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Football and f���tbol

Pat Coveney | Thursday, December 9, 2010

I am lucky I was there.

Sunday afternoon, around 3 p.m., I stood on the field of WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. furiously snapping away with my Observer cameras as a Notre Dame team won a national championship. The fans went wild. “Let’s Go Irish” and “We Are ND” chants had been ringing out from the Notre Dame faithful for 90 minutes at decibel levels unmatched by the Stanford sections.

Mandy Laddish literally screamed for about three minutes straight. Lauren Fowlkes grabbed the trophy from her teammates and ran it around the pitch, smiling all the way. University President Fr. John Jenkins blessed the team. Head coach Randy Waldrum thanked me multiple times for making the trip to witness history. It was a scene of pure joy. It was a defining moment of my Notre Dame experience.

There is a rule governing media members covering sporting events that you cannot cheer for a certain team; you must be unbiased and objective while covering the event. Yeah … that didn’t happen. I wasn’t just a photographer, indeed I didn’t even feel like a witness. I felt a part of the celebration. These phenomenal athletes had not just won a championship for the soccer program. They had won a championship for Notre Dame. For our University. For us.

After one of the most hectic days of my life, I arrived back on campus shortly after 3:30 a.m. Sunday night. I think I was still smiling. Yet when I got around to talking to my friends about the game, my smile quickly faded. My enthusiasm for the win was tempered by the utter lack of interest I found among those I spoke with. There were the requisite jabs at women’s sports in general — “A JV boys middle school team could beat our women’s soccer team” — founded more in sexism than fact. And then there were the arguments that are perhaps unique only to Notre Dame — “Talk to me when our football team wins a national championship.”

Well, that’s a problem. You see, our football team is 7-5. We lost to Tulsa. We got absolutely punished by the Naval Academy, who followed up that stellar performance with a 31-34 loss to Duke, giving the Blue Devils their second win of the season. We are going to the glamorous location of El Paso, Texas for our bowl game. We are not the Notre Dame football of the 1980s. Or the 1970s. Or the 1940s.

But what we are is a great school, both academically and athletically. We need to recognize that Notre Dame is bigger than football. “We are Notre Dame” should not be a slogan reserved for autumn Saturdays. We are represented by some of the best athletic teams in the country, from men’s lacrosse to women’s basketball to — yes — women’s soccer, and we need to cheer our hearts out for all of them. So let’s show Mandy, Lauren, Melissa and Jessica the kind of love we show to Dayne, Manti, Kyle and Michael. Because we are all Notre Dame — and so are they.


The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Pat Coveney at [email protected]