Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Echoes

So, we're starting Notre Dame week.  Looking really forward to heading to South Bend for the game--even though I saw on the ESPN Ticker yesterday that ND has a 99.6% chance of winning the game.  That's not what's at play here.

When I was young, and we're talking in the 1970s here, being a college football fan was way different than it is today.  First, you only had 3 channels on TV.  (We had PBS, too, but they were not football-relevant).  Then, there was usually only one game or maybe two on TV on a Saturday.  Teams were actually limited to how often they could be on TV--I believe it was twice a season.

So, if you followed Michigan, for example, your primary way of following the games was to go to the game (and that was all but impossible) or to listen on the radio...Don Ufer in this specific example.  Same with Ohio State.

And there was no SportsCenter....and you might get some highlights on the 11 news, but usually, they were shot from the sideline by a reporter.

It was just very different.

But on Sunday...yes, had the Notre Dame highlight show.  And my brother and I watched it every Sunday.

There have been other highlight shows--every school used to have one--where the coach would come on and talk through some highlights and they'd interview a player or an assistant and do a feature on the school and preview the game the next week.

That's not what this was.

This was something way better.  It was broadcast as a shortened game.  The play-by-play was Lindsay Nelson and they'd start with the kickoff and then show the game in a condensed form, cutting out the boring parts and yet still transmitting the excitement and flow of the game.

The famous phrases from Lindsay was "now we move ahead to further action in the 3rd Quarter" or "after an exchange of punts, Notre Dame had the ball on its own 30."

I don't even know how long the show was on...I suspect an hour, but maybe a half-hour.  We never felt that we were missing very much, but then again I was 10 years old.

These were very good years to follow Notre Dame.  Ara Parseghian was the coach.  In 1973, right in this wheel house, they went 11-0 and won the national championship.  They were 10-2 the next year.

The sponsor?  Irish Spring soap.  I swear to God.  I've looked on Youtube and I can't find a complete version of the show...has to be one somewhere, but I haven't found it.

Notre Dame was a true independent than but played a lot of the same teams every year...always the service academies, always USC, always Northwestern, always MSU, always Purdue.

Tom Clements was the QB.  We thought Tom Clements was the best QB who ever lived and couldn't believe he didn't make it in the NFL.  You got to know all the players...Wayne Bullock, Drew Mihalic.

You followed it like you were watching the game...I'm pretty sure most of the time we didn't know who had won the game when we watched.  Or that might be my memory playing tricks on me.

It was mythology at its best.  It was the stadium at Notre Dame, it was uniforms, it was the band and the cheerleaders and the leprechaun.  It was fall days and coaches in overcoats and iconic opponents and real grass. 

And the fight song.  Oh man, that fight song.  I can't wait to hear them play that on Saturday.

It's an odd thing.  Stuff that you experience at that age locks into your head.  They're like some kind of cornerstone.  I can remember guys from the NC State team that won the national title (Monte Towles) for reasons that I don't understand.

Another was the Purdue upset...for a whole host of reasons. 

There are just certain times when things are in front of you and you do them. 

Going to South Bend to chase down the echoes.


Anonymous said...

Nice piece from the UT fan that always follows your blog. I’m 63 and vividly remember the ND highlight show. UT also had Rocket Review on channel 30 WGTE PBS on Sundays at 5:00. I loved rewatching UT’s wins during the 35 game win streak. I also watched the NCAA college highlight show on ABC Sunday’s at noon which featured highlights from 5 or 6 national games each week and usually an Ivy League game. I recall Chris Schenkel or Dave Dials as being the host. I LOVED college football in the 60’s and 70’s. The mythical national title and the rare inter-regional games. But when they did occur it was a HUGE event!

Anonymous said...

Good recollections when things were different in sports viewing. I remember watching ABC college football with Bud Wilkinson giving the color. Also, didn't Paul Horning also work on the ND highlight show on Sundays? One thing of note, the UofM radio announcer was Bob Ufer not Don Ufer. Thanks

Orange said...

You are correct, Bob not Don.

Anonymous said...

It was as Bob Ufer and I thought Paul Hornung did color on the actual game broadcasts. I’ll have to do some research! I’d like to get a PhD in College football/basketball broadcast history with football as the major.

Ken said...

Typo for you - "Notre Dame was a true independent than but played a lot of"

I watched the NCAA highlight show that came on at noon. I LOVED watching that with my Dad each week!