Why do I love sports? Because I got to hang out with Ara Parseghian

We miss sports so much so that we started asking ourselves this question: What was the moment or reason that we fell in love with sports in the first place? Now we're sharing the stories that answer that question. Our stories and yours.

The story below is from Bob Young of Oradell, N.J. 

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This was not the first Notre Dame football game I went to, nor was it the most significant or consequential one. The stakes were high, although I would be at more momentous contests. But, I think this one means the most to me.

Have to backtrack to my senior year in high school, and football was in season. My dad, who has since passed, asked me to pick a Notre Dame game to go to as he wanted to go back to see a former colleague. Dad was the first news director at the local television affiliate in South Bend. Still being a keen fan, I asked if we could go to the LSU game in November of 1970.

We went back, flew in on a Friday, hooked up at a local hotel and Dad contacted his old co-worker, Jim Cooney. On Saturday we were back in Notre Dame Stadium, seats upstairs to see the undefeated No. 2 Fightin’ Irish (8-0) host No. 7 LSU (7-1).

Charlie McClendon coached LSU, led by QB Bert Jones. Legendary coach Ara Parseghian had revived Notre Dame back to its glory. Joe Theismann was operating the nation’s top-ranked offense for the Irish.

Notre Dame head football coach Ara Parseghian, center, poses with Quarterback Joe Theismann (7), left, and All-America defense tackle Mike McCoy in 1969. (Photo: AP)

The score read 0-0 entering the fourth quarter, with LSU driving toward the goal line. Reaching about the Irish seven, the Tigers attempted a 24-yard FG. But it was blocked by defender Bob Neidert. The Irish later had possession with 6:50 to go facing a 4th down at the LSU 44. I believe two yards short. Timeout, and this was when the outcome was decided.

It was loud, home crowd is eager for Ara to go for it. I explained to dad and Jim that we should punt, and hope to pin them deep down field. Then hold them, like we did all day so far, and get the ball back in good field position to try and score.

Ara, not to the fan’s delight, went my way. Jim Yoder’s 10th punt in the game rolled out of bounds at the 1-yard line. First down Tigers.

LSU went three-and-out. Wayne Dickinson’s 12th punt was from his seven-yard line and returned to the Tigers’ 36-yard line, first down Irish.

The only Tigers’ defensive mistake came on the next play with pass interference. The Irish momentum carried them down to the seven. But that’s it. With 2:54 to go, this 24-yarder by Scott Hempel was good. Final score: 3-0.

After the game we’re outside the stadium and I’m looking for some autographs. A priest approaches my dad and mistakes him for someone else. He whispers in his ear saying there’s a party at Ara’s house. Well, Jim said he knows where it is, and we decide why not.

Off we go and we were met at the door by Ara’s wife, welcomed in and asked what we’d like to drink. Ara greets us as not too many people were there yet. Dad introduces us to him, and immediately goes into the crucial punt call. He explains to coach on my behalf how I had said in the stands that we should punt, just as you had decided on the sideline.

I was so in awe of the moment.

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