I'm not sure if it's known or not here on Block U, but I grew up a Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan. It was hard not to in my household because you were pretty much born into cheering for the Irish. That's what happens when you're Irish and Catholic in America, I guess.
My grandparents were big Irish fans. They indoctrinated me at a young age. I remember watching the Irish on television in my grandfather's den when I was a young kid. He was a big Utes and Aggies fan, as well, so he had enough love to share for these three programs.
Back then, though, Utah football wasn't very special. In fact, they had yet to really get rolling under Ron McBride. So while I followed the team and I attended my first home game around this time, I still probably watched more Irish football than anything dealing with the Utes. Of course, this was when Notre Dame still fielded a competitive team. Lou Holtz was coach and they were only a few years removed from their 1988 national championship.
Growing up with my family, if you didn't at least pretend to cheer for the Irish, you were an outcast.
This was also around the time Notre Dame began playing BYU. Now as a growing Ute fan, I already didn't like the Cougars. Their playing the Irish, though, took that dislike to an entirely new level.
It was 1993 and Notre Dame was making its first visit to the state of Utah. For all Catholics, it was big news. Here the largest ambassador to our faith in college football was coming to play in our state. It was almost as big as the Pope himself making a stop here.
So to say it was highly talked about among each parish would be a massive understatement.
In fact, back in 1993, the annual Carmelite Fair (a fair put on by the Carmelite Monastery here in Salt Lake every September) decided to sell shirts for the event. They dubbed it Catholics vs. Mormons and I'm sure I still have one of those shirts stowed away in my closet.
I wore that shirt with pride. Especially when, a few weeks later, Notre Dame went down to Provo and beat the crap out of the Cougars.
It was a pretty big win for local Catholics.
A lot has changed since that fall. My Notre Dame loving grandparents have passed away and my love for Ute football has easily surpassed anything I ever felt for the Irish. But I still hold a place for Notre Dame in my heart. Maybe it's the memories of watching each game with my grandpa or the ancestral pride. Whatever it is, I don't think I'll ever stop being a Notre Dame fan.
I just love Utah more.
But in 1993 and 1994, I wore an Irish hat almost every day. A hat I still own to this day.
My mom and me in the summer of 1994. Don't laugh! You can barely make out the Notre Dame Leprechaun