But the private admission that he was now up to three sleeping pills a night betrayed the depth of Bryant's anticipation. He fled to the sanctuary of his suite at the Fontainebleau whenever he could to escape the swelling tide of Alabama fans pouring into New Orleans. Through the teeming French Quarter opportunism flourished in the form of red-and-white "A" hats and blue-and-gold "ND" buttons. And partisanship ran amok. At an all-night oyster house on Bourbon Street an Alabama woman sang "Hail Mary, full of grace, Notre Dame's in second place," while a Notre Dame man nearby punctuated her chant with cries of " Alabama was made in Japan!"
But for the players, made in their coaches' image, there was no show business, only game business. They did not have to be told why they were not brought to New Orleans until the weekend of the game. A night at Your Father's Mustache was a surfeit of Bourbon Street for the Notre Dame team. No other French Quarter invasions were planned or carried out. Bryant, in a spasm of leniency that surprised even his own coaches, loosed his players Saturday night after the Sugar Bowl banquet, but if any took undue advantage they were inconspicuous. Indeed, it is unlikely that a major bowl game ever had two teams with so singular an itch to get at one another. "I came to Notre Dame for a game like this," Wayne Bullock said, capsulizing the general attitude.
For Parseghian, however, the significance of playing Alabama in a historic first made little impact compared with two more personal things:
One, the confrontation with Bryant. Though he protested otherwise, Ara clearly relished the opportunity, often referring to the "immense respect" he had for the old master, and how they had "common traits," such as a keen appreciation for "field position and the kicking game," a quote that was to prove ironic. Beating Bear Bryant obviously meant something to Parseghian.
And, two, more than anything, it had to represent a very special, very personal vindication for Parseghian. For all his success, Ara had been unable over the years to remove that last flossy shred of doubt that he was capable of winning the really big game—a doubt that should now be way out of date but that intimates say Ara harbored himself since the criticism of his playing for the tie in the 10-10 game with Michigan State in 1966, Notre Dame's last national championship year. It is on the big game that Parseghian's coaching philosophy rests—that and winning the championship—and in one deft swipe at Alabama he accomplished them both. He and Clements and you know Who.