ICYMI: A Reminder Of Why We Care So Much About This Team And This Sport

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Why do you love college football? And out of all the teams to which you could hitch your wagon, why did you choose the Notre Dame Fighting Irish?

That story is different for everyone. One of the most fun things about Notre Dame’s national following is that every fan you meet has a story: whether you’re an alum or a subway Domer, whether it’s been in your family for generations or you stumbled upon it by happenstance, something drew you to this place and this team. And no matter what your story is, it makes you part of a fan base that feels like a family.

As both an alum and someone who was thoroughly, painstakingly brainwashed into fandom long before I enrolled (video exists of the Victory March being sung to me while I laid in my crib as a baby), I don’t need new reasons to love Notre Dame. But that doesn’t stop me from finding them, and stories like this one are reminders of what a blessing it is - despite all the occasional frustrations - to be part of this great big crazy Irish family.

In celebration of Veterans’ Day last week, Fighting Irish Digital Media released a video featuring the family of Captain Reid Nishizuka, a Notre Dame alum and Air Force pilot who died in an aircraft crash in Afghanistan in 2013. Reid’s father and stepmother, Ricky and Norene, have dedicated themselves to honoring their son’s memory by living out his kindhearted and positive ethos, while Notre Dame’s Air Force ROTC program has created an award in his name to honor cadets who exemplify Reid’s values.

This year, Folds of Honor worked with Notre Dame to honor Reid’s service by having Mia Ayer, a member of the women’s golf team, carry a golf bag bearing his name and rank during tournaments. Notre Dame invited Ricky and Norene to campus for the USC football weekend (which also featured an Air Force - Notre Dame hockey matchup) to meet Mia and pay tribute to their son’s sacrifice and legacy.

What followed was an outpouring of love for and from Ricky and Norene that will warm the heart of even the most jaded cynic. It’s hard for an outsider to capture the emotions of this day for Mr. and Mrs. Nishizuka, so you should probably just watch the video:

It’s easy for us as fans to get caught up in striving and minutiae - whether we have the resume to make a New Year’s Six Bowl, whether the team is meeting our expectations, whether Brian Kelly is the coach who will take us to the next level - and talk about what hypothetical developments could get this program to where it should be. These are all conversations that are fun to have as fans, that should happen. But we can’t lose sight of what this team is now, and the joy and memories it brings to all of us as fans.

Hearing Ricky and Mia and Myron talk about the Notre Dame family (the Notre Dame Ohana, as Ricky would say) and what it has meant to them through triumph and tragedy is a great reminder of why we are all proud to be a part of it, and why we wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Live Like Reid, and Go Irish.

To learn more about Reid Nishizuka and his family and legacy, go to And if you have your own response to the question I began this piece with, leave it in the comments!

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