Turning Irish

Courtesy Photo / mlive.com
Former Head Coach at Grand Valley, Brian Kelly now is the Head Coach for Notre Dame.

Courtesy Photo / mlive.com Former Head Coach at Grand Valley, Brian Kelly now is the Head Coach for Notre Dame.

Greg Monahan

The University of Notre Dame was always a school I hated. Hate is a strong word, but my feelings growing up were as strong against Notre Dame as they were against going to the dentist and having to put my Nintendo 64 controller down to come to dinner.

I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, taught to hate the Irish and the Ohio State University Buckeyes and bred to worship the University of Michigan Wolverines. To me, there truly was no other way. Seriously — if I started a dynasty in Madden, the first order of business was trading all the former Irish off my team.

Every Saturday in fall, I was almost as excited to see Notre Dame lose as I was to see Michigan win. If they both happened in the same day, it might as well have been Christmas.

And in one offseason, everything changed. Brian Kelly ducks out of the University of Cincinnati and heads to South Bend, bringing his former assistant from our Division II school with him. One major coaching move — and one that barely made the back page of national newspapers — and I found myself whistling the Notre Dame Victory March.

If it was just Kelly heading to ol’ Notre Dame, I could probably still continue my hatred of the Fighting Irish. But with Chuck Martin, the man whose temper and sweater vests we all grew to love here in Allendale, joining Kelly’s staff as a defensive backs coach, I reached the tipping point on my predisposition against the Irish.

I am a Grand Valley State University fan first and still a Michigan fan second, so while watching the Michigan-Notre Dame game on Saturday, I had a little bit of pull for the same team I used to despise for the first time. When Michigan led, I rooted for Notre Dame to stay in the game. Though I did not particularly want the Irish to win, I did not want to see Kelly get embarrassed either.

In the past, my two favorite college football teams were Michigan and whoever was playing Notre Dame. Now it’s Michigan and, well, Notre Dame. It might be similar to rooting for both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, but as an Ann Arbor kid with GVSU close to my heart, I just don’t know what else to do.

My brother, sister and father are all University of Michigan alumni. I don’t think they like me anymore. My friends who used to watch Michigan games by my side growing up see me as a Benedict Arnold. Even my own brain is mad at myself; I see the blue jerseys and gold helmets and I have to pause for a moment and think, “Oh that’s right, I like them now.”

Even if I tried to continue to hate Notre Dame, I couldn’t do it. Watching the past two games on NBC, there have been a handful of shots where you could see Martin standing next to Kelly. It was just like GVSU football in 2003, except the colors have changed and the salaries have risen. And though even I cannot believe I’m saying this, as long as those two are in charge in South Bend, then “Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame.”

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