Wednesday January 9, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- If it was a tough night to be a Notre Dame fan, imagine how hard it was for alumni.

A magical mystical football season that not even the most rabid Notre Dame fan could have predicted back in September came to a disappointing end on Monday night when the Fighting Irish were steamrolled by Alabama, 42-14, in the national championship game.

"Well, I’ve had better days," said attorney Thomas M. Sherman Jr. of Pittsfield, who graduated from Notre Dame in 1970.

A number of Notre Dame graduates reside in Berkshire County, including a man who once ran for mayor of Pittsfield and a Berkshire Superior Court judge. Like Sherman, Bernard Auge of Pittsfield and Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ford are big Fighting Irish football fans.

On Tuesday, they all tried to make sense of what they had witnessed the night before.

"It was pretty painful," said Ford, who had a blue and gold Notre Dame football coffee mug on his desk. ("A gift from a court officer," the judge explained.)

"I thought if we could keep the game close in the fourth quarter, we had a chance to win it," said Ford, who graduated from Notre Dame in 1971, and attended the team’s opening game against Navy in Ireland this year. "But we fell behind right away."

The game was one of the most hyped national championship contests since the Bowl Championship Series -- the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s method of selecting a national champion among major football playing colleges -- began in 1998.

But it really wasn’t much of a game. Alabama led 14-0 after the first quarter, and 28-0 at the half.

Auge, a retired dentist who ran in the 1987 Pittsfield mayoral election, said he watches Notre Dame’s football games on television, but rarely watches an entire contest because "I get too nervous."

"Last night, I watched it all," said Auge, who graduated from Notre Dame in 1950.

So did Ford.

"The entire thing," he said slowly, "until the final whistle. And the post game."

Only Sherman, often seen walking around Pittsfield clad in Notre Dame gear, bailed a little early.

"I watched it until there was two minutes to go," he said.

Gluttons for punishment?

"I’m a longtime alumnus," said Sherman, a former city solicitor who is also the father of City Council President Kevin Sherman. "I don’t give up. I’ve been following them faithfully."

Sherman consoled himself a little on Tuesday morning by chatting with other Notre Dame followers on fan websites.

He said most of the chatter concerned Notre Dame’s poor defensive showing.

"Basically, it was that we just didn’t tackle," Sherman said. "Football comes down to blocking and tackling -- and we just didn’t tackle."

Thomas Sherman said his father, "being an ardent Irish Catholic," was also an ardent Notre Dame football fan.

"We listened to the games every Saturday afternoon on the radio," he said. "In the ‘50s I can remember listening to Notre Dame’s upset of Oklahoma" -- a 7-0 victory in 1957 that ended the Sooners then-record 47-game winning streak.

"My father watched games with his rosary [beads] in his hands," Sherman said.

Sherman was asked if he considered using a similar method on Monday night.

"No," he said. "I didn’t think that would help."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.
On Twitter: @tonydobrow