I am not Catholic. I don't profess to know what it is like to be Catholic. So would someone please explain to me this hallowed position the University of Notre Dame holds among Catholics nationwide?
I have nothing against rooting for Notre Dame. The campus is beautiful and there is most definitely a magic about football there, something you don't need to even watch the movie "Rudy" to sense.
It's more this sense that Catholics (at least the ones I know) almost feel it their duty to root for Notre Dame. Like God views it as a sin to root against the Fighting Irish. This is coming from people who have no connection to Notre Dame beyond their Catholicism and have never been to South Bend.
Would an Ohio Catholic even root against Ohio State in next week's Fiesta Bowl, an Ohio Catholic who is an avid Wolverine-despising Buckeye fan under any other circumstances?
Maybe not. But apparently the Notre Dame factor makes loyalties waver more than you'd realize.
Poll the Catholics you know. Not the Catholics in name only. Poll the ones who go to mass every week. You might be surprised at how many are at the very least walking the fence ("Does there have to be a loser?")
It's a unique phenomenon. Kind of like, "Man, I do want Ohio State to win. I really do. But if I root against Notre Dame, God might be looking over my shoulder, tapping his foot like a parent who caught his kid going through cookie jar before dinner."
No other school enjoys the benefit of implied wrath of God. And you wonder why Notre Dame will never join a football conference.
Notre Dame could really exploit their position if they wanted to. My guess is that if they wanted to build a new football training facility, they could get the money in about two weeks. Just place donation bins in every Catholic church narthex in America.
The tithing priorities for your average Midwestern Catholic:
1. Starving children in Africa
2. World Youth Day
3. Notre Dame
4. Local soup kitchen
5. Restoration of the Sistine Chapel
6. Notre Dame
Sometimes I wonder if other Catholic schools feel left out. Do officials at St. Bonaventure sometimes say "Hey, where's our piece?"
But the Bonnies don't wear gold-flake helmets. They were never asked to "win one for the Gipper." And they certainly don't have "Touchdown Jesus" painted on the side of their library.
Every religion has their pilgrimages, their own holy places. Muslims have Mecca. Jews have the wailing wall. Catholics have a college in northern Indiana where football and Christ are both kings.