When you stop fighting the Irish and bond with your sister

By Brittany Hackett

My sister is two years younger than I am and is one of my best friends. We’ve had similar interests since we were kids. Disney movies, classic novels, Sex and the City, the Chicago Cubs, and buying cookie cake at 11 p.m. at night (and eating the whole thing) are all things we enjoy doing together.

But as close as we are, I could never understand why Stephanie was so in love with the Fighting Irish football team of Notre Dame. They never seemed like anything special to me, just a bunch of guys trying to knock each other over on a field. What’s so special about that?

I have never followed any college football teams religiously, but Stephanie is one of the biggest Notre Dame football fans I have ever known. Seriously, she makes rowdy World Cup fans look like polite golf spectators. And I have no idea why Notre Dame is her team of choice. No one in our family has ever attended the university, we’ve never been to the campus to see a game, and we don’t know anyone in South Bend. The only football team we ever watched on TV growing up was the Chicago Bears and that was only because my dad had the remote control. But for as long as I can remember, Stephanie has worshiped the field the Irish play on and prayed to Touchdown Jesus.

In high school, I remember Stephanie sitting on the couch every Saturday when a Notre Dame game was on. Stephanie would yell at the players, the referees, and then me after I informed her that they couldn’t hear a word (usually not nice ones) she was saying. Sometimes she would get so excited that she would throw things at the television set or go into a 20-minute “Brady Quinn is so hot, he’s the best quarterback ever” monologue that would have me rolling on the floor in fits of laughter. Good times in the Hackett house on those days.

Around September last year, I got a call from Stephanie telling me to turn on the TV and watch the Notre Dame game with her (yes, the whole game) because she was bored and wanted someone to talk to. No, I’m not kidding, and yes, I turned on the game and watched the whole thing with her, all four hours, while on the cell phone. What can I say, she gave me the very persuasive argument of “Brittany, you have to see No. 83, he’s a hottie, and the team’s doing so awesome this season.”

I began watching the game (OK, so I started off watching No. 83, but by the end I was actually watching the whole thing) and was surprised to find myself actually enjoying it. It turns out No. 83, Jeff Samardzjia (aka Shark) was a hottie, and they were an amazing team this season.

I had no clue what was going on at certain points, but that’s what Stephanie was there for-to answer my annoying questions. She told me important facts, like that Charlie Weis was the new head coach who was pushing for an offensively driven team, Tom Zbikowski grew up in Arlington Heights, IL (a town about 15 minutes away from where we grew up in Chicago), and that, for the first time since 2000, the Irish had a decent shot at making it to a BCS game at the end of the season.

When the game ended and I had said goodbye to my sister, I went to my computer and printed a copy of the Irish’s schedule for the remainder of the season. I watched every game I could, and researched the ones I couldn’t. I cheered when they beat Tennessee and cried when they were robbed in the USC game (it’s still too painful to talk about). And when the Irish did in fact make it to the Fiesta Bowl, I was elated for them. And then I cried some more when they lost to Ohio State.

In addition to bleeding Chicago Cubs blue (which I have since birth), I now bleed Irish gold. I now give 20-minute “Jeff Samardzija is so hot, he’s the best wide receiver ever” monologues to Stephanie.

“Hi, My name is Brittany, and I’m an Irish football addict.” And it’s all her fault.

You may be wondering why I am even telling you this story, but it will all be made clear soon, I promise.

My sister has been accepted to Florida State University for the fall 2007 academic year. She has decided to enroll in the school’s International Program and our parents are crazy enough to let her. Stephanie will spend three consecutive semesters studying business in Italy, Spain, and England. I don’t think it needs to be said that she’s a little excited. All I have been hearing about this summer is Italy this, Spain that, blah, blah, blah.

It would be an understatement to say I was pretty jealous that she was going to spend her freshman year of college in Europe, but then it hit me. Stephanie, the biggest Irish fan I know, will miss every regular season Notre Dame game of the year in which everyone is saying the Irish will dominate. It’s also her “one true love” Brady Quinn’s senior (meaning final) year with the team. Suddenly, Europe wasn’t looking so good to my globetrotting sister.

Like a loving older sister, I’ve been trying to make her feel better by promising to tape all the games for her to watch when she comes home. I’ve offered to talk to her over the Internet during the games to keep her posted and even to kidnap Brady Quinn and hold him hostage until she comes home for Christmas-that idea made her feel a little better.

But I think most of those ideas are actually to make myself feel better about her leaving during such an important bonding time for the two of us. Who will I talk to about how much I loathe USC or how good Shark’s long dark hair looks underneath his gold helmet or why Brady should play without his jersey on (and trust me, he should)? Who will be on the other end of the phone when obscenities need to be hollered at the TV, pens need to be thrown, and cheers of joy need to be shouted?

As happy as I am for the opportunity my sister is getting for her freshman year of college, I can’t help but wish that she was going to be able to experience this season with me. Plus I really hate the fact that she’ll be in Europe and has been informing me of the fact all summer like it was a new development. That’s just rude.

On the bright side, she will be jealous as hell that I get to see Brady in those gold football pants every week and she doesn’t. And if rubbing a fact like that into your little sister’s face doesn’t bring you closer together, then I don’t know what does.

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