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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tradition Never Graduates


Last weekend I went to Notre Dame University for the first time.

Growing up in Fort Wayne, IN, you would imagine that I would have made the trek to the ND campus at least once, but I had not. So you can imagine my excitement, as a sports fan, as I made my way to the booming metropolis that is South Bend.

While the game was simply embarrassing (Notre Dame fell to 1-6 and lost to their rival USC in the most lop-sided contest in 45 years) the Notre Dame experience was irreplaceable.

You could smell the tradition from I-90.

Touchdown Jesus. 80,000 tailgaters. The golden dome. The pre game mass. The band’s walk to the stadium. The chants. The throw back uniforms. The dorm step BBQs. The Heisman trophy winners. The national championships. Tradition was everywhere.

As we sat down in our seats, I was struck by some of those in attendance. One man, two rows behind us, was wearing suspenders, clogs, bright green pants tattooed with a number of gold “ND” logos, and a sweater that may have been sown before the U.S. became a free nation. As I sat to watch my 1st ND football game, he was sitting down to watch his 164th. And the crazy thing? He was one of many.

As Notre Dame got dominated (they would have faired better had they played a whole team of Rudys), no one booed, very few left, and I was scolded at half time for saying that they didn’t have a chance to come back.

As a sports fan I had never experienced anything quite like it. The rich history and tradition of this institution made their current struggles seem trivial. The school and its fans were not there to simply cheer on the third starting quarterback in six games, they were there because they share a common story. They were there because at some point in their life their story intersected with the Blue and Gold. They were not simply cheering for Charlie Weis and his stagnant offense, they were cheering for memories, family members, and the glory of players come and gone.

As you could gather from previous posts, I am not much of a nostalgic and my body often rejects this Notre Dame-ish embrace of the past. I tend to direct my thoughts towards the future and tread lightly in the historic, traditional dialogue. Yet, as I left Notre Dame Stadium, the beauty of what I had experienced that day struck me.

I left convicted of my need to reflect on my past. I was filled with the desire to look at the rich stories of the many things in which I participate. To look at stories, legacies, and rituals that have shaped who I am.

Yet, I cannot help but think how the past can often get in the way of our creating the future. How we often play victim to our stories and try to change history, rather than create the future (thanks for the language EM).

As I have done throughout my 16 months at MHGS, I enter again the messy terrain of faith found in the stories of the past and a hope in the unseen future. I wonder about my own story. I wonder when I am to live beyond my destructive past and then when living beyond that story is ignoring the very things that has made me who I am. I wonder how often I put on a show to hide the story. I wonder if people prefer the show and would rather not ask about the story.

Damn story.

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