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Touchdown, Notre Dame: A Life Defined by Fandom

Notre Dame-Clemson: A Lot On The Lines

TOUCHDOWN, NOTRE DAME: A LIFE DEFINED BY FANDOM

There are moments in life that define us. Sometimes they come in the form of a childhood toy, a family vacation, or a spiritual encounter. While I can fondly point to an example of each of those growing up, for me, three words defined my childhood, my adolescence, and now my adulthood. Three sweetest words have never been spoken in the English language: Touchdown, Notre Dame.

LIMA, OH 1994 -- Travel with me back in time to 1994. A four-year-old asks his father why they root for Notre Dame. A father informs his son of the emotional distress that would befall the child's mother if they did not. Suddenly, a 1980s television shouts out three distinct, passionate, yet garbled words, "Touchdown, Notre Dame!"

TYLER, TX 2008 -- An eighteen-year-old adolescent enters his first year of ministry school. Now living one thousand miles from home, he travels forty-five minutes each Saturday to the nearest Buffalo Wild Wings to watch his beloved Irish. Responsibilities be damned. He cruises his '99 Ford Ranger through the driving rain of Hurricane Ike's aftermath. Not even his distance from home, limited access to a television, or the torrential downpour of a hurricane could stop him from watching the Irish drub Michigan from the 'Dubs. Notre Dame 35. Michigan 17. Touchdown, Notre Dame!

GARDEN VALLEY, TX 2012 -- Four years have gone by since he first left his small hometown of Lima, OH. He enters his gig's pre-production and prepares to travel the country to play trumpet with the ministry's band. He prepares to perform before thousands each week yet still manages to find his way to the home of the ministry's CEO to partake in gameday festivities, where he wishes that he could one day play the Victory March at a future game. In exchange for yard work, the CEO opens his home to the young man and his new bandmate, now a converted fan of the Fighting Irish. Each week, they watch in awe as the Irish mount a miracle season. On October 13, 2012, he screams in elation as Tommy Reese completes his final 7-yard Touchdown pass to TJ Jones in overtime against the 17th ranked Stanford Cardinal to seal an Irish victory, "Touchdown, Notre Dame!"

SOUTH BEND, IN 2018 -- Now 28, his fandom has not only grown but has become his obsession. He flies across the country from Redding, California, to treat his mother, who first gave birth to his fandom, to a weekend birthday trip to South Bend, Indiana. There, the two soak in the sounds of echoing trumpets in a golden rotunda. They release their war cry at the midnight drummer's circle chant to dismantle a highly touted Michigan team. They hold back tears as they take their picture in the North Endzone, but when Brandon Wimbush throws a 43-yard pass to Chris Finke in the endzone to take a 14-0 lead over their hated rival, the floodgates open. They embrace, and their tears of joy begin to flow as they hear the voice of Mike Collins wake up the echoes of legends past with those three beautiful words, "Touchdown, Notre Dame!"

PALO ALTO, CA 2019 -- Barely one year later, in a cold rainy stadium in Northern California, thousands of miles away from that small Midwestern Indiana town founded on faith and tradition, a young man in the twilight of his twenties has a dream that makes way for him. He marches through the tunnel of Stanford Stadium during pre-game warm-ups, his trumpet in his hand. He brings it to his lips and begins to play the Victory March to the cheers of the team he adores. He is a fan among alumni, a new breed of a Subway Domer. Thousands of Irish fans outnumber the home fans 10:1 as he partners with the Notre Dame cheer team from the endzone to lead a stadium in song and passion. From Spencerville, Ohio, his mother watches on the local Fox broadcast and hears his melody of Victory six times, each time following those three inspiring words, "Touchdown, Notre Dame!"

SPENCERVILLE, OH 2020 -- That once four-year-old boy, now thirty years old, has never experienced the golden years of the Golden Domers, yet begins to believe he is experiencing their current revival as he travels across the country once more, this time, amidst a global pandemic. He hangs a projector screen on the side of his parents' country home to watch the biggest game of his conscious fandom. His family bundles from head to toe as they watch in anxious anticipation, hoping against hope for fourth-ranked Notre Dame to knock-off number one Clemson. Down by seven in the fourth quarter with a minute and eleven seconds to go in regulation, Ian Book throws a fifty-three-yard pass to Avery Davis, and the release of tension manifests in his uncontrollable sobs from this resigned fan and his die-hard mother. Three plays later, with 27 seconds remaining, he watches breathlessly as Ian Book completes a four-yard pass to Avery Davis in the endzone and hears those three, history-making words that preceded Notre Dame's historic victory over Clemson, "Touchdown, Notre Dame!"

REDDING, CA 2020 -- He returns to his now-home in Redding, California, and ponders his Irish blessings: to see the Irish finish three undefeated regular seasons from his adolescence to adulthood. He has traveled thousands of miles to see the Irish play in at least six different cities over his lifetime and achieved his dream of playing for a stadium full of Irish fans, each moment a defining memory of his life. His fandom infects his family, his community, and his relationships. Now, it inspires him to write. He writes to remember these historic times. He writes to connect with those that have gone before and those that will come behind. He writes to find his voice and inspire the silent to do the same. Above all else, he writes to shake down the thunder and awaken the echoes of the Notre Dame spirit by invoking three words that transcend generations and inspire the masses, "Touchdown, Notre Dame!"

Shake Down the Thunder My Friends,

Jeremy Wahlie

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