The middle '80s were the Middle Ages for Bill Moss, a Notre Dame alumnus (class of '67) living in Dublin. In that benighted decade, Fighting Irish football floated in on a fickle breeze from Germany, via Armed Forces Radio, and Moss could sometimes get reception only in his bathroom, with its single seat. And so he would sit there and listen intently, looking like a Rodin sculpture called The Stinker.
Then miraculously, in the middle '90s, there abruptly appeared on his Dublin cable system NBC programming from America, and Moss—unable to believe his luck—could watch Notre Dame games in living color. It seemed too good to last, and it was: After three seasons NBC vanished as mysteriously as it had arrived, replaced by the National Geographic Channel. "We went from Notre Dame-USC," Moss says with a sigh, "to the giant rat of Sumatra."
Meet the insomniac citizens of Planet Irish, who hold their ears to Internet radio for 3 a.m. kickoffs (as Moss did for this season's Air Force game) or sit in their back garden in a slanting rain with a transistor radio (as Moss did in his Armed Forces Radio days).
Such fanatics are everywhere: In London you'll find British nationals who are half Cockney, half Rockne. "English people will say to me, 'Did you go to Notre Dame?' " says Kenny Boehner, an American alumnus (B.A. '90, J.D. '93) who attends listening parties in a Notre Dame-owned facility off Trafalgar Square. "Only they always—always—pronounce it Notrah Dahm."
And can we get a boo-yah for Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, where alumna Julie Fischer hosts viewing parties at the U.S. Embassy? Not only does Fischer, as an embassy employee, have access to Armed Forces Television; "I have a wonderful cook," she says, "who can whip up the best buffalo chicken wings in all of Nigeria."
If the world were a martini olive and you stuck a tiny plastic sword through South Bend—an appealing prospect to Michigan fans—it would come out the opposite side at Fremantle, Australia, exactly 180 degrees from Touchdown Jesus. There, at an affiliated college called Notre Dame Australia, three dozen American students and alumni earwitnessed, on the Internet beginning at 3:30 a.m., the dispiriting 14-7 loss to Boston College. "By the end we all could have used a drink," says Perth resident Sean Lennon (B.A. '87, M.B.A '94), but given that the end came at 7:15 on a Sunday morning, they abstained from imbibing EMU Export and went to bed instead. "It's a different story for games that start at midnight," says Lennon. On those occasions they shake down the thunder Down Under. Beer does flow, and men chunder.
Americans live in an Irish republic. But you already knew that. The difference between Notre Dame and Clemson? "You're not gonna go to Montana and find a lot of Clemson fans—right?" says Tim Bourret (ND '77), who happens to be the sports information director for Clemson.
But it goes way beyond Missoula. Notre Dame fans gather regularly at Molly Malone's in Singapore, an Irish bar that doubles as an Irish bar. Alumni throw regular football parties in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. While efforts to reach the Notre Dame Club of Pago Pago were unsuccessful—they didn't return my pigeons—I promise you that it does exist and at last report had four members.
Notre Dame has only 106,000 alumni—not enough to fill Michigan Stadium. Yet they're vocal. They wake up the echoes, then wake up the neighbors. Brian Muskus ('68) gathers in central Tokyo with a group of alumni who are retired from the military. Last month—in the middle of the night, in a friend's apartment at the U.S. Embassy housing compound—he and 16 others cheered the Irish victory over Florida State as it unfolded live on Armed Forces Television. "Hopefully his neighbors were understanding," says Muskus, "of the frequent, boisterous outbursts between oh-one-hundred hours and oh-four-thirty."
It happens on all seven leper-continents. "In Latin America we could get the games on cable," says James F. Creagan ('62), who served as U.S. ambassador to Honduras under President Clinton. Creagan is now president of John Cabot University in Rome, which hosts Notre Dame students studying abroad (not all of whom want to pay for the team's Internet radiocasts). "Here," says Creagan, "the students check out the Web, and get the scores, but not the play action or the sound and fury."