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What Really Bugs Him Are Irish Cowboys

If you do not like Notre Dame or the Dallas Cowboys, this was the greatest football weekend ever. It was like having your cake and eating it, too. It was like having a genie grant you two football wishes, and saving the third one for some local high school you hate.

If CBS television instituted a new weekly series in which different teams got to defeat Notre Dame and the Dallas Cowboys on a regular basis, it would receive the highest Nielsen ratings since “Roots.” You could put anything up against it, even Bill Cosby, and nothing would top it.

For as long as I can remember, there have been no two football teams that make opponents foam at the mouth the way Notre Dame and the Dallas Cowboys do. Taking a bite out of the Fighting Irish is always big fun, even when they are not among the national powers. That theme song alone is enough to make you sick of them.

As for the Cowpokes, well, you get that “America’s Team” stuff stuffed down your throat long enough and pretty soon your one wish in life is to see the entire population of Dallas deported.

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Now if, by chance, you happen to have been a student in South Bend, Ind., or a native of the great state of Texas, your feelings on this matter might be somewhat different. You probably have enjoyed the many occasions when the Lord sent down an extra breeze to carry a Notre Dame field goal across the crossbar. You probably yee-hawwed for quarterback Roger Staubach as he led the Cowboys the length of the field for a game-winning touchdown.

The world is not full of Notre Dame and Dallas Cowboy haters, you know. Some people love them with all their heart. The current President played the “Gipper” in a movie and still has fond feelings for the university, and the Vice President is a true-blue Texan, although fact be known, George Bush, for some godforsaken reason, is still partial to the Houston Oilers.

Wherever the Irish and Cowboys go, they are feared, respected and hated. A Purdue basketball player once told me: “We could beat Notre Dame a thousand times and it wouldn’t be enough.” A Green Bay football player once said before a playoff game: “Oh, God, let us beat these terrible people and I’ll never ask for anything else.”

What fun it is to watch a team prepare for an invasion by these superpowers. When Notre Dame came to Pauley Pavilion one year to play basketball, the UCLA student body welcomed them as they ran onto the floor by humming “Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame” slowly, like a dirge. Another school once sent a make-believe leprechaun onto center court and then had him clubbed to the ground with a plastic shillelagh.

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One Sunday, the Irish mascot sent a toy car onto the gym floor with a remote-control device during the introductions of players. I do not recall why. All I recall is a player from De Paul name of Joe Ponsetto stomping on the car with his gym shoe and later saying, “I hate that leprechaun, I hate that team and I hate that school.” He, too, could not recall why.

Penn State, a couple of years ago, made me an honorary alumnus, so I was obliged to root for the Nittany Lions when they played host to Notre Dame on Saturday. I sat at home watching the game on television, occasionally singing the words of my adopted school’s alma mater, which are embossed on the flip side of my alumni association lifetime membership card.

(“When we stood at childhood’s gate, shapeless in the hands of fate, Thou didst mold us, dear old State.”)

Joe Paterno’s No. 1 ranked boys really beat the bejabbers out of Gerry Faust’s Cincinnati Moeller High School All-Stars, 36-6. A good time was had by all, and I am really looking forward to rooting for Penn State in a bowl game, although I suppose I should confess at this time that I also carry lifetime membership in the alumni association of the University of No. 2-ranked Nebraska.

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A guy can be torn between two loves. When I wrote a couple of years ago that I was sad at not having my own college alma mater, Penn State and Nebraska both came to the rescue. Perhaps someday UCLA or USC or Michigan or Harvard or even Notre Dame will do the same.

Until then, I must take sides in the big game, as I must whenever an NFL game involves Dallas. No matter where I have lived in this country, I have discovered that the one common denominator that binds football fans together is the ability to root against the Cowboys on Sunday, no matter who they are playing.

To hear that the Chicago Bears took care of America’s Team--44-0!--in Dallas!--is to hear that your lottery number has come up, that gas has come down to 50 cents a gallon, that the common cold has been cured, that Cary Grant is going to make another movie. It is something you have always wanted, and it will last you for at least a week, when the Cowboys play again.


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