The Shirt

<P>I bought her on my trip to South Bend in April. I went in looking for anything light and there she was. It was plain, it was simple and it was white. It didn't have all those stupid colors they seem to plaster all over these new units. Why companies think that everyone wants to stand out, I will never know. It was probably my least favorite of the bunch I had bought that day but now she is my favorite. I am sure you have something just like her.</P>

You hear the stories all the time. X player won't pitch without his lucky rosin bag. Y player hasn't washed his socks in 40 games. Athletes are superstitious, no question. Just like their favorite athletes, fans are superstitious as well. Most fans (if they admit it) have all kinds of rituals they go through before each game. It may be a favorite hat, position on the couch, what they eat before the game or favorite cheer before the game.

Back in the Holtz days, I had some doozies. I will embarrass myself and enlighten you to some of them because if there is one thing I know, fans don't have superstitions if their team is losing. They only create them when they are winning. I bought this plain white shirt, didn't care either way about it but I happened to be wearing on August 31st 2002. It was a hot day, it was white and that was probably the only reason I wore it that day. I rarely wore this shirt before. I just thought I should wear something ND that day.

I am trying to think of my first ND superstition. I think my first superstition was solitude. I had moved in the fraternity house my sophomore year. The house was packed to the brim with Husker fans. It was 1988 and my Irish had a new coach to many in Lou Holtz. The Huskers had their typical 9-3 or 10-2 year. I am sure they beat the tar out of everyone but Oklahoma and whomever they played in the bowl game. I was taking some grief from the boys that year (unjustly I am sure). The Irish had just had a late season collapse the previous year losing the last three games including the Cotton Bowl to finish 8-4. Holtz had beaten USC twice already and beat Michigan in 87 so there was hope.

I was probably a little mouthy (NO). I exiled myself that year into my hovel and proudly watched my 13-inch black and white. I didn't watch a game with my friends until after the USC game. I knew that West Virginia didn't have a chance in that game. Suspend the entire team Lou, the fans will go in and win this one for you. That was the kind of magic that man created. You could not deny this team and every Notre Dame fan knew it. I ended up in my underwear, tied to a light post on the busiest street in town that night. A policeman came to rescue me, asked me why I was there, I told him and he said "I should leave you out here." It was probably the oranges I rolled down the stairs that day that put me out on my island but unlike Tom Hanks, I could have stayed there for eternity. It's kind of eerie how similar that season seems now.

In 89, I got MUCH bolder. Awe the ignorance of youth. Each game rolled by like stepping on ants. I let my Husker buddies know about each and every win in my own polite way. The Irish beat Michigan in Ann Arbor. They won a close battle with USC at home and smacked Penn State at Happy Valley. Notre Dame rolled into the Orange Bowl 11-0 and I was crowing louder than an Anna Nicole Smith brassiere. 3rd and 33, it might have been 34 but what does it matter at this point? All I remember was thrusting a 3/4 full can of Busch Light (I was a poor college student) into the nearest wall. All it took was that play and I was back in exile with my 13 inch black and white. My mistake was clearly coming out of exile in the first place. Don't mess with a winning streak.

After that game, I tried everything imaginable to bring back the magic. I tried positions on the couch. Every friend that was present at a loss was under consideration as bad luck. I tried every sweatshirt I had. I even got as pathetic as how I would wear my ND hat. I tried pre-game rituals, post-game rituals (all included beer in some fashion) and every routine was under the microscope. I eventually wouldn't wear anything Notre Dame because every time I did, they would lose a big game. I eventually came out of exile. It was so much easier with the Huskers struggling.

I suffered 5 long years and then a season appears magically out of thin air. Notre Dame was led by a quarterback that nobody had ever heard of (including a lot of Notre Dame fans). Kevin McDougal, that isn't a football name. That sounds like a kid that got his lunch money stolen. It appeared to be a very down year for the Irish. My lone Michigan friend had bought me a Michigan sweatshirt earlier that year to "cheer me up." I had tried every shirt in my limited wardrobe previously; all met a sacrificial demise. He was talking so much crap that September day that I strapped on the Michigan sweatshirt just to spite him. The Irish won that day. They won a lot of games after that.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a Brigham Young shirt in Nebraska? How about a Navy shirt? I bought them all that year. I bought every shirt from every team they played but one. I got cocky and didn't buy a Boston College shirt. I thought the money was better spent on another case of Old Style I suppose. I turned off the BC game at half time. I had band practice later that day and that was the first time I had ever turned off a Notre Dame game. I tuned back in right when Notre Dame was driving to go up by one. That had to be the most difficult loss in Notre Dame history. The Irish never recovered after that and I didn't have a single superstition until now. Never mess with a winning streak.

I met my good friend Vagas at the Purdue game this year. He looked just the same as I saw him two years ago. I didn't attend a Notre Dame home game last year after the Nebraska debacle; I just couldn't take it anymore. I still cheered every game, I just couldn't justify the $600 I spend to go to a game to watch them lose.

I sit next to Vagas at every game I attend (he is kind enough to hook me up with tickets). Vagas is a trooper; he goes to all the games. It was so great to see him but he was wearing a blue polo-style Notre Dame shirt at the hottest game of the year. I mentioned to Vagas that a blue shirt in that heat probably wasn't a good idea. Vagas quickly responded "I wore this shirt last week, I aint changing this shirt on a ND game day ever again until they lose." I was also wearing the same shirt I wore on August 31st 2002. I knew it was the same shirt and packed it in my suitcase. There was no doubt what I was going to wear that day. Vagas and I sat and watched Notre Dame beat Purdue, he is his Blue and I in "Old White."

"Old White" is a little ragged. She has a black stain towards the bottom. I haven't checked for "pit stains" but I am sure they are there. My wife has the job of making her presentable for another week of wear and removing the salsa and beer stains. Every Saturday, she is washed and ready for battle. I am not sure why "Old White" made the grade while so many others have failed. Right place, right time, right coach, right chemistry and right team I guess. I know this shirt has NOTHING to do with the fact that Notre Dame is winning games right now. I also know that I had a dream last Thursday that I was on a flight to an away game and I forgot to pack her. My mind was going nuts over how I could have her Fed Exed to this away game so she could be with me to go into battle once again. I also know that I won't be wearing another shirt until they lose again, don't mess with a winning streak. I haven't asked Vagas but I am quite sure he won't wear anything other than "Blue."

I know I am pathetic but so are you. You have your version of "Old White" and she is in the closet or somewhere waiting for the next Saturday. Thank God for Ty Willingham because this is a problem I can handle. Notre Dame fans haven't had any shirts worth spit for far too long, I finally have "Old White." She has done a great job so far and I will be wearing her once again this Saturday. All we can hope for is she gives us that magic once again. Top Stories