When Home Is Enemy Territory

The 1966 Notre Dame vs. Michigan State game was the first “Game of the Century.”

When I was young enough to discover this thing called college football, I kept hearing about “Game of the Century” for a full week in the fall of 1966. There have been only two subsequent centuries but the hype would be similar for 20 or 30 games after that one.

In my mostly Irish Catholic Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood, the talk of the sports world that time was the game between Michigan State and Notre Dame.


From oddshark.com, a Vegas betting site with an outstanding record for picking upsets. Do not know how Notre Dame scores the .2 tenths of a point, though.

Nobody was rooting for Michigan State.

To me, as a kid, I never understood what the big deal was. I always rooted or the local teams, the Phillies, the Eagles, the Sixers.

“Is Notre Dame local? I can’t get into it.”

Others, though, did partly because I guess they thought rooting for the Irish would get them the necessary plenary indulgences to get through the back door of Heaven.

It was about that time I started watching Temple football every Saturday night on Channel 17, the UHF station. Al Meltzer handled the play-by-play and Charlie Swift the color. I started getting into it. This was MY college football team from MY hometown.

Football played a big part of my decision on where to attend college. The fact that my favorite college football team also had a journalism school attached to it did not hurt, either.

Little did I know the team representing that school would ever play a team that was involved in the college game of the last century, but that’s where were in 2013, 2015 and a couple of afternoons from today.

The residue of that first game of the century are still around today in Philadelphia, where Notre Dame claims a much larger fan base than even Penn State and Temple.

Hard to believe Harry (Donahue), but Notre Dame has a large “subway alumni” fan base in Philadelphia. They helped fill Lincoln Financial Field in 2015 and were mostly gracious to the Temple fans around them.


No one will be rooting for Temple at The Temple Bar on Saturday in Dublin, Ireland.

When Will Fuller, a four-star wide receiver from one mile down the street from Temple (Roman Catholic High), beat a walk-on named Will Hayes for the game-winning score, a steady line of these fans shook my hand walking out the stadium and told me things like, “congratulations, your team played a great game.” For someone who probably puts too much emphasis on winning, it was only mildly consoling.

I’m like Vince Lombardi. Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.

In bars and taverns all over Philadelphia, there will green-glad Irish fans who are expecting the winning thing to happen as a normal course of events. You could probably walk out of Two Logan Square, where Temple is having its official Watch Party, and duck into every Center City bar within a four-block radius and see it packed with Golden Domers. (Heck, at The Temple Bar in Dublin, Ireland, the kickoff will be at 8:30 p.m. and no one will be rooting for Temple.)

It would be nice to crash one of those parties late in the fourth quarter on Saturday.

Temple finally shook off 74 years of frustration a couple of years ago in beating Penn State. Oddly enough, to me, the greatest satisfaction was not seeing the final seconds tick off but the entire fourth quarter watching a steady stream of glum Penn State fans exit the stadium because that game was over some time in the third quarter.

Those Penn State fans entered the stadium around 3:30 that afternoon thinking a win was in the normal course of human events. Notre Dame fans walking into taverns all over Philly on Saturday probably have adopted the same mindset. Few things would be more satisfying than to see similar assumptions disabused by the real hometown team this Saturday.

Catching those green-painted faces file out of those parties in my hometown with sullen looks would be just as satisfying. It might not be The Game of the Century, but it would be close enough.

Friday: Spaghetti Western

Sunday: Lessons Learned




19 thoughts on “When Home Is Enemy Territory

  1. Hopefully it rains on the parade of ND fans , after they’re finished crying in their beers on Saturday night.

  2. That was an excellent column


      • very thought provoking article, thank you.

        here is the the annual contrarian viewpoint:

        the 2015 ND game came down to Kizer out-playing Walker…, 64% vs 43% pass completion, 300 vs 188 yards, 87% vs 50% QBR…, and Walker is better than any of the four who might play Saturday…, Nutile and Marchie did not make any dramatic improvements in the course of 12 months, they are who they are.., and the other two could not beat them out….., CC’s instincts were right in seeking a JUCO

        big time college football starts with production at the QB position….,

        37-10, Notre Dame beats Temple; Russo or Centeio starts against Villanova

      • My only problem with that prediction is that you are assuming the Temple team we take into ND is just as bad or worse than the Temple team we will be taking into that same stadium in 2017. Not buying it. That score was 28-6. This one will be a lot closer, say, 17-13. I hope it’s the good guys, but I’m thinking it will be the bad guys.

