Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Little Boys Throwing Footballs

I spent last weekend on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, where my son is a sophomore. Usually the first weekend in October is spectacular there-the multicolored leaves glow against the backdrop of a crisp blue autumnal sky. This year we got clouds, and rain; at kickoff time on Saturday it was 39 degrees and raining with a 33 mph wind. Miserable weather, but I still had a lovely time.

Notre Dame has expanded considerably since my husband went there 25 years ago. The new buildings are gorgeous, but retain a certain Gothic feel so that they fit in quite in nicely with the old. It's a beautiful place, and an excellent school. I feel very fortunate to have a child studying there.

On football weekends, even ones with horrible weather, the place is packed. All sorts of people wander the campus. This week alumni band members joined the regular band on the field-hundreds of them-and I heard one old man say in passing to another, "remember, back in '54, when you were here as a freshman--" and his companion cut in, "you mean the first time I was a freshman?" Men and women wearing blue and gold packed tn Basilica for 8 am Sunday Mass. You see all sorts, but what gets me are the little boys throwing footballs.

They race across the lawns, weaving in and out of trees, running imaginary pass routes, ducking imaginary defenders. "Dad, dad!" they yell, arms outstretched, reaching for the blue-and-gold Nerf footballs sold by the hundreds in the campus bookstore. Maybe they come to one game a year, each individual boy, the way my own son did, but every game you will see these boys. I want to grab their parents, show them my grown-up son, say, careful with that football, you could be starting something. Make them feel like they belong here, and maybe they'll push themselves all the way through high school. Maybe you'll never have to tell them to do their homework, or study, because they've got the reflection of the Golden Dome in their sights, they know what they want and they'll work to come back here. To walk the sidewalks every day, not just on game day, and watch the children throwing footballs and think, I used to be that kid.

Maybe. If you're very lucky, that could happen to you, to your own boy or girl.