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Spirit alive despite finger pointing

Frank LaGrotta | Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In the midst of investigations and allegations and finger-pointing and blame, the Notre Dame family gathered at Sacred Heart Church in a very real demonstration of what Notre Dame is all about.

Sure, the Notre Dame haters will say the place is all about football and money and NBC’s weekly paychecks to the bean counters under the Golden Dome.

And maybe in a way it is.

And they will accuse the football coaching staff of not exercising good judgement when they did not bring Declan Sullivan off the scissor lift when the winds kicked up.

And clearly they did not.

And they will laugh at all the lawyers who will conspire to make a mint in fees from the lawsuits that inevitably will be filed.

And they will.

But the students, the family that is Notre Dame, will see none of this. Lost in this adult-sized maelstrom will be the students — Notre Dame’s sons and daughters, the ones that gathered as a family at the Sacred Heart church to celebrate Declan’s life.

Now certainly, such a gathering is not unique to Notre Dame. It happens in other places during other times of loss. However, what is unique is the familial spirit that binds Notre Dame students and alumni and subway alumni — all the people who love the place, many of whom can’t even explain why.

Many of the kids who gathered — especially the ones who didn’t know Declan — felt sad in a way they didn’t understand. After all, Declan wasn’t their son or their brother or even their friend.

However, as every Notre Dame student and alumni knows, he was all of those things and, in a special way, perhaps more.

You see, this is the real spirit of Notre Dame — the one we sing about in the Victory March and honor in the Alma Mater. It is intangible. It is inexplicable. And it binds the sons and daughters of Notre Dame together as much as any family or friendship.

It is this spirit that makes all of us who never knew Declan Sullivan shed tears at his tragic passing.

It is this spirit that the students will cling to when they go home for breaks and are asked by people about “the kid who died filming the football team.”

It is what they will remember long after they leave Notre Dame.

And it is most likely the reason that a young man named Declan Sullivan brought his dreams and committed his heart to this special place we lovingly call Notre Dame.


Frank LaGrotta


Class of 1980, 1981

Oct. 29