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A note of respect from a Navy alum

Lettor to the Editor: Joe Rainey | Wednesday, November 7, 2007

After watching as my alma mater, the Naval Academy, lost for the 43rd consecutive time to Notre Dame last year, after watching as Brady Quinn, coach Charlie Weis and all Notre Dame players, students and fans showed genuine respect for the Navy team and students with their post-game comments and quiet, side-by-side observation of the singing of the “Navy Blue and Gold,” and after reading the fine editorial by a Notre Dame student in this very publication about how Notre Dame “gets it” when it comes to the “beyond football” significance of this storied, on field rivalry: I was so moved that I had to write and thank the student, and all of Notre Dame, for their admirable, classy behavior that went way beyond sportsmanship.

After finally witnessing something I thought I might not see in my lifetime – Navy’s victory last Saturday over Notre Dame – I naturally felt the joy and relief of finally, at long last, experiencing victory over the school that is the yardstick of college football greatness. I popped a bottle of champagne and called several of my fellow Academy alums to joke that “the streak lives … every time my family has a three-year-old boy, Navy beats Notre Dame.” I was three in 1963, and my son (who, by the way, loves “Rudy”) is now three.

But after a brief celebration of something I had waited 44 years to see, I quickly returned to the realization that, what had seemed really important to me only three hours earlier (a victory over Notre Dame), was no longer as significant to me as the fact that the same post-game respect and genuine class emanated from all over Notre Dame Stadium as had after any of the 43 previous victories. I was not so much surprised by this, just more or less overwhelmed that, the feeling of victory I had awaited for so long, was dwarfed by the realization that, once the game was over and won, what really stuck was my enduring admiration and respect for all that is embodied by both the Naval Academy and the University of Notre Dame.

What word describes what I witnessed from the people of Notre Dame after a week during which they had buried the brother of a player, and after a day during which they lost not only a hard-fought football game, but a fine young alum and promising marathoner? I can’t think of a single word that describes that type of character, integrity and class. I guess it takes two, Notre Dame. I want to offer my condolences to the Notre Dame family, but also congratulate and thank each and every student at this great school once again. Though the team is having a down year, you will win many more football games and national championships in the very near future under your great coach, Charlie Weis, and with your trove of talented student-athletes.

Right now, you may be hurting from your on-field and, more importantly, off-field losses, but you should all be very proud of who you are, where you are and how you are perceived by outsiders like me. You are at a truly great institution that is only that way because it reflects the values and character of the people – you, the students, coaches, faculty and alumni – who ARE the University of Notre Dame bring to it. Enjoy every moment you are there and know there are probably millions of us out here that are not your parents or family, but are also very proud of who and what you are. Thanks and best wishes.

Joe Rainey

Naval Academy alumnus

Class of 1982

Nov. 6