Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.
~ Matthew 7:12, 13-14
For most, the words Notre Dame and Football go hand in hand. Often before someone thinks “Oh, Notre Dame, that’s a Catholic school,” they think “Oh, Notre Dame, that’s a football school.” In many ways, Catholicism and football are dual identities of our fair university. But, does Our Lady’s school really live in dualism? Or is our identity as a Catholic school and as a football school one and the same?
A lot of people love football. Notre Dame fans are among the most fervent I have ever met (and I am proud to count myself among them). Football fans are intense, they track the stats, they watch the games, they shout at their televisions like the team might possibly hear them. They have rituals, certain foods, certain clothes, that must be part of their game day experience. For many, football is almost a religion.
I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them.
~ Exodus 20:2-5
Almost is a key word here. The football fan doesn’t think that a National Championship will save her eternal soul. But it is still advisable to be wary about our priorities. Remember as you put on The Shirt on game day that the proceeds from the sale of that shirt went to The Shirt Charity fund, which helps undergraduates with extraordinary medical conditions pay bills that are beyond their means. As you order or make your own wings and pizza (that’s what we have at my house, at least), remember those who are hungry, not only on game day, but every day of the week. And consider taking a minute during half time to go through your pantry and collect unused canned goods for the local pantry. I have found time and again that my game day experience is elevated tenfold when I make a day of it and find a service project to do in the morning before the game, or attend Mass after the game rather than waiting until Sunday morning. In this way, we offer up our devotion to the Fighting Irish to God by fighting for Him in our community and in our lives.
I have already mentioned that I am about as rabid a fan as the Fighting Irish can claim. I, to this day, claim responsibility for the Irish win in the 2010 season home opener because I know, despite being 70 or 80 rows up in the stands off in the end zone, the Irish heard every screamed piece of “advice” and the Boilermakers were deafened by the enthusiastic shaking of my keys. Football fans are loud, opinionated, and sometimes lose track of their tongues.
You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.
~ Exodus 20:7
It is important, as the excitement of game day sweeps us up at home, at a game watch, or on campus, to beware what we say. There is a constant struggle among the students with the standard cheer:
Go Irish! Beat [opponent]! Go Irish Go!
Many students prefer to take the pause in this cheer to lash out at the opposing team, and feel that this is proper for football. However, it is easy to find an undergraduate in the stands who will tell you that, while it is important to support our team, and the goal is, of course, to win the game, there is no need to degrade our opponents. We meet them on the gridiron as equals, and with respect. And with that respect in mind, it is in our interest to keep a civil tongue in our head. Listen to yourself while you watch the game, and be careful how you treat the players, the coaching staff, and the announcers. And be extra aware of your use of the Lord’s name. It is not ours to throw around with profanities, especially not over a game.
Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. [T]he Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
~ Exodus 20:8, 11
Do you watch the game more often than you attend Mass? At the University, every game is followed by Mass at several locations around campus to accommodate any and all game attendees, Irish fans or not, who wish to spend time in worship of the Lord after the battle on the field has ended. If you find that you cancel plans to watch the game on Saturday, but sleep through Mass on Sunday morning, consider joining in solidarity with the fans on campus and attend a Saturday evening Mass once the game has ended.