December 31, 1973.
That day is etched in my memory and rates up there with my wedding day, the birth of my three sons, Super Bowl XXXV, graduation days and my confirmation day. That was the day I fell in love with Notre Dame football.
I liked them before because when there were only three channels, they received a lot of TV coverage. I thought the name Ara Parseghian was cool. When we played football I was Terry Hanratty or Joe Theisman. And there was just something about those gold helmets.
That night my passion was sealed. We were living in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and my brother was home on break from West Point. The New Year's Eve version of the Sugar Bowl that year pitted No. 1 Alabama against No. 2 Notre Dame in what was billed "the game of the century".
Notre Dame won that night 24-23. Before there was the BCS Bowl system, there was the AP and the UPI polls. The UPI had already awarded the No. 1 ranking to the Tide before the game and Notre Dame earned the AP's top ranking for winning the 1973 Sugar Bowl.
For the people that have known me for a short time, I'm a bandwagon jumper or they think I've dusted off my Notre Dame gear because they're successful this year. The people that really know me know that I've been the most obnoxious Notre Dame fan for forty years, even when Gerry Faust, Bob Davies, and Charlie Weis were coaches.
It's not a religious thing as some people suggest. Although I'm Catholic, my love for the Irish goes back thirty years before my conversion. I have non-Catholic friends that share my love for Notre Dame football and Catholic friends who detest the Irish.
It's not a school thing. I didn't go to school there partially because I wanted to play soccer in college and I wasn't Division I stock and mostly because I wouldn't have gotten accepted. I don't cheer for Notre Dame basketball because I couldn't stand Digger Phelps when they'd play against Lefty Driesell. I don't really follow any other teams besides football.
It's all about passion. There are few things in life that can reach down into your inner being and bring out your raw emotions and to me one of those is Notre Dame Football. I'm the idiot who overpaid for tickets to a game in South Bend, the same who sold his Cal Ripken record-tying ticket to buy DirecTV and watch Notre Dame vs. Michigan and the one who will sit until the bitter end of each game, regardless of opponent or outcome.
I've suffered through rough seasons, so when you have year like 2012 it's that much sweeter. Don't give me grief about Navy, BYU, and Wake Forest on our schedule when 'Bama has Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky and Western Carolina on theirs. Just like the 5-1 record the Irish have over 'Bama including 4-0 against Bear Bryant, it doesn't matter. What matters is that we're relevant again.
During the 1973 Sugar Bowl, announcer Howard Cosell said, "At Notre Dame, football is a religion. At Alabama, it's a way of life." In the Brown house, it's both.