Journal entry: January 2, 1989 (age 19) – Fighting Irish
It was a strange sight. Earlier tonight, about 3 dozen grown men were gathered on a small, backyard deck. The object of their ferocious attention was a small television in one corner. Whatever they were watching was conducting the group in a symphony of cheers, jeers, and spilled beers. To quote the Starship that built this city, they were “knee-deep in the hoopla.” I turned to my buddy, Peco Hull, who grew up and still lives in that house on Davis Street, and asked what all the excitement was about.
Peco gave me a familiar look of amused disbelief and said, “Um, Tim, that would be a Notre Dame football game. Didn’t you notice all the Notre Dame sweatshirts, hats, and beer koozies?” “Ah yes,” I replied, “I thought the dress code might be a clue. But what’s a koozie?”
Peco ignored that one, so I started voicing a few astute observations. I mentioned that the air outside was below freezing. I pointed out that the TV had a 10-inch, black and white screen. I was about to mention that baseboard heat and a large color TV were just steps away, inside Hull House. But before I could complete my thesis, Peco said, “Yeah, I know. But being outside makes it feel like you’re in the bleachers in South Bend.” Peco’s older brother, Marty, is a current undergrad at Notre Dame, and their dad, Tom Hull, is an alumnus. Of the dozens of men who, during a commercial break, were belting out the Notre Dame Fight Song, Marty and Mr. Hull were the loudest.
The enjoyment of playing, or even watching sports has always been lost on me, despite growing up with five older brothers who love to do both. Over the course of many gym classes and post-Thanksgiving-dinner veg-in-front-of-the-boob-tube fests, I had developed a coping mechanism for athletically charged situations like this. The gears in my brain were already switching into turbo wiseass mode. Peco went inside to make a phone call, leaving me unchaperoned near the back of the group, where I thought the fellas might enjoy a series of comments. Loud, inane, annoying comments. Here’s a sampling:
“Lou Holtz would make a great Lamaze coach!”
“That quarterback is good, but he’s no Red Grange!”
“Are they ever going to let the hunchback play?”
In between these inspired bits of repartee, I cheered for the other team. “Go, West Virginia! Sunkist Fiesta-bowl the crap out of these losers!” After a few minutes of this, I should have noticed that none of the assembled Fighting Irish were laughing. By the time I sensed that someone was standing directly behind me, it was too late. Marty Hull dumped a full pitcher of cold beer over my head. As I sputtered and cursed, Marty, in a very matter-of-fact voice, said, “Go. Home. Now.” I didn’t have a good comeback.
Peco had no sympathy for me when he came back outside – nor did my brother, Dan, when I got home. Now that I’m lying in bed and rehashing the whole thing, my anger is fading. The clear, painful truth is starting to sink in: I totally deserved that.