Despite the ethnocentric American uproar, the Soviet Union’s victory over the United States Olympic men’s basketball team was NOT the biggest sports upset in 1972. In fact, it pales in significance to the game played on the Notre Dame campus in the fall of 1972. No, I am not referring to the 30-26 loss to Missouri at home, the only blemish on the Irish home schedule that year. The 1972 home slate included a 20-17 defeat of the hated Miami Hurricanes but that could not be considered an upset by any means.
No, the David vs. Goliath matchup to which I refer took place in the über-competitive arena of dorm intramural flag football. The game between 1st floor annex and the 4th floor took place on a chilly gray fall day in the shadow of the (then) recently-completed Grace and Flanner Halls. These two high-rises stood in stark contrast to the other residence halls on campus, especially my home, St. Edward’s Hall. Nestled alongside the golden dome-topped Administration Building, St.Ed’s was known mainly for the cockroaches we caught and displayed proudly on each floor. Oh, and also the fact that St. Ed’s was where legendary Coach Knute Rockne received his first communion.
The separation of floors was not limited to bugs and historical facts, however. I lived in the first floor annex, the red-headed stepchild of the floor hierarchy. We weren’t even a floor; we were the annex of the first floor. The higher you ascended the creaky staircases, the more prestige you attained until you reached the 4th floor, penthouse of Cockroach Castle. The floor was populated mainly with upperclassmen and athletes who were not fortunate enough to be assigned to Grace or Flanner. Our
annex housed incoming freshmen and a smattering of upperclassmen. Not surprisingly, the 4th floor also won most of the intramural team sports, especially football and basketball. It was almost a given: 4th floor would prevail in all competitions. On that fateful day in 1972, we never got that memo.
My memory of all the details surrounding that game has faded with the help of 40 years and more than my share of Guinness and Bushmills, but the feeling has not. We played the vaunted 4th floor man-up for the entire game, and you could see the fear in the eyes of our adversaries: not fear of us, but fear of losing the game and their cloak of invincibility. This epic battle was a defensive gem for both sides, neither team willing to concede the smallest of gains, let alone a long-gainer. Late in the game, we were pinned back deep in our own territory as we had been all game long. We were totally exhausted and I have no doubt word of the impending scoreless tie spread throughout the entire civilized sports world: 1st floor annex was going to actually tie the 4th floor! However, we never received that memo either.
On the final play of the game, our RA Tim Kiley, one of the nicest people I have had the pleasure to meet in this sphere of existence, took the snap. We blocked as best as we could, and Timmers found the edge somehow. He juked and jived, leaving our foes grasping for air as he spun and sprinted all the way to paydirt! I remember watching him from the turf thinking: 4th floor THAT! 1st floor annex 6– 4th floor 0.
We never parlayed that victory into anything more than bragging rights for a week, but of all the myriad of blessings the Great Quarterback in the Sky has given me, this is one that always makes me smile.