Planet Notre Dame

November 25, 2002

The middle '80s were the Middle Ages for Bill Moss, a Notre Dame
alumnus (class of '67) living in Dublin. In that benighted
decade, Fighting Irish football floated in on a fickle breeze
from Germany, via Armed Forces Radio, and Moss could sometimes
get reception only in his bathroom, with its single seat. And so
he would sit there and listen intently, looking like a Rodin
sculpture called The Stinker.

Then miraculously, in the middle '90s, there abruptly appeared on
his Dublin cable system NBC programming from America, and
Moss--unable to believe his luck--could watch Notre Dame games in
living color. It seemed too good to last, and it was: After three
seasons NBC vanished as mysteriously as it had arrived, replaced
by the National Geographic Channel. "We went from Notre
Dame--USC," Moss says with a sigh, "to the giant rat of Sumatra."

Meet the insomniac citizens of Planet Irish, who hold their ears
to Internet radio for 3 a.m. kickoffs (as Moss did for this
season's Air Force game) or sit in their back garden in a
slanting rain with a transistor radio (as Moss did in his Armed
Forces Radio days).

Such fanatics are everywhere: In London you'll find British
nationals who are half Cockney, half Rockne. "English people will
say to me, 'Did you go to Notre Dame?'" says Kenny Boehner, an
American alumnus (B.A. '90, J.D. '93) who attends listening
parties in a Notre Dame--owned facility off Trafalgar Square.
"Only they always--always--pronounce it Notrah Dahm."

And can we get a boo-yah for Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, where
alumna Julie Fischer hosts viewing parties at the U.S. Embassy?
Not only does Fischer, as an embassy employee, have access to
Armed Forces Television; "I have a wonderful cook," she says,
"who can whip up the best buffalo chicken wings in all of
Nigeria."

If the world were a martini olive and you stuck a tiny plastic
sword through South Bend--an appealing prospect to Michigan
fans--it would come out the opposite side at Fremantle,
Australia, exactly 180 degrees from Touchdown Jesus. There, at an
affiliated college called Notre Dame Australia, three dozen
American students and alumni earwitnessed, on the Internet
beginning at 3:30 a.m., the dispiriting 14--7 loss to Boston
College. "By the end we all could have used a drink," says Perth
resident Sean Lennon (B.A. '87, M.B.A '94), but given that the
end came at 7:15 on a Sunday morning, they abstained from
imbibing EMU Export and went to bed instead. "It's a different
story for games that start at midnight," says Lennon. On those
occasions they shake down the thunder Down Under. Beer does flow,
and men chunder.

Americans live in an Irish republic. But you already knew that.
The difference between Notre Dame and Clemson? "You're not gonna
go to Montana and find a lot of Clemson fans--right?" says Tim
Bourret (ND '77), who happens to be the sports information
director for Clemson.

But it goes way beyond Missoula. Notre Dame fans gather regularly
at Molly Malone's in Singapore, an Irish bar that doubles as an
Irish bar. Alumni throw regular football parties in Puerto
Vallarta, Mexico. While efforts to reach the Notre Dame Club of
Pago Pago were unsuccessful--they didn't return my pigeons--I
promise you that it does exist and at last report had four
members.

Notre Dame has only 106,000 alumni--not enough to fill Michigan
Stadium. Yet they're vocal. They wake up the echoes, then wake up
the neighbors. Brian Muskus ('68) gathers in central Tokyo with a
group of alumni who are retired from the military. Last month--in
the middle of the night, in a friend's apartment at the U.S.
Embassy housing compound--he and 16 others cheered the Irish
victory over Florida State as it unfolded live on Armed Forces
Television. "Hopefully his neighbors were understanding," says
Muskus, "of the frequent, boisterous outbursts between
oh-one-hundred hours and oh-four-thirty."

It happens on all seven leprecontinents. "In Latin America we
could get the games on cable," says James F. Creagan ('62), who
served as U.S. ambassador to Honduras under President Clinton.
Creagan is now president of John Cabot University in Rome, which
hosts Notre Dame students studying abroad (not all of whom want
to pay for the team's Internet radiocasts). "Here," says Creagan,
"the students check out the Web, and get the scores, but not the
play action or the sound and fury."

Still, an oceanic remove has its advantages. "The perspective of
4,000 miles makes you different from someone living in Chicago,"
says Moss, who's lived in Dublin since 1978. "When you rely on
late-night Internet radio broadcasts from the other side of the
Atlantic, perhaps it is the game that is the thing and not so
much the implications for BCS bids or national rankings."

His lilting accent, after a quarter-century, is less Lake Erie
than River Liffey, and for a moment Moss seems to be buying his
own theory. But then he caves like a witness on
cross-examination. "That all sounds very good," he admits, "but
the BC game still killed me."

Yet even then Ireland offered solace that Notre Dame Stadium
couldn't have. "Thank God for Guinness," says Moss, "and the
passage of a few days."

B/W PHOTO: JEFFERY A. SALTER

In London you'll find Fighting Irish fans, British nationals who
are half Cockney, half Rockne.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)