I hate hot weather games.
Growing up in Northwest Ohio, it never felt right to play football in sweltering heat. Sure, we all have the horror stories of 100 degree two-a-day practices in 120% humidity, but primarily, the game of football feels best on a crisp fall day or a brisk autumn night. That’s when the nostalgia sets in, and that’s how the romance begins.
It was a normal Friday in October - the 8th to be exact. I just got off work, and decided to meet a few friends at Munchies on Maplecrest in Fort Wayne. One thing lead to another and a couple of guys and myself decided to head downtown to Columbia Street.
We walked in behind a few girls and just as we got through the door, one of the girls turned around and instantly yelled at my friend for staring at her ass. She mentioned something about this not being a “peepshow” and we all got a pretty good laugh out of it all. I took quick notice of the girl with her and shot her a quick smile.
It didn’t take long before I was chatting away with the calmer girl. I felt a little strange since I was still wearing my work clothes (a tight white t, blue work pants, and steel toe boots). The girl, Carrie (a nursing student at St. Francis), didn’t seem to mind.
After a little while of the normal back and forth flirting, a guy in a Purdue shirt walked by us. Instantly, Carrie yelled out, “Purdue? What the hell?” and performed a particularly solid rendition of a person vomiting.
This, of course, sparked my interest and we began talking about the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and our beloved football team. She told me how the Irish were her favorite team, and would go to games with her grandpa. We continued a back and forth with a lot of smiling as I bought her (and her large group of friends) more than a few rounds of drinks.
We were having a nice time - so nice, that during our conversation, I didn’t even notice one of the friends I was with getting knocked on his ass by some guy he pissed off - until he basically landed at my feet. This, in turn, angered our other friend that I was hollering at this girl instead of having my dude’s back.
I couldn’t help it. Her smile was incredible, and even though I knew she was pretty much just talking to me for the free drinks and the boredom that is the front part of Columbia Street, I was hooked.
So, we were basically kicked out of the establishment. During the ruckus, Carrie had lost her ride. She approached me about getting a ride for her and her friend. Her apartment was on the completely opposite side of Fort Wayne than where we were heading. So, of course I said, “no” but quickly agreed to helping them out.
When we dropped Carrie and he friend off at her apartment, I told her that it was nice to have met her and wished her well. She merely replied, “so... do you want my number, or what?”
I’m not sure why I never asked her for her phone number, but she was sure determined to give it to me. Life is amazing if you think about it. One small moment after another can lead you into the direction of great importance and great change.
I called her the very next day (after Notre Dame’s win over the Stanford Cardinal). So, it began. One phone call here, one meeting there, and we are dating.
Notre Dame was hosting the Boston College Eagles shortly after we started this whole dating thing. My entire family was going up for the game, and I invited her to join us for what was sure to be a nice Irish victory.
It was a dreary day. Cold, rainy, and it was as if the sun hadn’t shone in South Bend in a year. Speaking of “year,” the year was 2004, so I don’t have to go into great detail about the game. Tyrone Willingham and the Irish blew the game, and I felt like I was going to puke as we left the stadium.
It was terrible. Back then, I still took losses quite personally, and it generally led me to pound my sorrows away with my old friend Pabst. Waiting outside the stadium was the rest of my family. They all looked just as miserable, and I prepared myself for the ride back home in silence and despair.
Before we got over to my family, Carrie asked for a caramel apple. I bought her one, and there she was... smiling and happy as a kid in a toy store with her apple while being in the middle of a miserable family cussing out Ty and his incompetence.
Her smile and attitude was so noticeable, I couldn’t help but wonder what a future with her would be like. After all, did I really want to spend my time with someone that got as depressed as me after an Irish loss? Kevin White was tripping all over himself, and that side of things looked as if it was never going to change.
I became enamored with her. There was no one I had ever been around before that made me feel so comfortable, and did I mention her smile? Her smile wouldn’t just light up a room, it lights up an entire neighborhood.
I was falling in love, and I never felt better. We got home from the game and I knew this was becoming a relationship that I wanted to be in for a very long time.
You see, there is just something about fall that complements the journey of love better than any other season. It’s not as shallow as summer, as desperate as winter, or as fleeting as spring. There’s something deeper and more honest about the whole thing.
Now, it should be said that she was stretching that truth a bit. She had never been to a Notre Dame game before, and certainly didn’t care much about the program (except for her infatuation with DJ Fitzpatrick and his legs). She had spun a ruse. I found out the truth from her family after an awkward first meeting that involved the game against the Tennessee Volunteers, a Mexican restaurant, and her sister’s birthday.
I was probably a strange site to see as I was yelling at the bartender to turn down the damn mariachi music during the game.
Back to her ruse about her fandom... like I really cared. She was amazing, and all I really wanted was her.
We got engaged about 8 months later, and married a little over a year after that. The romance of fall and all it brings with it was too much to overcome.
Here we are, and it’s just a few weeks from being the 13th year anniversary of our first encounter at Columbia Street. We just had a week of 90 degree days, and then today the temperature dropped, and it finally felt like fall. Every time that happens, I can’t help but think back to October 8, 2004 and all that the night has done to change my life forever.
We have been married 11 years, have 3 children, a house, and all that comes with such a life. We have had our good times, and some times that have been really rough. During our first year of marriage, Carrie was told that she had leukemia on a Friday, and we spent a weekend cuddled up in bed staying strong for one another. As it turned out, she only had tonsillitis. The doctor from Michigan State (FUCK SPARTY) had been completely wrong.
Carrie almost died in childbirth with our first child, Olivia. A quick decision from our midwife and doctor saved her from an unexpected problem. Our second child, Ryan Victor, was in the NICU for 3 weeks (the longest 3 weeks of my life) and somehow we were able to stay strong for the other even as both of us were melting on the inside. We, amazingly, had zero issues with the birth of Dylan - outside of the fact that we are basically raising a right guard (not a linebacker, or defensive end... a right guard).
We have been through more than most could imagine, and I reserve the right to keep most of that private. We continue to be there for one another, and raise our family with one goal in mind, and that goal is to raise a family of love and respect.
This season of fall is a yearly reminder of where I was, who I am, and just what I am doing. It’s a season of romance and change, and nothing makes me feel better or more alive.
This reminder is why I am writing this story. The air was crisp tonight, and the thought of another trip to Notre Dame this weekend sparked my nostalgia for the beginning of my relationship with my wife. It’s proof that life has no room for regrets if that means your life is different than what it has become.
I’ll stop going on and on now. I’ve been at work all night, and am only minutes away from going back into that crisp air for my ride back home to my wife, and her amazing smile. There is nothing that makes me happier than this, and I thought I’d share this with all of you as we get set to play the Miami-Ohio Redhawks.