Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sportsmanship (spĂ´rtsmn-shp, sprts-)
1. Conduct and attitude considered as befitting participants in sports, especially fair play, courtesy, striving spirit, and grace in both winning and losing.

Something very special happened at the end of the recent Notre Dame-Navy football game. Not a final score... not a cheering crowd. Something much, much greater.

Chicago Sun-Times

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Moments after Notre Dame's 42-21 victory over Navy was final, most of the 80,795 fans in attendance remained to watch as Charlie Weis and his Irish players stood at attention while a visiting segment of the Naval Academy band played the school's alma mater, ''Navy Blue & Gold.''

A corps of Midshipmen in the southeast corner of Notre Dame Stadium sang along, doffing their white caps and holding their hands over their hearts. Weis later said his team's participation was hardly impromptu.

''I went to coach [Paul] Johnson before the game and asked him, 'When do you sing your alma mater? Does anyone come over and honor you when you do this?''' Weis said. ''He said, 'Sometimes.' So, I said, 'Well, you don't mind if we come, do you?'

''We would have done that whether we won or lost. Not to be redundant, but [Navy players] stand for so much more than college football.''

But I think that Peter Schroeder, who is a Notre Dame senior English major, said it best;

However, the most impressive event in that stadium was when 80,795 people did no cheering at all. No yelling, no talking, not even an odd sneeze. Dead silence. That's what the Navy band received at the end of the game while they played their alma mater...

And while Navy played their alma mater, one of their fans sang along. An opposing student, singing his alma mater in our student section. Surely he must have a death wish. But on this day, no jeers, insults, or contentious voices were heard; thousands of opposing fans simply listened as a solitary voice in a crowd of thousands rang out and sang for the Navy Blue and Gold. That silence, that voice and the goose bumps on my arm after it was all said and done is what makes this rivalry special...

With no time left on the clock and the outcome decided, this respectful gesture wasn't about Navy's football team; it was about Navy. It was a sobering reminder that what we just poured all of our energy into was just a game. Many times that's easy to forget at Notre Dame, where football lies in the hierarchy of priorities somewhere between inhaling and exhaling. While we can spend countless hours worrying about Sagarin rankings, passing efficiency, and Mark May, Navy has bigger fish to fry. We may claim that we must protect "this house", but Navy must protect something way bigger...

Thank you, Notre Dame football players, for showing respect to an opponent who rightfully deserves it. Thank you, Charlie, for leading the team in that gesture. But most of all, thank you, Navy, for nothing football-related whatsoever.

Peter, I think you very well may speak for an entire nation.


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