My father is half Lebanese, half Italian- both of his parents were the first in their families to be born in America. He attended MIT and received his PHD from Harvard. In between, he took two years off to join the Peace Corps, where he taught chemistry in Accra, Ghana. You might say he's a smart fellow. Ok, he's a very smart fellow. He never boasts about his accomplishments, though. He has his Harvard degree neatly displayed in the small computer room at my parents home, adjacent to the garage. He's a very nice- but shy- man, who is humble as can be. There is, though, one thing about him that is difficult to understand.
My dad is a huge Notre Dame Football fan.
He's a "watch the game, record the game, watch the game again in slow motion" kind of fan. During the off-season, he studies the new recruits and he watches the team practice online. He is obsessed.
As a child I was truly befuddled by this behavior. Nobody in our family attended Notre Dame. None of us were Irish. For heaven's sake- we lived in a small Connecticut town outside of New York City... nowhere near Indiana.
So, how in the world did my dad develop such an obsession?
His father, of course.
My Lebanese grandfather, who graduated from Holy Cross, was a loyal Notre Dame fan until he passed away in January of 1985. I do not know how he came to name Notre Dame as his "team," simply that some of my dad's fondest memories tie back to Notre Dame Football and my grandfather.
In recent years, my little brother, a Saint Joseph's University grad, has come down with the Notre Dame football bug. He calls my dad before games, after games, and during halftime. And, now that I'm pushing 30 and thinking more about things like "children" and "family," (Note: I said thinking, not planning) it dawned on me. It's not about the school. It's not about the heritage. It's not about location or part of the country. It's about the team... and family... and the memories that go along with it.
I should mention that even though I'm a girl, that doesn't mean that the Notre Dame family tradition will stop with me. If, for nothing else, because I married an Irish guy whose father, uncle, and sister all went to- you guessed it- Notre Dame.