You can take the boy out of St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in Fulda, Minn., but you can't take the St. Gabriel's out of the man. That was obvious a week ago, when I spent more time watching the Notre Dame game on Saturday than the other openers.
Notre Dame was playing host to Temple. I wept for my Irish ancestors, and not because it took Notre Dame a while to take full control. I wept because Notre Dame was deigning to play Temple.
There is also a home game next month with Miami … of Ohio! Last year, the Irish had a home game with Nevada.
This is why Notre Dame stayed a football independent, to offer the faithful home games against teams from the MAC, the second division of the Mountain West and Temple?
My mother, Jane Cecilia McDonough of Waldorf, Minn., would have three questions when encountering one of her sons on a fall Saturday in the 1950s:
One: Did you get any pheasants? "Yes, and don't worry, Mom, no hens."
Two: Did Notre Dame win? "Fire Terry Brennan."
Three: Did the Gophers win? "Yeah, but Warmath punted on third down twice."
That was the order: pheasants, Notre Dame, Gophers.
There was a reminder of Notre Dame's lost football significance with Ara Parseghian's recent death. I found a clipping of a feature written after visiting South Bend in April 1981, to see in-person the Spring of Gerry Faust with the Irish.
He was a high school coach from Moeller Catholic in Cincinnati. His nonstop energy and spirit had the Golden Domers believing that one-loss seasons would be a disappointment with Faust. It didn't work out that way.
By 1983, Faust had proved so mediocre school officials allowed the Irish to accept a bid to the Liberty Bowl, to play Boston College. It was billed the "Vatican Bowl" — basically, a chance for folks in Memphis to see what Catholics looked like.
I was in Knoxville seven years later when Lou Holtz and Notre Dame arrived to play Tennessee. Jihadists would have been greeted more warmly. Now, it wouldn't mean half as much as a visit from Ohio State.
Read Patrick Reusse's blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.