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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

Peters: Ohio State is a peak on the never-ending climb of Notre Dame football

Notre Dame fans young and old celebrate at Carter-Finley Stadium during the 45-24 Irish defeat of NC State on Sep. 9, 2023.

Notre Dame football is a family affair for many. I’m fortunate to have that be the case for my family. My cousins and I are the fourth generation to attend Notre Dame.

Growing up in the Charlie Weis era and enduring the beginning of the Brian Kelly era, Notre Dame football elicits rather painful memories. My family would usually go to one game a year. But even with such a small sample size, I’ve witnessed some doozies.

There’s the quadruple overtime loss to Pitt in 2008. The next year, I saw the Irish lose to UConn in double overtime. The year after that, Notre Dame lost to Tulsa. A game that on the surface could have been fun for my family — quarterback Tommy Rees, who’s from the same town as me, plays in his first college game against the small school from the city my mom grew up in — capped a miserable three-year stretch of games to go to. 

So when I think of Notre Dame football and my family, the lows definitely come to mind. But the fact that people like my family are dumb enough to sit through those lows shows just how special it is. There’s a reason you drive over five hours roundtrip to South Bend to sit on metal bleachers in freezing weather just to watch Northwestern kick a game-winning field goal. Because at some point, you know there’s a chance of experiencing that moment where you jump up and down in your grandparents’ living room in Michigan when Notre Dame beats USC to clinch a spot in the BCS Championship.

But we don’t watch it because of those highs. We watch it because the thought of those highs and the tradition that comes with it brings us together. 

I've always heard about the national championships, Catholics vs. Convicts, the “Game of the Century.“ Heck, my dad took photos of that 1993 Florida State game for these very pages.

The November 15 edition of The Observer after No. 2 Notre Dame’s win over No. 1 Florida State.

Right now, we’re finally lucky enough to be experiencing one of those highs. I’ve seen enough Notre Dame football to know there’s a decent chance it’s short-lived. But no matter how long it lasts, we have to savor it. 

The build-up we’re experiencing right now is something fans of all but a dozen or so schools will never experience in their lives. Two of the biggest brands in sports facing off under the lights in the most iconic football stadium in the country.

In fact, most Notre Dame students never get to experience this. It’s not often your walk to class gets interrupted by the setup for ESPN’s College Gameday. In the 87 years of the AP Poll, this is the 37th game between top-10 teams inside Notre Dame Stadium. 

And while my class has already witnessed two of those, this is the first real one. The 2020 win over Clemson was special, but there were no fans other than students in the stadium, and Clemson rolled out a backup quarterback. The other one was a buy game against Cincinnati that we lost.

Considering the long ups and downs of Notre Dame football, we’re lucky to go to school here right now. Not only are we about to see a bona fide top-10 game at home. But the defensively pessimistic optimism that has plagued every big game since the Bush Push is gone. 

Notre Dame fans are experiencing genuine optimism and excitement for a big game. Call it the Sam Hartman effect. Or Hartmania.

Whether we lose 56-0 or win a nail-biter, what we’re experiencing right now is the peak of Notre Dame football. Well, it’s a peak. Because no matter how miserable it makes us, it will always be there for us.

My mom, younger brother and I at the 2015 Notre Dame-USC game.