Strike up the Bands

My son (AKA My Favorite Domer) departed yesterday.

For Miami/Ft. Lauderdale.

The BCS National Championship football game.

Notre Dame vs. Alabama.

Monday, Jan. 7, 8 p.m. EST, televised on ESPN.

He was excited. And a tad nervous. After all, he’s never been to Miami before. Never participated in a National Championship game.

And doesn’t particularly like to fly.

Especially the taking-off part.

But he looked all spiffy in his Band “traveling clothes” — collared shirt, nice jeans, dress shoes.

Dress shoes, I asked. In Miami?

C’mon, Mom, it’s the BAND, he told me. We don’t want to embarrass the University.

Or the BAND.

Well, okay. There is that.

So I put him on a plane after a big hug and made him promise to not “be a stranger.”

In other words, to let me know every once in awhile that he’s alive.

And well. And safe.

Who’d have thought, back at the beginning of this season when the pundits were talking up everybody but Notre Dame and the Irish were struggling to eke out wins, that the Fighting Irish would be where they are?

With a perfect 12-0 record.

Going up against the SEC’s Big Boy, ‘Bama?

With its “Million Dollar Band”?

Should be a great game.

But don’t be surprised if it’s the BANDS who put up the biggest fight!

Halftime Show, ND Band

What? A second post? In one day?

Yep. For those who didn’t get to see the Notre Dame Band during halftime of Saturday night’s game at Chicago’s Soldier Field versus Miami, here’s the video.

Now don’t even ask me which one Domer is because no way could I say!


Maybe I’m a Good-Luck Charm

ND 31, MSU 13

Somebody needs to tell Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly that I’m his team’s Good Luck Charm.


And he should think about providing me with a season pass — sidelines would be good — for as long as my charming ways continue.

Which could be forever.

Not convinced? Okay, let’s look at the facts:

  • The Record. Going into this game, the Fighting Irish were 0-2, after being nationally ranked prior to the season’s start. The Spartans of Michigan State University were 2-0. Logic tells me MSU should have won, but the Irish pulled out a convincing 31-13 victory. Because I was there!
  • The Weather. Two weeks ago, Notre Dame’s initial home game was caught in a series of wicked storms, causing the game to be rain-delayed, twice. But this Saturday’s weather was perfect — sunny and pleasant — all because I showed up!
  • The Band. The Band of the Fighting Irish couldn’t take to the field for their first home game, due to inclement weather. Ostensibly, this meant that long hard hours of marching and playing were flushed down the drain. But because I was there, the Band performed that halftime show post-game, letting fans see what they missed and giving music-lovers two halftime shows!
  • Turnovers. Notre Dame led the nation in its first two games with 10 turnovers — yikes. You can’t win football games like that. So, thanks to my presence on Saturday, the turnovers were limited to just three (still too many, but hey, I did what I could!)
  • Fake Field Goal. Last year, MSU’s fake field goal play caught the Irish by surprise and sent the game into overtime, where the Spartans were victorious. They tried again on Saturday, but this time the Irish were ready and foiled the attempt. Because I was there!

So Coach Kelly, if you’re reading this, please rest assured it was my Good-Luck Charm presence that led to your practically perfect outcome on Saturday.

And I think I could handle a reward in the way of some freebie tickets. That sounds fair, doesn’t it?

Okay, maybe I had a little help from former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was back at her ND alma mater for the same weekend.

She can share the glory. I’ll stick with the free tickets!

Conquering Fear, Notre Dame Football Recap

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”

A week ago, Eleanor’s thoughts never crossed my mind. I was too busy fretting — worrying whether there would be heavy traffic on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, worrying if My Favorite Domer would have time between all his Band and class activities to pick up the “winter woolies” I was bringing him, worrying where I could park my car during the football game, worrying whether I could find my seat in such a big stadium, worrying if I could stand being in a crowd of thousands, worrying whether I’d brought the right clothes. . . .

Worry, they say, is like a rocking chair — gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.

Logically I knew that. Knew I was a mess. Knew I wasn’t trusting my own good instincts.

Emotionally I didn’t care.

I was hanging onto my worries and my fears, doggone it, and don’t even try to convince me otherwise!

How silly.

