The day I ran away from home |

The day I ran away from home

Mike Vidakovich

The year was 1974, and it was on a Saturday in late November that I decided I couldn’t take any more of the constant razzing from a few of the male members of my family, so I angrily headed out the back door from my boyhood home on Bennett Avenue in Glenwood, vowing to never return again.

The cause of this unexpected upheaval within the ranks of my inner circle came as the result of my beloved Fighting Irish of Notre Dame being trounced on the football field by those hated USC Trojans, 55-24. This was not supposed to be the outcome in Coach Ara Parseghian’s last regular season game at the helm of the Irish.

Actually, as the day, and especially the first half of that game unfolded, my own brashness and big mouth was the impetus for my dad, my brother, and my brother-in-law, to lay it on me thick as the final gun sounded at the Los Angeles Coliseum and a running back named Anthony Davis had scored six touchdowns to lead USC back from a 24-6 halftime deficit to post 49 unanswered points to mercilessly whip Notre Dame in what is still known as the “California Earthquake.”

As I watched Davis score touchdown after touchdown in the second half of that game, showing off each time he hit the end zone by sliding on his knees in celebration, I regretted my early game boasting to all who would listen that the Irish were too tough for the boys from Southern California and would surely add to their large lead in the second half of play.

That was a traumatic episode in the life of this die-hard sports fan, but things did end very well that day for me though, as after a brief 90 minute “runaway,” I was welcomed back home with open arms and just in time for one of my mom’s wonderful dinners.

I was reminded of that sad day in ’74 when I saw that Parseghian had passed away on Aug. 2 at the age of 94. He and Lou Holtz were always my favorite Irish coaches, and seeing that Parseghian was gone, touched off many memories of following Notre Dame in the newspapers and on our black and white television screen when I was growing up.

One of my most special days as an Irish fan came in early November of 1972 when my sister drove me to Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs and I got to see the Irish for the first time in person, as they faced off with Air Force.

Notre Dame won that day 21-7, but the sight I still remember was when we first walked into the stadium and I saw those players in their shiny gold helmets which represent the golden dome on the Notre Dame campus.

I forgot all about getting to my seat as I stopped in my tracks and leaned against the walkway railing, surveying the team warming up until I spotted Parseghian and quarterback Tom Clements down on the field. Sometimes you don’t believe people actually exist until you get to see them in person. On this special day, I had gotten to see all of the Fighting Irish.

In later years, I was fortunate to get to see Notre Dame several more times at the Air Force Academy and at CU, but it wasn’t the same as that first time. I still follow the Irish football and basketball teams, but not nearly as passionately as I used to.

When Holtz left Notre Dame following the 1994 season, I think some of the mystique, and the luck, of the Irish went with him.

It’s nice that football season is finally almost upon us. I will still hope that the Rockies and the Baltimore Orioles meet in the World Series, but it’s much more fun to root for the Irish, the Buffs, the Broncos, and the CSU Rams than it is to watch baseball.

By the way folks, the best football team in Colorado this year will be those Rams up in Fort Collins. Just watch and see.

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