Not cheering on Zorich, Ismail, et al as they tried to reclaim the national title stolen from them the previous year, however, was devastating. Fortunately, the 80 Domers in London got to watch most of the games, albeit a day late. Another guy in the program had a cousin serving on the U.S. Marine security force guarding the American Embassy, and he was able to tape the contests live off of the satellite.
Despite the first of Bill Walsh's out-coaching Lou Holtz, the Irish were still on track to claim a trip to the Orange Bowl and a shot at the national title. All we needed to do was beat Penn State at home. Considering we'd already defeated Miami and Tennessee (on the road, no less), this seemed like a done deal.
The London Program granted us two 10-day breaks, the second of which fell just prior to the last game of the season. A roommate and I traveled with five female classmates to Greece, where we learned many fascinating historical and cultural facts, the most memorable of which being, "Beer costs less than Coca-Cola." After a blurry vacation, we collapsed on the floor of a crowded Athens Airport. One of the girls wondered aloud, "Think we won the game?" There was no need for her to be more specific – we all knew what needed to be done.
Sixteen years later, I still can't believe I was dumb enough to believe I was the only one who had an international calling card. Like a father is going to let his 20-year old daughter go off to Europe without being able to call home for free. But I trust in people; it's both my gift and my curse. Perhaps, had one of my lying friends simply told the truth, "the incident" never would have occurred.
I closed the door to the airport phone booth, sealing myself in a tomb of cigarette smoke. After a few fuzzy rings, my mother answered. I could tell from the background noise that she was standing downstairs in the family room. Whew. She won't have to flip channels looking for the game. Her joy at hearing my voice quickly faded after I blurted, "Mom! What's the Irish score?"
An interminable moment later, Mom returned to the phone. "Notre Dame 21…and Penn State 3…with one minute left." I thanked her and told her I loved her. At least I think I did.
Exploding out of the phone booth, I reminded every European why he hated Americans. "We're going to the freaking Orange Bowl!!!" My six friends cheered madly across the terminal. Our magical trip to Greece completely forgotten, we spent the entire flight home discussing transportation to and hotel options in Miami.
Upon arriving at the two apartment buildings the University owned in London, I crashed into bed immediately. My fellow travelers, however, spread the word amongst the other returnees: we won 21-3. Students have never been so happy to return from a break. Two of my classmates spurned much-needed sleep in favor of a trash-talking mission.
One of our R.A.'s was an ND law student who'd attended PSU undergrad. Debbie had run her mouth prior to break and these two Dillon Hall guys were looking to calmly and cordially inform her of her error, as only Big Red men can. They were shocked when she did not flinch from their barbs.
"What are you guys talking about?" My friends explained that the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame had defeated the Nittany Lions of Penn State 21-3. Debbie did not stifle her laughter.
I don't remember what I was dreaming about, but I do remember how I was awakened: like Private Pyle getting a blanket party in "Full Metal Jacket." I still have some of the bruises. I looked up at four guys I considered friends who were looking down at me like I had slept with their sisters (and there's no way they had found that out yet). It didn't take long to find out what had happened.
"Your stupid bleeping mother gave you the bleeping halftime score!"
As I painfully learned, Rocket Ismail got injured and the Irish fell apart without him in the second half, giving up 21 unanswered points. Cheerio, national championship.
I won't be at Saturday's game against Penn State. I'll be cheering on the Irish from a bar in Trojan territory. I think I'll call my mom at halftime, just to tell her I love her.
But I'm not asking her the score.
Note: Jamie Reidy is a new addition to the Irish Eyes staff. He's also the published author of: "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman," which I highly recommend!
If you like his writing style, you'll probably love his new book. Click HERE to read more about Jamie's book.