Something in Common

We hate the Michigan Wolverines. And they hate us. Lord knows we have the T-shirts to prove it. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt.

I'm not referring to the fact that the two schools play each other every year in games that go a long way to defining a successful season, thereby sparking this animosity. Rather, Notre Dame and Michigan grads have a lot in common, even though both sides hate to admit it.

Start with the applicant pools for both universities. As a senior in high school, I would have gladly applied to Michigan – and gained admission – if my father hadn't balked at paying for an eighth college application. (I remember thinking, "What's his problem?" Looking back, I'm thinking, "What was my problem?" Who needs to apply to eight freaking schools?) The matriculation similarity continues today, in fact. Judging from the stats provided on the UM website, my high school numbers probably wouldn't be good enough for entry. As Notre Dame gleefully trumpets at every opportunity, its recent heightened admission standards guarantee I couldn't make it into ND today. Interestingly, though, my annual cash donations gains early acceptance.

Personality-wise, men and women who attended Notre Dame and Michigan are all masochists. Think about it. We chose an institution of higher learning located smack dab in the middle of some of the worst weather America has to offer, when we could have gone to warm weather schools (see UVA, UNC, Wake Forest, UT-Austin, and UCLA) with equal academic standards and better than average athletics traditions. People, we consciously asked Mother Nature to make us her bitches.

Football-wise, both Irish fans and Wolverine fans have witnessed opposing players turn in classic performances at the Big House, Michigan kickers decide games at Notre Dame Stadium, and head coaches make strategic blunders at home. In 1989, my classmate Rocket Ismail took national liftoff by returning two second half kickoffs for scores in an ND road victory. In 1991, I watched Desmond Howard kickoff his Heisman Trophy campaign with an all-time great catch on fourth-and-one, sending us home losers. My first home game at Notre Dame came down to Mike Gillette's 49-yard field goal attempt. He missed wide right, and I danced for the first time on our hallowed grass. (And I mailed a postcard photo to my lifelong friend, a freshman at UM.) Six years later, ND freshmen went home heartbroken after Remy Hamilton nailed a 41-yarder to trump a late Irish comeback. (A week later, I opened my APO mailbox in Japan and found a photo postcard!) Bo Schembechler earned his place in the Ann Arbor Hall of Shame when he opted to kick the second of the aforementioned footballs to No. 25. Lou Holtz didn't exactly qualify for MENSA in 1992's "Tie Game," when he sat on the ball with 65 seconds to go and one timeout remaining despite having an offense featuring these skill players: Rick Mirer (No. 2 pick in 93 draft), Jerome Bettis (No. 10), Irv Smith (No. 20), Reggie Brooks (No. 45), Lake Dawson (3rd round, 94 draft), and kicker Craig Hentrich (4-year starter and 8th round pick in 93).

Incredibly, followers of both programs have watched coaches refuse to acknowledge the talents of starters who later prospered on Sundays. David Givens could barely get the ball thrown his way under Bob Davie, yet appeared fairly talented while winning the trophy as the 2004 Super Bowl MVP. You may have heard of Mr. Givens' quarterback with the New England Patriots, a gentleman named Tom Brady. If you want to really annoy a Michigan fan, ask him about Lloyd Carr's Henson-Brady quarterback controversy. But beware, he may respond, "Yeah, well, at least we got the better Irons brother!" Touche.

Lastly, Domers and Wolverines all possess an arrogance that our program is the greatest in history. Of course, theirs is a misguided belief. In 2003, I walked into a San Francisco bar with a fellow Keenanite to watch the Irish take on Navy. Immediately, we spotted an annoying UM fan (sorry for the redundancy), whose face lit up when he saw our colors. "Tough one this year," he gloated. Since there's not much to say when you got beat 38-0, we just smiled politely and turned toward the TV. Our new friend wasn't done. "You know, if we win today and you guys lose, we'll takeover the all-time winning percentage lead." I felt like Chuck Norris in, uh, every one of his movies: You just couldn't leave well enough alone, could ya? "No, I didn't know that," I said, still looking at the TV.

"Oh my god! How could you not…" I wheeled on the guy.

"See, at Notre Dame we only care about numbers that matter, like, I dunno, consensus national championships and Heisman Trophy winners." Crickets, crickets.

Muck Fichigan. Top Stories