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Tim McCarthy reflects on time with ND football

| Wednesday, April 22, 2015

“May I have your attention please. This is Tim McCarthy for the Indiana State Police.”

These words have characterized Notre Dame football since 1960, the year former Indiana State Police Sergeant Tim McCarthy began delivering safety messages between the third and fourth quarter of every home football game.

NDO2Courtesy of Tim McCarthy

McCarthy announced his retirement last Wednesday, after delivering 55 seasons’ worth of messages. But what really caught the crowd’s attention, McCarthy said, weren’t his messages, but his puns.

“When I first started doing the announcements, everybody was more concerned about having a good time, and what was going on at the game and so forth, and they really weren’t listening to the safety message,” McCarthy said. “And at that time, they were having quite a lot of trouble in Indiana with fatal accidents, just all kinds of really bad accidents. And a lot of those were to and from Notre Dame.

” … I thought you know, [the fans are] here for a weekend of fun, and they could care less about a state policeman telling them to be careful on the way home. I thought maybe if I attracted a little attention — so that was when I started using the quips, the very next season. Luckily, at that time, the stadium was unusually quiet because the referees were discussing something on the field … so I went in with a message. I did a warning on drinking and driving, and the punch line was, ‘the automobile replaced the horse, but the driver should stay on the wagon.’ And the crowd heard that, and I heard boos and groans and catcalls.”

But a negative reaction was better than no reaction, McCarthy said. That meant people were listening. So he continued with his quips.

“The next game I did another quip — it was on driver attitude, and the punch line was ‘some drivers are like steel, no good when they lose their temper,’” McCarthy said. “And gee, more boos and groans and so forth. But toward the end of the season, I started to realize that people were quiet just to hear how corny — and I’m the first one to admit they’re quite corny, many of them — but just to see how corny [the punch line] is. From there I just continued, and it got to the point where people were looking forward to hearing the quip that I had at the end of the message. And in the meantime, they’re listening to the message, which deals with their personal safety.”

McCarthy, who grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, said he was “born and raised a Notre Dame fan.” His life was also characterized by police work. McCarthy’s father was a city policeman in Fort Wayne.

“I just kind of grew up liking police work,” McCarthy said. “It always kind of fascinated me because of my father. So eventually, that’s how I ended up on the state police.

McCarthy’s wife was also a police officer — they met at a manslaughter trial in 1956, McCarthy said.

“I was a young trooper, single,” he said. “I had arrested a fellow for manslaughter, and she happened, at that time, to be working for the county clerk’s office and would walk into the court room to have the judge sign papers. … And I got the prosecutor to introduce me to her. Later on I called her up for a date, and we started from there.”

For years, McCarthy’s announcements at football games were a “hobby” while he worked as a detective sergeant at the Indiana State Police. But when McCarthy retired from the state police, he continued to deliver safety messages at football games.

“The one thing I didn’t like about retiring from the state police was that I’d have to leave Notre Dame,” McCarthy said. “But then Moose Kraus, who was athletic director — I told him I was retiring from the state police, and he said, ‘Hey, we’d like to have you keep doing this.’ And I said, ‘Hey that’s fine with me.’ So that’s why I’ve been there so long.”

McCarthy can quote many of his quips from memory — he said two of his favorites were, “drinking drivers are not very funny, but they can still crack you up” and “remember, do not let your driving make you grumpy or dopey when the roads are snow white.”

McCarthy said writing the punch lines to his messages was a gradual process — he was always on the lookout for a new play on words. Sometimes, though, he did get a little help.

“I had some people send me some — I had Notre Dame students and some Saint Mary’s students send me different quips that they thought were good,” McCarthy said. “Some of them I could use, and some of them I didn’t dare use.”

McCarthy’s love for Notre Dame, and for Notre Dame students, is what kept him and his puns here so long, he said.

“I did it for so long because I liked doing it,” McCarthy said. “I liked the atmosphere over there on game day, and I’ve always been a Notre Dame fan. I really enjoyed working with the students on different occasions, attending some of their events was always a lot of fun. I just enjoyed it.”

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