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Friday at 4: From Miami to LA, George was always game

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Dear George,

I never properly thanked you for dragging me to the national championship game in January of 2013. My gratitudes went to Edgar, who found me a ticket at face value. You deserved at least as much credit as he did. My going included too many obstacles if not for your efforts, and my want was not enough to clear those hurdles without your push. After all, you housed all my earthly belongings during that trip, as my lease four days before the game.

It was somewhere between Duval Kamara slipping on a slant route from the four-yard line against USC in 2009 and the second rain delay of the wonder that was the South Florida loss of 2011 that my Notre Dame fandom abated for good. It had nothing to do with Charlie Weis’ ignominious exit, the underrated mishap of “Little Giants” or even the snow preceding the 2010 Sun Bowl along the Mexico border. Rather, it was a reality of watching the Irish so closely as part of professional aspirations.

Walking the concourse in frustrated boredom during the most-absurd sporting event I have ever attended, I realized I was more invested in hearing the Notre Dame underclassmen sing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” to completion than I was in seeing the Irish beat Skip Holtz and the Bulls. The former happened and I have no expectation of ever again witnessing as few as “59 bottles of beer on the wall, 59 bottles of beer …” Notre Dame lost.

I still went to every game that year. It was an early Saturday morning for us to get to Ann Arbor in time to enjoy the day appropriately. You were there with me when on the way to Pittsburgh to witness Jonas Gray’s fifth gear we found a warehouse filled with carbonated beverages of the adult variety, so brilliantly-named, “Save-on-Beer.” The following week’s trip to Purdue held no such memorable revelations. In fact, we have been to Cranberry, Pa.’s million bottles of beer on the wall since, but not back to West Lafayette.

Even though hardly caring about the outcomes, these trips were still a delight, always at least one other friend joining. Edgar actually made his way out to FedEx Field in November that year and then to Orlando for the Champ Sports Bowl. It was fitting he facilitated my going to Miami the next season.

It was more appropriate you reminded me how much fun those trips could be.

That is about the only emotion I have that still ties to Irish football. Few understand that.

“What do you mean you won’t wear a green tie today?”
Well, Tony, it wouldn’t be appropriate. Also, why would I? Green isn’t a great color for a tie.
“To show support for Notre Dame!”
Tony, you know I don’t care if they win.
“What? Huh? I don’t understand.”
I mean, if they have a decent season, there is a better chance NBC will agree to fly me to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving and I am very much in favor of that, but otherwise, eh.
“Whatever.”

(Sidenote: When my oldest brother reads my thoughts on green neckwear he will text me angrily before even getting to this prediction. He wears a green tie literally every weekday. No one has ever accused a Farmer brother of being stylish.)

How the Irish do affects my travel plans but little else. Spending all week studying, reading and writing about Notre Dame football is enough. Adding an emotional bent to those hours would be too much.

So those emotions dissipated. They probably did so long before “39 bottles of beer on the wall, 39 bottles of beer …”, but that chorus gave the realization a soundtrack.

That was where you chimed in during early December of 2012. I didn’t care about the game against Alabama. For that matter, the 10-point spread was not enough to grab my attention in those naïve days. The idea of trip to Miami with you and a number of the usual suspects, though? I didn’t need much more motivation.

You drove that point home again and again in the last six years. A couple times to the nation’s capital, a race to stay ahead of a tornado across Ohio in trying to get to New York City, a race with a hurricane to get to Florida before it did. Multiple trips to southern California, not that much encouragement was really needed for any of those. Countless treks to Colorado.

You made them all happen George, and that is why your end a week ago brings all these memories back to the surface. Without your stubborn nature, your unflinching resolve, your idiotic forays into the night, Save-on-Beer would not have run out of 40-ounce bottles at one point this summer. A July wedding would not have created a suitable cover story for indulging in multiple vices. And I would not have made it to Miami, which ended up being one of the most-enjoyable seven-day stretches of this life.

They don’t make them like you anymore, literally so, and you deserved a better end than you got. I am probably to blame for that. I just never thought you could die.

You did a week ago at the age of 219,725 miles. That does not include the 1,130 traveled when an electrical short stopped the odometer for a mid-November weekend last year. Notre Dame beat Navy, 24-17, if you were wondering. That gap in the odometer ended up being all-too poetic, as we crossed 200,000 while on Douglas Road in South Bend, heading to lunch with a mentor. He always marveled at your lack of cruise control. He didn’t realize a four-cylinder’s gas pedal pressed all the way to the floor could serve the same purpose.

For a 2003 Ford Ranger, you outdid most. You certainly could not have done better by me. And for that, I thank you, George. I raise the last bottle of beer on the wall to you.

– Douglas.