Why do we love some sports teams unconditionally, win or lose? If you live in the Pittsburgh area, it is understandable to passionately follow the Steelers, Pirates or Penguins. Or you love a local college team or the team where you went to school, either high school or college. Or your passion might be an international sports event like the Olympics. There probably is some reason for the special feelings you have for these events.
For me, I have always loved the Notre Dame football team, and I don’t know why. I’m not Catholic. In fact, the town that I grew up didn’t even have a Catholic church. My family isn’t Irish, unless Scotch-Irish counts. But the very first college football game that I ever saw in person was a Notre Dame vs. Pitt game at Notre Dame University. My father, being a railroader, was able to get passes for the entire family, so we went via B&O Railroad. My mother’s aunt and uncle lived in South Bend and they got my father and I tickets for the football game. Everyone thought that I would cheer for Pitt, but not so. Notre Dame was my team. It was a thrill, for a young girl from Connellsville High School, to enter the football stadium at Notre Dame. The stadium was jam packed with thousands of people, the band was playing the school’s fight song, the players were on the field, I was in heaven!
What does all this have to do with Connellsville? When I was researching issues of the local paper from 1925, to write about the stadium that never got built in East Park, I discovered that Knute Rockne visited Connellsville and spoke to the Kiwanis Club on Dec. 8, 1925. Knute Rockne! Can you believe that? This man is an icon in Notre Dame football history, and he was speaking in Connellsville. If you are a fan of classic movies, you probably think that Rockne looked just like Pat O’Brien, who portrayed Rockne in the film about his life. Sometimes the actor becomes so identified with the character that people are rather shocked when they see what the person really looked like.