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Words from a convert

Sofia Ballon | Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No, Notre Dame did not motivate me to convert to Catholicism – since I was born and raised one – but it did make me change my stance on football. Coming from Latin America, soccer has always been “the king sport” in my mind. I grew up watching games on TV, going to matches, playing and talking about it with friends.

Coming to Notre Dame I soon learned everything here was about American football, which I knew nothing about. I remember, at my first game, looking at the timer showing 15:00 and thinking the game would be pretty fast compared to soccer’s 45 minute halves. Was I in for a surprise! When those supposed 15 minutes had taken an hour to pass by, I realized this was an entire day’s event. You can imagine I didn’t understand much of what was happening on the field either, so throughout the game I kept imitating students around me; cheering when they cheered, booing when they booed.

Now, as a senior, football is totally different for me. I finally understand what’s going on, but most importantly I share with the Notre Dame family the emotions that are brought about with every game.

I’ve had the opportunity to watch games from the sidelines, taking pictures for The Observer. I was at Ann Arbor less than two weeks ago and as I was putting the camera and lenses away when the game was over, the entire football team began running in my direction because there was a large crowd of Irish fans in the stands right above me. I admit part of me feared for my life and the equipment as the players ran and jumped around me, but it was amazing to see up close the happiness in the team’s faces, the pride in their achievement – since we hadn’t beat Michigan at the Big House since the early 90s – and most importantly their eagerness to show the fans this victory was for them.

Being in the student section is quite an experience as well. Beginning by tailgating as early as breakfast, continuing to make one’s way into the stadium, rooting for the Irish at the top of your lungs, being carried in the air celebrating a touchdown with push-ups, enjoying the band’s fantastic performance during half-time, and finally – regardless of the outcome – joining with those around you to sing the Alma Mater, proves that at the end of the day’s event we acknowledge the importance of being here and being part of this family.

I do hope for more moments comparable to the win at Michigan for this season, but the Notre Dame spirit helps me bear with the losses.

In regards to my conversion, I am still a soccer fanatic, but my time here has gotten me to love football as well.