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Cheer, Cheer For Old Notre Dame - Poem by Donal Mahoney
When Danny Murphy was in kindergarten, just about every Saturday afternoon in autumn, he would go down to the basement and listen to the Notre Dame game with his father. That was back in the 1940s when Notre Dame had great teams. Few teams beat Notre Dame back then.
'How come Notre Dame wins all the time, Dad, ' little Danny would ask his father.
And the answer was always the same:
'Danny, I think the good Lord keeps an eye out for Notre Dame. Especially when they play Southern Methodist.'
All through grammar school and high school, Danny hoped Notre Dame would win every game. But he didn't want to go to school there, despite his father's wishes.
'Notre Dame will make a man out of you, Danny. It'll put hair on your chest.'
Instead, Danny wanted to go to a small school, St. Sava College, because he figured it would be easier to get good grades. St. Save was out in farm country, far enough from Chicago to avoid monitoring by his parents but close enough to get home on weekends. Besides, St. Sava had never had a good basketball team. Danny figured he would probably start at guard for St. Sava as a freshman.
Danny wanted to go to college to play basketball, have a few beers and get grades good enough to get into law school. He figured he would have to study hard once he got into law school so why not have a little fun as an undergraduate. St. Sava, although a small school, had a strong record of placing its students in some fine law schools and medical schools. Danny figured he'd get the necessary grades and then ace the law school entrance exam. But first he wanted to have some fun.
Things went well for Danny in his freshman and sophomore years at St. Sava, although whenever he came home for a weekend his father would try to talk him into transferring to Notre Dame.
'With your grades, Danny, you'll get into Notre Dame without a problem, ' his father kept saying. 'A degree from Notre Dame is a ticket to success. It won't stop you from getting into heaven either.'
Danny not only earned great grades but he averaged more than 20 points a game for the basketball team. Twenty points a game was a good scoring average in 1956. Some kids were still shooting two-handed set shots. Danny had learned the jump shot in Chicago, playing against older kids and he used it to advantage playing for St. Sava.
Many of the other kids had come from families whose parents had emigrated from Bohemia and Slovakia. They had been sent to St. Sava to get an education but also to soak up their cultural heritage. Most of the monks who taught at the school were of Slavic ancestry. Some had emigrated from Europe.
Being of Irish ancestry, Danny needed a little time to get used to the Bohemian and Slovak food served in the cafeteria. He had never eaten lentils and lentils seemed to be on the menu every day fixed one way or another. At least one day a week brown lentils were served alongside breaded 'mystery meat, ' as it was known to many students. It took Danny a while to figure out that the 'mystery meat' was breaded eggplant served in a preparation that was a mainstay in Bohemia and Slovakia. It wasn't that bad once Danny got used to it.
The summer after his sophomore year Danny decided to stay on campus and work in the farm fields for the monks. The pay was poor but with free room and board, how could he go wrong? He'd have money to go to town and have a few beers some nights and a chance to read novels and poetry on other nights. An English major, he had to keep reading to get a head start on the syllabi for courses he would take in his junior year.
Then one hot August afternoon Brother Raphael came down the row of corn to tell crouching Danny that Father Bohumil wanted to talk with him in his office.
'Get a move on, Danny, ' Brother Vladimir said. He was a man who could do anything with his hands and he didn't trust students, especially those from the city as incompetent in the fields as Danny was.
'Pull the weeds, Danny, not the carrots' were the first words Danny ever heard from Brother Vladimir.
Danny figured Father Bohumil, Dean of Student Affairs, wanted to discuss some events for the upcoming school year. Danny had been elected vice president of student government so maybe Father wanted his help on some project. So Danny washed up and headed for Fr. Bohumil's office.
'Hello, Father, ' Danny said as he walked through the office door. 'I bet you have big plans for Homecoming already.'
But it wasn't Homecoming that Father Bohumil wanted to talk about.
'Danny, we've got a problem. Some student has been sending live chickens and ducks to Dr. Compton. I think you had him for French last year. He lives not far from here and the post office there is loaded with crates of live poultry that he never ordered. He figured some student played a trick on him.'
'Well, ' Danny said, 'even if I knew who would did it, it would be hard to tell on him. If the other kids found out, I'd really catch it when they got back to campus.'
Father Bohumil then told Danny that Dr. Compton, prior to coming to St. Sava, had worked for the FBI for 20 years doing intelligence work.
'Danny, he called the companies that sent the ducks and chickens and they sent him a copies of the orders. He brought the orders to school and compared the handwriting with his final exams from last year. That's how we found out it was you who ordered the chickens and ducks. He's not a happy man, Danny, and neither are we.'
Danny realized immediately his time at St. Sava was limited. He thought he was about to be expelled. But Father Bohumil had other ideas.
'Danny, in your two years here you have been an excellent student, a fine athlete and a student leader. Normally, we would expel someone for doing something like this. But I talked with the abbot and he said to deny you registration for next semester and for every semester after that. You can never come back here, Danny. But at least you can apply elsewhere and know that nothing negative will appear on your record. You still have a chance at having a very good academic career.'
Danny was shaking but he thanked Father Bohumil for the leniency. He said he would pack his bags, get a lift into town and take the next train back to Chicago.
'Stop in the kitchen, Danny, ' Father Bohumil said, 'and the nuns will give you a bag of sandwiches. You might get hungry on the train. I hope things work out for you. Never do anything this stupid again.'
Danny apologized again and headed for the kitchen for his sandwiches. It wouldn't take long to pack. But it would be long ride home. And what would he tell his parents, especially his father? That was the question.
Danny got home around supper time. His mother had put together a big feed of corned beef and cabbage for his father's 50th birthday. But first his father wanted to know why Danny had come home in the middle of the week.
'Well, Dad, I've been thinking it over and I think you were right all along. I want to transfer to Notre Dame. I should have gone there in the first place. A degree from Notre Dame will get me into law school anywhere.'
'Now you're talking, son, ' his father said.
His mother had little to say, She was busy dishing up the steaming corned beef and cabbage. It turned out to be a great meal what with Danny's father congratulating his son every bite or two about transferring to Notre Dame.
After dessert, Danny promised to call the registrar at Notre Dame the next day to start the paperwork for his transfer. There was less than a month left before the new school year would start. And Danny wanted to be on campus, sitting in the stands with his father and watching Notre Dame pound the daylights out of Purdue.
Later on, before he went to bed, Danny told his mother he might try out for the basketball team at Notre Dame if his courses weren't too hard.
'Good luck, ' his mother said without looking up from her knitting.
Comments about Cheer, Cheer For Old Notre Dame by Donal Mahoney
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