Advent, Notre Dame and South Beach

It was nearly three years ago when NBA basketball star LeBron James held a nationally televised, ESPN prime-time special to announce which team he had finally chosen at the end of his free-agency. As the pomp and circumstance of the special concluded, James uttered the now-famous words that made him the most despised man ever to set foot in Cleveland, the city he was about to leave:

“I’ve decided to take my talents to South Beach,” James said.

James left for the Miami Heat and the pro basketball world hated on him for months because of his arrogance for having a prime-time special to announce his decision and discuss his “talents” instead of a normal press conference or press release from his agent

At the risk of being hated on like LeBron, it’s my turn to put on the black hat, be the villain and make a proud boast (not on national television, just here on my blog):

THE IRISH ARE TAKING THEIR TALENTS TO SOUTH BEACH!!

Okay, for those of you scratching your heads, I’m referring to the undefeated – that’s 12-0 for those of you who are wondering – and No.1-ranked University of Notre Dame football team, which will play in the BCS National Championship game Jan. 7, 2013, against Alabama.

I know it is Advent, a time of preparing ourselves for the birth of Jesus. Advent also marks the beginning of the new Church year and an opportunity for all of us to refresh our minds, hearts and souls and to prayerfully consider how we can embrace and internalize the mercy and grace of our Lord.

Advent has been prayerful for me so far, but admittedly, it has also been a bit of struggle, as there have been visions of leprechauns dancing through my head! My visions are the result of more than 24 years of prayer (and what has felt like a heavy dose of penance), marking the last time the Irish were undefeated and playing for the national championship, in 1988.

Let’s just say the time period between 1988 and 2012 has been, well, a bit….barren. I met my wife in 1998 and this whole magical season I’ve been telling her that this is the first time she’s really seen a great Notre Dame football team. My kids, God bless them, are young enough that they have been spared the punishment of walking through the valley of Notre Dame football over the past two decades. But this season, the Heathcott family has been riding a magical Notre Dame high.

To say I am a Notre Dame football fan is a drastic understatement. To say I am a fanatic is probably hyperbole, although those closest to me would point to my Notre Dame man cave in the garage of my back yard, all my Notre Dame apparel and the fact that I tend to get just a little emotional and interactive when watching the Irish play on Saturday’s and classify my fandom as nutty and perhaps extremely peculiar.

The emotional and physical leader for Notre Dame this year has been senior linebacker Manti Te’o, a Mormon from Hawaii who said felt called to play at Notre Dame. He has seen his calling turn into one of the most magical runs in the school’s illustrious history, which includes 11 national championships. Te’o has won multiple national awards and honors already and will be in New York this weekend as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, given to the nation’s top college football player. The last defensive player – and the only defensive player – to win the Heisman trophy was Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997, and he played offense as well.

Our family caught Manti fever big time. We’ve been dancing around kitchen in the mornings watching this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DQMs1E4aYc. Clever and very well done!

So, am I going to South Beach, you ask? No, it’s not in the cards for me. Cheapest tickets are going for $1,400 apiece. Notre Dame-Alabama is the dream clash for the national title and most have predicted it will be the most-watched college football game of all time.

Perhaps there is a Christmas angel out there that can make my dream of seeing the Irish play for the national championship in South Beach come true?

I can only do what we should all be doing more of during Advent – pray!

Peace to you this Advent season as we prepare for the birth of our Savior and Lord. And, GO IRISH!!

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.