I left early Friday morning, beating most of the other travelers to my destination. MFD and I hauled coats, jeans, hoodies, etc. to his dorm between classes. And I got to enjoy some of his Band practices.

Piece of cake.

That gave me courage to tackle Saturday.

Again, I left the hotel early and found just the right parking spot. Skies were partly cloudy, temps were cool but I had a jacket.

I toured campus. Took lots of photos. Talked to other visitors and parents. Found an usher in the Stadium to direct me to my seat. Got to yell and scream and jump to my feet without feeling like a weirdo. And enjoyed a candlelight birthday dinner with MFD after the game.

It couldn’t have been more perfect!

As Notre Dame takes to the field this afternoon for their match-up against Michigan, I’ll be there in spirit. One of legions of fans bound together by tradition, loyalty, and love.

You’ll recognize me — I’ll be the one with misty eyes when I hear the beloved songs again, the one on my feet yelling (at the TV set) with the other fans, the one wishing I could be there in person, the one confident I will be for future games.


Sights from Notre Dame

Everybody knows “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

The “wordsmith” in me doesn’t particularly like that statement, but I’m realistic enough to know it’s probably a tru-ism. With that in mind, I’m sharing some of my favorite photos from my weekend at Notre Dame. Enjoy!

The Band of the Fighting Irish during march-out Friday afternoon

National Championship banners line the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium

The Grotto for prayer and reflection

Bagpipe Band serenades campus

Some of the estimated 81,000 in attendance

Irish practice scrimmage before the game vs. Purdue

Students doing pushups after the Irish score some points

Post-game, football team faces student section and sings the Alma Mater

Tomorrow, I’ll add to this Memory Book from my first-of-many Notre Dame weekends to come!

Sounds from Notre Dame

Okay, I know most people would write about “sights” first, but I’ve always liked shaking things up a bit!

From the peace and calm of the Basilica and the Grotto to the wail of sirens, the screams of fans, and the blare of the Band, Notre Dame is a sea of sounds over a home football weekend.

  • The Grotto. How many universities in this country have their very own “prayer-place” where the silence weighs heavily despite the throngs nearby?
  • The Basilica. Commonly referred to as the “wedding factory” because of the sheer volume of weddings it hosts (never on football Saturdays, though!), the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is where the entire football team and coaching staff go — clad in suits and ties — before home games.
  • St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Lakes. Complete with a real swimming swan, no less.
  • The circle. Plenty of benches to rest you, fat squirrels to entertain you, shade to cool you (but, with temps hovering in the 50s and 60s, that certainly wasn’t necessary!)
  • Campus tours. Led by students who walk backwards while carrying on a running commentary, these are a great way to see campus and hear some interesting tidbits of the past and the present.
  • Bagpipe Band. Comprised of kilt-wearing students, this group parades around campus playing bagpipes and drums; they also hold a short concert on the morning of a home game.
  • Band of the Fighting Irish. Approximately 400-strong, this group is the heart and spirit of the University! Some of their traditions for football weekends include Trumpets in the Dome, a Concert on the Steps of the architecture building, march-outs around campus, as well as pregame, half-time, and post-game performances.
  • Clarke Memorial Fountain. AKA ‘Stonehenge,’ this limestone fountain features water splashing into a black granite pool; no matter the temps, you can find swimsuit-clad students (mostly males) with immense plastic blow-up rafts and other water toys awaiting the Band’s arrival and cheering wildly.
  • Leprechaun. Yes, a student chosen as the green-suited, acrobatic leprechaun to help the cheerleaders keep the noise pulsating before, during, and after games.
  • Fans. Dads playing an impromptu game of catch with their young sons, moms helping paint their daughters’ fingernails alternating colors of navy and gold, students running to and fro chattering excitedly, fans of the opposing team arriving and people actually being polite and nice to the visitors.
  • The Stadium. You just can’t help hearing “the Echos” of past generations in tradition-rich cheers, chants, and ceremonies — the blessing the players receive in the tunnel before the game, the singing of “America the Beautiful,” the raising of the American Flag, the playing of numerous school songs, and the singing of the Alma Mater at the conclusion, when the entire football team proceeds to the student section, links arms, and sways from side to side!

I’ll continue reminiscing tomorrow!

