know that it was mostly pure luck, it was sure fun while it lasted. We traveled down to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl as true fans do when your team makes it a bowl game. Although we were disappointed with the loss, as a student I could never have regretted going.

It seems as though my sophomore and junior football seasons kind of blur together. While the tailgating was excellent, I cannot say the same for the team. Still week in and week out we would trek over from Saint Mary’s to partake in the typical game day festivities. Even though we often found ourselves saddened by the losses, we still loved football Saturday’s and cheering on the Irish (did I mention the tailgating?).

Perhaps I am just being nostalgic, but I think that this has been the best football season I can ever remember. Thanks to Charlie Weis’s influence on the team we are actually good. The tailgating is even better now that my friends and I are legal. Each weekend the weather seems to be lovelier than the last. Sadly, it seems that every weekend someone’s parents has to remind us that we are seniors and this will all be over soon.

I can hardly believe our last home game as seniors has come. Having always been a fan, I know this is not the end of my days of cheering for the Irish. While I have seen many seasons come and go without even a blink of the eye, this one seems to be ending in tears. I cannot even say that this is a bittersweet moment – it’s simply sad. It seems as though this is beginning of the end. Our first of many “lasts” to come. Some of us will be lucky enough to come back several times a year to the games. Others may just make it back to a few more games in their lifetimes. Either way, it will never be the same – from tomorrow on we will be like the others who come to South Bend on weekends and relive their glory days of college. This is the last time we get to sit with all of our friends and be surrounded by our fellow classmates. This is the last time we’ll stand for the entire game and put each other up for push-ups. It’s the last time we will get to applaud the team once the game is over and sing the Fight Song and Alma Mater all together.

It’s not that I mean to make us all depressed about the inevitable, it is just to say that we should make this weekend even more memorable. Get into the game a little early to see the team come out of the tunnel. Go up for push-ups and do the jig. Stay for the entire game no matter how cold and wet you may be. When we sing the Alma Mater, it’s okay to shed a few tears. Though it may be our last game as students, this is not goodbye quite yet. To all my fellow seniors, here’s to a great last game. Go Irish!

Molly Acker is a senior communication and humanistic studies double major at Saint Mary’s. She can be contacted at acke6758@saintmarys.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Ovserver.