This afternoon I went to parent-teacher conferences at Little Brother's school.
He's earned all A's, so I wasn't worried too much about his grades. But I figured it was my parental duty to put in an appearance, and it would be a good time to touch base with his teacher about his emotional health, given the disruptions of the past few weeks. She's aware of most of them, and assured me that he's been fine at school.
My parents are staunch members of the "Fighting Irish Subway Alumni." Both devout fans of Notre Dame (but alums of Seton Hall), they were pleased when I applied to graduate school there.
I was accepted at ND, Purdue and SUNY Binghamton. Clearly I was not basing my choice of university on "balmy winter climate." (What WAS I thinking back in 1986?)
Once the acceptance letters came in, my dad informed me that I would be going to Notre Dame. That was that. I'd gotten in at his dream school, apparently.
I showed up on the campus of Notre Dame in August of 1987, never having seen a football game--ANY football game--in my life. One of my roommates was a band assistant. All three of my roommates were horrified that here I was at Notre Dame and I knew nothing of football and didn't even care. I do like bands, though, so they insisted that I watch the games on our tiny TV so I could see the band.
I attended one game (ND vs Navy on Halloween of 1987.) The Irish won, 56-13. No, I didn't remember the score--I just looked it up. I remember that they won; that one of my non-band roommates was at the game too, very patiently explaining what a "first down" was; that in the student section, no one sat during the game. We all stood on the bleachers the whole time.
It was great.
25 years later, I still prefer basketball and there are still football rules I don't get, though I do understand "first down" now. But I taught my kids early (and often) that in my football world, it's Notre Dame vs. "The Bad Guys." I never actually said that, but that's what Big Brother took away from it when he was four or five. Let's just say I never bothered to correct that assumption.
Until Little Brother started moonlighting as Mr. SportsCenter, I never even paid attention to other schools' teams. But this kid is a walking, talking sports encyclopedia who inhales football (and soccer) trivia like it's oxygen. He knows who's ranked where, what teams have injured QBs and who's favored to win next week's matchups. I, on the other hand, know that Notre Dame home games are on NBC.
I've enjoyed this football season immensely so far and look forward to this weekend's game. I might even stay up late to watch the whole thing.
After all, I have earned the right to be a fan. I've stuck with my team during the bad years, and I'm going to relish this one.