During our travels, it’s important to me that we visit iconic sport’s landmarks that harken back to my youth. Those days when sport’s figures were heroes and the stadiums where they played were fields of conquest.
It’s not as important to my family, but they oblige me because they are a deferring bunch. Sports was the road I traveled, in my mind, as a youth. The field of play is where I lived vicariously. Sports took me to another world, which permitted me, ever so briefly, to escape from the hellishness of my home.
I don’t follow sports any longer, at least not like that. I keep up with current events through various apps but have little time to devote to such matters now that I have a better life.
As we travel, I do enjoy seeing the places where my heroes played. This time around, we’ve seen the Cincinnati Red’s ballpark, Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions, Wrigley Field, United Center, and as we were exiting Michigan, we stopped by Ann Arbor to see the Big House and then went to South Bend to check out the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
The Big House
The Big House looks like a big house of sorts. It’s big with red brick walls towering from the parking areas. The Michigan Wolverines play college football there. I’ve never cared much about the Wolverines, but they have had good teams historically. Jim Harbaugh is there current coach.
As an aside, my Tar Heels beat the Michigan basketball team for the national title in 1993. Michigan had the “fab five,” a group of freshman that were going to change basketball, which that did in a sense. But we did win the title.
While at the university, we went to the Law Quad, which was impressive. It reminded me of Dead Poet’s Society as far as the structures and cerebral perception of the place. The university seemed to spread all over Ann Arbor. I’m not sure about that, but it had the feel that it was everywhere.
Notre Dame was much different. It was tight and confined, though large. It was also clean and beautiful. Because it was more accessible to walkabout, we could see and enjoy it better than the University of Michigan.
We saw their football and basketball stadiums, which are side-by-side, as well as their other sport’s facilities. They’ve gathered most of their sports, if not all, in one place, which was smart because they could park in the same area for multiple sporting events.
It was great to see statues of Lou Holtz and Knute Rockne. Lou was a ten-year coach, who won a national title, and Knute is the iconic football player and coach from the earlier part of last century.
My most impressive memory of Notre Dame is January 19, 1974, when the basketball team beat UCLA, breaking the Bruin’s 88-game winning streak. It was stunning and indelible.
It was interesting to see all the religious statues and plaques on campus. The most notable one was a massive statue of Moses with his foot on the neck of the golden calf, one arm corraling the Ten Commandments, and the other hand defiantly pointing to the sky. It was impressive.
And, of course, the Bascillica and Golden Dome were side-by-side and inspiring too. I silently wondered how much it meant to folks, other than architectural intrigue.
As we were walking around the stadium, three priests were chatting up each other. One of them was puffing on a cigarette. That was cool. It reminded me of my Baptist days when the deacons were out back toking their cigs, away from the holy parishioners.
The difference is that this priest was more consistent in that he had nothing to hide. He was “just as I am” rather than being pretentious. It was refreshing. He was relatable. Sadly, the Baptist puffer is relatable too with his hypocrisy.
Lake Michigan, here we come!