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Two Worlds Collide

Oct 26, 2012, 10:13 PM EDT

Earlier this week I had a pretty brief meeting with a professor about my future collegiate plans. Midway through detailing different options I could pursue in a study-abroad program, she broke off a smile with a half-frustrated, half-amused remark.

“You’re not very…” she started, searching for the right word, “emotive, are you?”

Having heard this many times before, I merely smiled and shook my head, realizing that I had been staring at her blankly as she detailed exciting, potentially life-changing opportunities. But it’s true – I generally appear pretty emotionless and reciprocate low, quick-paced, mumbling answers.

But perhaps my lack of emotive ability in everyday life is because of my unhealthy passion for sports – more specifically, Notre Dame and Chicago sports. Anyone who sees me in the student section would call me anything but calm. I have probably scared a few people in the last couple years.

The love for Notre Dame that most students find during their time on campus, I developed during my childhood. Having gone to Irish games for as long as I can remember, I’ve seen Chris Thomas, Chris Quinn, Colin Falls, Russell Carter, Kyle McAlarney, Tory Jackson, Luke Harangody, Ben Hansbrough, and Tim Abromaitis, either in Purcell Pavilion or in the pre-renovation, rainbow-wheel Joyce Center.

But I was born in the suburbs of Chicago, so also looked up to players like Paul Konerko, Jonathan Toews, and Brian Urlacher. But most of all, I idolized the greatest athlete of all time.

Michael Jordan left the Bulls when I was only five, but I was always fascinated by the fact that my team had the greatest player ever. In 1998, Notre Dame’s national championship streak hit the decade mark. The White Sox had just celebrated 80 years since their last World Series win, the Blackhawks owned hockey’s longest draught, and the Bears’ only Super Bowl win had come in 1985.

But the Bulls – in 1998, the Bulls owned the NBA. They had won six titles since 1991, setting the benchmark for what a dynasty really is. Now, when a new superstar enters the league, pundits ask if he can ever accomplish the lofty standards set by Jordan and his Bulls.

Tonight, my two passions collided as Chicago sports came to Notre Dame. I saw Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng take practice shots at the same basket that Harangody and McAlarney knew all too well. Joakim Noah won the opening tip over the monogram “ND” that is omnipresent on this campus. The seats that are usually filled with blue and gold and green were mostly a sea of red.

It was only a preseason game, and I ultimately wouldn’t be upset if the Bulls lost. Consequently, I found little joy in their 97-90 win. But this night wasn’t about an exhibition game between two basketball teams. It was about the fusion between two of sport’s most storied programs. The Bulls defined the professional sports world in the ‘90s. And Notre Dame was the king of collegiate athletics – well, pretty much every time before the ‘90s.

It was a beautiful dichotomy: the larger-than-life presence of NBA players in the familiarity of a college arena, the fleetingness and ever-changing roster of a professional team against the backdrop of history and tradition.

On the surface, it seems like something that shouldn’t warrant a very emotional response. In the grand scheme of things, that 97-90 score won’t matter. But for someone who struggles to be emotive, this game was something special.

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