Following Flynt - Beyond The Game

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IMAG0472.jpg For the second consecutive year, I was fortunate to attend Notre Dame's Shamrock Series home-away-from-home game in one of our nation's great cities. Last season, the Irish took over the Big Apple, playing Army at the new Yankee Stadium, a flashback to the historic games of decades ago at the old House That Ruth Built.

This season, the matchup lacked the historical flair of 2010, but that is beside the point. For me, despite a resounding Fighting Irish victory over the Maryland Terrapins, the game was somewhat of an afterthought.

The weekend was about much more than football. It was about a university, a team and its dedicated fans and alumni, coming together for a full weekend, bringing Notre Dame's spirit and tradition on the road.

On Veteran's Day weekend, the location of this year's Shamrock Series game was especially significant. Notre Dame does not have a long history of football in Washington, D.C., but our nation's capital is of great importance to our university.

Inscribed on the east door of the Basilica is a memorial to the Notre Dame men who died in World War I. "God, Country, Notre Dame," however, is much more than a memorial to those who've passed. From students and alumni to faculty and staff, it is an ever-present phrase on campus, and may as well be the university's unofficial mantra.

It's four simple words, but it is also a set of guiding principle for how Notre Dame people lead their life. Hosting the Shamrock Series game in our nation's capital brought those three pillars together perhaps better than any other city could have.

On Friday evening, a pep rally was held on the National Mall. Don Criqui emceed the event, which featured appearances from tight end Mike Ragone, Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick and former Notre Dame standouts Reggie Brooks and Joe Theismann, both of whom played for the Washington Redskins.

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Weather in the D.C. area is typically a bit warmer than in South Bend, but on this night, it seemed we brought along the northern Indiana cold. Despite the chilly weather, there was a great crowd on hand for a very unique Notre Dame pep rally.

Swarbrick spoke about the purpose of the Shamrock Series, explaining that it is a way of "connecting a great university with great American cities." These weekends are an opportunity to bring Notre Dame, academically and spiritually, as well as athletically, to other areas of the country.

Brooks talked about the nature of the Notre Dame fan base. "What sets Notre Dame apart from everyone else is the fans. We're nationwide. We're worldwide," he said.

Likewise, Theismann described the special bond that exists between Notre Dame alumni and supporters. "No matter where you go, where you travel, you always have a home because there's a Notre Dame family to take you in," the College Football Hall of Famer said.

On Saturday morning, University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. presided over Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in downtown Washington.

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Several trumpet players from the Notre Dame Band performed the alma mater, "Notre Dame, Our Mother," at the conclusion of the Mass.

IMAG0509.jpg At noon, the Band of the Fighting Irish performed on the lawn outside the U.S. Capitol. The concert featured the traditional Notre Dame music, as well as selections from the halftime show, "God, Country, Notre Dame."

The entire weekend, especially the events leading up to the game, demonstrated what makes the Shamrock Series and Notre Dame football special - the fact that it is about more than the Fighting Irish and their opponent.

When the "off-site" home games began in 2009, many wondered why Notre Dame was playing a home game away from Notre Dame Stadium. These games however, allow us to step away from our incredible campus and truly recognize how special this university is and why so many of us love Notre Dame.

It's not surprising to see old friends for home games in South Bend, but running into them more than 600 miles from campus, in bustling cities like Washington and New York, demonstrates the loyalty that people have to the university.

For many, Notre Dame football has played a significant role in developing that pride and dedication to the university. However, weekends like this past one in Washington, also provide evidence that even when connected to football, our passion for Notre Dame goes far beyond the gridiron.

It is about a fervent spirit for an institution that is much more than a center of intellect and academia. It is about "God, Country, Notre Dame." And it is about the people we grow to know and love during our time at the university.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

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