        (Kj’s prediction before the 2015 TU-PSU game was Nits, 37-13. I hope the reverse double whammy works again. 🙂 Nobody would be happier to be wrong than KJ, I know that. I would also like to have my prediction of ND winning, 17-13, reversed in the Owls’ favor.)

  3. I was really not aware of the perception void TU football operates in. Last Sunday, I was assisting at a parish function. A teenager was there working as well wearing a cherry shirt with a large white Temple T. I struck up a conversation with the lad. Seems his brother is a student and got the family to purchase and occasionally wear similar items. When I mentioned this Saturday’s game, I got a puzzled look. I elaborated on my reference to the game and he stated “I didn’t know they started basketball so soon.” I regained my composure and explained further about being defending conference champions and such. To which he replied “I didn’t know they had a football team.”

    I wouldn’t think there are many out there removed from the situation as that fellow is. But that such a group can still exist is perplexing.

    • Catholic schools have Villanova, St. Joe, LaSalle, and ND drilled into their minds. Temple fans are drummed out much like I was in 1968.

  4. Mike, off topic, what do you think of the Georgia Tech series? On topic, you were at your best in today’s post.

    • My first take on the GT series is that this is the FIRST time we signed a team with a P5 team since we’ve become a G5 that we’ve gotten the FIRST home game. That’s a huge deal. The fear has always been some P5 team will sign a deal with us and give us a road game first, then buy out our second game.

  5. How to make the green makeup run and smear with tears and beers? Take a lesson from Wake Forest: Mayhem on both sides of the ball.

  6. ND returns 15 starters, 10 of whom are four star or higher atheletes coming out of HS.., yes, this Temple has deeper talent than the 2015 team.., the compared to what question remains against your opponent..,

    Irish in a romp, and Temple crushes Villanova next week to get on track

    • kj: 2017 NFL Draft TU had 3 players drafted versus 2 for ND. With free agent signings TU had 9 kids going to NFL. ND had total of 5. And take a look at:

      It’s this sort of data that keeps me optimistic every time an upper echelon G5 team like TU plays one of traditionally overrated P5 teams (as per their recruiting rankings).

  7. The line has moved big time, giving almost 18 points to TU. Is this typical national betting, who by nature would know very little about TU or is ND ‘sposda be so good ?
    The ND posters write and sound like PSU and Navy fans, where they are sooo superior. Navy fans were the most snobby I was ever around.
    Also stumbled into some ND sites this A M and saw a few sorry stories about Temple bragging and boasting. I don’t see that at all with TU attitude. must be their cheap way of jacking it up, out there in ‘ Souf ‘ Bend.
    We will all be watching TV this Saturday afternoon on NBC, What a great platform / stage for Temple Football on national TV. Love it.

    • I hope Ali turns ND into Sonny Liston and this all becomes a moot point.

    • deja vu all over again…, reminds me of the PSU game in 2014 when Temple players wore camouflage face paint, did a lot of trash talking and lost 30-14…, MR regretted every minute and later said, “this is not who we are or what we want to be”..,

      CC had better get a grip soon..,

      • Or, if they win, maybe he’ll loosen that grip. It all depends on the outcome.

      • Also reminds me of the famous 1988 Catholics V Convicts games between ND & Miami.

        “Lou Holtz gave his players a stern talk about handling themselves with class and respect for Notre Dame.”

        Notre Dame won that one 31-30.

        Collins should step up and address this with the team.

  8. Notre Dame wanted to beat Temple more than USC. If Owls were on Ohio State’s schedule, well just forget Michigan. Alabama caring about Auburn? Not with TUFF on slate.

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