Sorin finishes second, rector goes out on top
It wasn't quite as dramatic as the hallowed "Win one for the Gipper" monologue, but the men of Sorin College will remember the words spoken by their long-time rector, Father Steve Newton, at the annual hall banquet this past Thursday, as inspiring nonetheless.
Everyone present knew something was amiss. They had been told to make a concerted effort to attend the dinner as a crucial announcement was to be made.
You see, throughout his 11 years as rector of Sorin, Father Newton has immersed himself in hall activities. He wasn't merely a priest with a big room, but a father figure and a friend. As a freshman, it's taken me but three short months to realize that Father Newton saw it as his duty to be there when the men of Sorin needed him most — be it in the chapel or on the sidelines of an interhall football game. And you can be sure that Father Newton never missed an interhall football game. He savored them for they involved two of his loves in life — sports and the men of Sorin.
It was only natural that when Father Newton approached the podium after dinner had concluded, his first words were of the football team and how proud he was of them. He told them how happy he was that they had once again made the championship, and hailed their commitment to practicing. He had seen that team through thick and thin for 11 years, and though he probably saw himself as a fan, he was more than that. As evidenced by the blue Sorin jersey he wore each game day, exactly like the one worn by the other members of the squad, Father Newton wasn't just a fan, he was part of the team — every bit as important as the star quarterback or the coach. You could just see how badly he wanted to win.
After mentioning the team, Father Newton moved to the night's most important matter. After describing the impact that his summer work as a missionary in Africa had had on his life, the longtime rector of Sorin announced that this year would be his last. He would begin to help the people throughout the world full time, just as he had done for the length of his tenure at Sorin.
A quick glance around the room showed well over 100 young men fighting back tears. They weren't losing a rector; they were losing a friend.
The unspoken message was clear. Sorin needed to defeat Knott. The men of Sorin could give Father Newton no better a farewell gift than to bring home that elusive interhall football championship on Sunday. The Otters would go out and "fight, fight, fight" and give it their all. They would try to win one for the rector, win one for their friend. For victory is a great way to say so long.
But as we all know, even the best-laid plans go awry. There would be no fairytale ending to this story. Despite fighting hard and hanging in right down to the last down, the Otters fell to Knott by a score of 24-6. Looking at Father Newton at the game's conclusion, I figured he would be taking the defeat hard. Much to my surprise, his reaction was quite the opposite.
Instead he was smiling, grinning from to ear to ear. At that point I realized that it wasn't the outcome that was of paramount importance, rather it was the effort of the team that Father Newton appreciated. He savored the camaraderie and once again thanked the team for the enjoyment in had provided him with. There was no doubt about it. The Sorin interhall football team made Father Newton's last year at Notre Dame a memorable one.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, November 23, 1999