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A knight’s tale

Chris Allen | Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We all know the type: Born humming the Notre Dame Victory March, parents who met at Notre Dame, been attending football games at Notre Dame Stadium since they were a toddler. Certainly a healthy portion of the student body right now can claim Notre Dame as less of a college choice and more of a family tradition.

I’m not that guy.

That’s not to say I don’t have a family tradition when it comes to higher education; however, my family’s mascot of choice wears a suit of armor rather than a green blazer and wields a knight’s sword in favor of a shillelagh. In lieu of the Victory March, I was immersed in “The Bells Must Ring” as family members wore scarlet red sweaters that bore the word: Rutgers. The state university of my home state, New Jersey, with its main campus a mere five-minute drive down the road, and a fixture in my life since before I could talk. When high school ended, and it came time to choose a collegiate home, the school I grew up loving lost out: Notre Dame offered me a level of opportunity that I could not turn down. I had a new love, and Rutgers was relegated to ‘second-best’ status.

It is plainly obvious to me that my situation is extremely common — and that not everyone here is a Notre Dame lifer. Among my quad-mates alone, there are strong allegiances to Ohio State, UCLA and Texas. I recall my roommate’s complete mental breakdown as Notre Dame and UCLA battled in basketball in December 2009 as he watched two teams he loved try to destroy each other.

Sunday was then — for me — the equivalent experience of my roommate’s day of emotional torment, as our men’s basketball team battled Rutgers at the Purcell Pavilion in a game the Irish won 76-69. Walking to the arena, I didn’t know how I would feel. Rutgers basketball was perhaps the team I held closest to my heart out of all the Scarlet Knights programs. I attended a huge chunk of the team’s home games in courtside seats for more than a decade with my late grandfather, who was the biggest fan of them all — the Knights basketball team was ironically the last thing I ever spoke to him about.

When the teams walked out on the court though, my internal allegiances felt clear. This was a Notre Dame team I was invested in, players I go to school with, colors that are becoming a part of me. I felt little for this Rutgers — a new coach, new players, uniforms that seemed design solely to purge the memory of the teams I loved.

Perhaps this is how those of us who love other schools in addition to Notre Dame should look at these situations: on Sunday, there is no doubt who represented me on the court. One side represented all that was, another all that is in my life. I was born and raised in Scarlet and Black, but I am firmly Irish. And I think that’s okay.

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

Contact Chris Allen at [email protected]