Just a tiny suggestion…

It’s traditional for the Notre Dame Band to play the Alma Mater for students and the team after a home football game.

Students link arms and sway while singing, the alumni get teary-eyed, and the team members remove helmets and proceed to the student section, where they join in the song.

It’s unfortunate this tradition can’t be continued during away games.

I understand that the cost of transporting some 400 Band members, plus their instruments and uniforms, to every away game would be prohibitive. But how about sending a trio of trumpet players (or even one?) That way, those students and alumni attending the game, along with the team, could still enjoy a bit of tradition even far from home.

After all, the cheerleaders and leprechaun accompany the team to away games. Why not let one Band kid? It would be an honor to represent the University and the Band — perhaps it could be a rotating honor among senior students — and it could serve as a recruitment tool, too.

Obviously, one person can’t put on a halftime show or even provide sufficient sound from the sidelines to overcome stadium noise. Nor can we expect an opposing team’s band to play Notre Dame’s songs with the same passion as our musicians. But wouldn’t it be grand hearing a trio of Band members harmonizing, or even a solitary trumpet playing, the haunting tune to “Notre Dame, Our Mother?”

At Notre Dame, there’s cohesion among the students, the team, and the alumni. What better way to provide continuity of tradition than to send even a tiny part of the Band to away games?

Music for Writing

My Favorite Domer finally sent me a belated birthday present, and I couldn’t be happier!

It’s a CD from the Band of the Fighting Irish for the 2003 season, and besides including all the favorites — the Victory March, the Alma Mater, Damsha Bua (the Victory Clog), and Hike Notre Dame, to name just a few — it has a little jazz (Birdland), some rock (Bohemian Rhapsody), some oldies (Saturday in the Park), classical (1812 Overture), and whimsical (Mario Medley).

As someone who spends a lot of time at my computer, I really appreciate being able to choose different styles of music to listen to. When I’m doing Web Design, I find myself tuning in to rock, usually something with lyrics (especially those I can sing along with!). I find it helps me focus (especially if I’m just doing routine maintenance on a site I’ve created!). But no way can I write fiction with somebody singing — too many words, and I’ve lost all track of my storyline!

So instrumental music becomes my primary companion when I write (and re-write). I often opt for classical — Mozart is a perennial favorite — and I have a stack of CDs and an MP3 loaded with hours of background music. In addition, MFD has compiled numerous CDs for me (“writing music,” he calls it) — everything from hard and soft rock (no lyrics!) to movies themes, piano and other instrumental selections.

One of my writing buddies is the exact opposite. She can’t write with any music in the background (she calls it “noise”). I wonder if it’s true that one person’s “noise” is another person’s “music?”  Whatever, I find it distracting to listen to things like the pipes creaking, branches scraping the gutter, and even owls hooting — must be because I write suspense fiction!

How about other writers out in blog-land? What’s your pleasure — music or silence? And, if music, what type?


ND @ San Antonio

How exciting! Notre Dame plays Washington State at a neutral location tomorrow, so the Fighting Irish are in San Antonio, Texas, for the action. Of course, the Band is there, too, lending musical (and moral) support for the team, as well as performing locally for alumni and the public.

Somebody did a fantastic job planning the Band’s itinerary;  it must have been a logistical nightmare getting 400-some Band members and their equipment from South Bend to San Antonio. They’ll perform at a Pep Rally this evening, do a concert tomorrow afternoon, then take the field for Pregame, Halftime, and Post-game performances on Saturday evening.

Since My Favorite Domer is also in the Band, he got to go along on the trip (his first flight!). As much as I’ve flown in my life (East Coast to West, North to South), and as much as I love flying, it’s still a little nerve-wracking to have your kid 40,000 feet or so above the Earth. But my parents couldn’t protect me when I was on a plane any more than I can protect MFD. It’s really a “leap of faith” that we parents must take, letting our kids grow up a little step at a time. But better that than tossing them to the wind in one fell swoop!

One thing these kids are sure to notice — the weather! San Antonio is expected to be sunny with temps in the upper 70s on Saturday, while South Bend will be in the low 50s, windy, and partly cloudy. Bet that sunshine will feel good after the cool Fall we Midwesterners have seen this year!