Fighting Irish Represents Our Ethnic Past
Back in 2009, Notre Dame had just finished another disappointing football season and many believed their best days were behind them. Their high academic standards and rural location and made it difficult to attract the most talented football players.
When Brian Kelly accepted the coaching position, many wondered why he had suddenly left the successful program he had built at the University of Cincinnati. A reporter asked him what his motivation was for accepting the pressure and challenge of coaching at Notre Dame.
Kelly responded, “First and foremost, restoring it to the traditions that we all know about, and the history.”
“Notre Dame” (English: Our Lady) is a French title for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The University of Notre Dame was founded in 1842 and became a symbol of Catholic culture.
The “Notre Dame Victory March”, the school’s fight song is a tribute to Mary:
“Cheer cheer for old Notre Dame, wake up the echos cheering her name. Send a volley cheer on high, shake down the thunder from the sky! What though the odds be great or small, old Notre Dame will win over all. While her loyal sons are marching, onward to victory!”
Therefore, “Notre Dame” is not just an academic institution but a spiritual idea. As Catholics, the Virgin Mary is “Our Lady”. She represents female purity and we fight for her honor.
Knute Rockne coached the Notre Dame Football team from 1918-1930 and invented the forward pass, which revolutionized the game of football. He turned the small school into a national power and won three championships.
Rockne is also known for his famous, “Win One For the Gipper Speech”.
In 1928, Notre Dame was losing 6-0 at half time in a big game against Army. Rockne entered the locker room and remembered the last words of George “the Gipper” Gipp, a former Notre Dame player who died of strep throat in 1920.
He told his team those last words, “I’ve got to go, Rock. It’s all right. I’m not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are going wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.”
He inspired the team and they went on to upset Army, 12-6. His speech captured the beauty of Catholic spirituality. As ethnic Catholics, we are tough, determined, and loyal to our past. We will continue to fight for our values, even when our goals seem impossible.
Coach Brian Kelly has brought this attitude back to the school. He was born in Massachusetts, raised in an Irish Catholic family, and grew up watching Notre Dame Football.
After he accepted the coaching position in 2009, he declared “our football players will continue to represent the model of Notre Dame. I want tough gentlemen. I want football players that are mentally and physically tough, that will play for four quarters. And I want gentlemen off the field that we all can be proud of.”
After beating Michigan State 20-3 on Saturday, the Fighting Irish have opened this season 3-0 and are currently ranked #11 in the country.
More importantly though, “Notre Dame” represents our Catholic values and our ethnic past.