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Bird Brown: It’s almost time to wake the echoes, shake the thunder

My entire life I have been a rabid sports fan for the teams that I’ve supported. Although I grew up in an army family and we moved to many states and a few foreign countries, my loyalties for the most part stayed with the sports teams in Baltimore.

My parents were huge Redskins fans, but my grandfather had the most influence on my decisions at that time and he had me supporting the Baltimore Colts — those Colts of Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, and my favorite player, Tom Matte. I followed them until the day they broke my heart on March 29, 1984, then switched my allegiances to the Miami Dolphins where former Colts coach Don Shula was at the helm.

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I’ve been a Ravens season ticket owner since the very first day that you could sign up for the infamous PSL’s (how much are they worth these days?) and have been supporting my team ever since. They too broke my heart a couple of years ago with not only their embarrassing defeat to the Jaguars in London, but the ironically poor choice of protest in the land from which we broke and became the greatest country in the history of the world.

When I was younger, I bled blue and white out of one arm and black and orange out of the other. I’ve done the O’s cheer with Wild Bill Hagy more times than I can remember and sang quite a few verses of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” even watching a playoff game through the center field fence at the old Memorial Stadium. But what Mr. Angelos and his merry pranksters have done with that fine organization coupled with the fun times that we’re now experiencing in the city, and I’ve stayed away from Camden Yards the past few years.

Then again, there’s Dec. 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 35, 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 Theismann. 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, think I’m a bandwagon jumper or I’ve dusted off my Notre Dame gear because they’re successful as of late. The people that really know me know that I’ve been the most obnoxious Notre Dame fan for almost 50 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 30 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 D1 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 guy who sold his ticket to Cal Ripken’s 2,130th consecutive game played to buy DirecTV and watch Notre Dame vs. Michigan, and the same 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 2018 it’s that much sweeter. Don’t give me grief about Navy, Bowling Green, or Duke on our schedule when Alabama has Duke, New Mexico State, and Western Carolina on theirs. Just like the 5-2 record the Irish have over ‘Bama including 4-0 against Bear Bryant, it doesn’t matter. What matters is we’re relevant again.

National champion coach Dan Devine seemed to sum things up when he talked about the Notre Dame fans by saying, “There are two kinds of people in the world, Notre Dame lovers and Notre Dame haters. And, quite frankly, they’re both a pain in the ass.”

Guilty as charged. Go Irish!

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