Hanging on my living room wall is a framed copy of a November 1957 Sports Illustrated, with a picture of Sooner All-American Clendon Thomas on the cover. Back then, the Sooners were defending back-to-back national champs, they were riding an unprecedented 47-game win streak spanning nearly five seasons, and they were about to face off against Notre Dame in Norman. The prior year, the Sooners had traveled to South Bend and trounced the Irish 40-0. The headline on that Sports Illustrated cover: “Why Oklahoma is Unbeatable.” The Sooners lost to the Irish 7-0 that week in Norman, ending a streak that had helped to put an entire state on the map.
Oklahoma faced Notre Dame in Norman again last weekend, and again fell victim to the much-touted Luck (and Skill) of the Irish.
My seat at the game was right next to a devoted Notre Dame fan and alum. Tom Short graduated from Notre Dame in 1954, and again (with a law degree) in 1956. After a few years as an Air Force pilot, he worked with NASA on the Apollo space program. He’s been married for 51 years. Tom’s a very young 79.
Tom was actually at that 1956 game in South Bend when the Sooners got their only victory ever in the series. Fifty-six years later, he’s still a big football fan. Saturday night, he was gracious and statesmanlike in the Irish victory and complimentary of the Sooner traditions he found himself surrounded by. He was practically a celebrity walking around the OU campus in his yellow “ND 50-Year Club” alumni hat. One much-younger Notre Dame alum eagerly sacrificed his spot in the bathroom line to let Tom go right to the front. The visiting Fighting Irish fans were all eager to shake his hand and buy him a beer. So were several Sooners – including me.
Ordinarily, sitting next to a diehard fan of the opposing school is the last thing you want to endure when your team is losing a hard-fought game (especially to #&^%$ Notre Dame, right?). But this time it was a real treat. And maybe a tiny consolation in the loss. We’ll get ‘em next time.