The very first date I had with my wife - more than three decades ago - did not get off to an auspicious start.
First, I couldn’t find her house. This was a little before Garmin or GPS, kids. It was only the second reason I arrived in a bad mood. A few hours earlier I had watched the Eagles blow a playoff game to the Atlanta Falcons. Dick Vermeil decided he could go into a playoff game without a legitimate kicker. Uh, not exactly, coach. Mike Michel will always live in infamy among Eagles fans.
When I finally found my future bride’s house, I learned I was not the only one still simmering about the latest woe to befall us long-suffering Iggles fans.
Her dad was a longtime Eagles season ticker holder. We talked for almost an hour about the game and Philly sports. I think my date wondered if I’d just like to go out with her dad instead.
It was the start of a long relationship, both with my wife and my future father-in-law.
My dad had died a couple years before I met my wife. I always looked at Ed Perley as something of a father figure.
No matter what else was going on, I knew I could always talk to him about sports. It certainly eased the way for this very Irish guy into a very Italian family. I think our love of sportrs is why he didn’t throw me - a dirt-poor guy who didn’t know where he was getting his next meal - out of his house.
There was only one thing Ed Perley loved more than the Eagles, and his wife, of course.
That would be Notre Dame football.
He used to delight in telling me the story of how he and a group of guys from Downingtown dropped everything to drive across the country to watch Notre Dame play USC at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. He left his wife at home with a newborn and an older child. A man has to have his priorities.
My father-in-law was looked at by a lot of people as a fairly gruff guy. He’s the only man I ever knew who could strike fear in supermarket workers’ hearts simpy by walking in the door.
But he had a soft spot for sports. And for grandkids, who affectionately called him “pop-pop.” That would include my son and daughter.
We lost Ed last fall.
But Notre Dame did not lost its biggest fan.
I have a theory about the Irish’s unbeaten season, which has landed them in tonight’s national championship game vs. Alabama.
I think Ed Perley has been working his magic.
I know he has been looking down and smiling as his favorite team has won every game they’ve played this year.
They face a tall challenge tonight. Not many people - this pundit included - are giving them much of a chance against the powerful Crimson Tide.
But Notre Dame has a secret weapon. An old-school Italian Roman Catholic who proudly spouted his allegiance for the Irish.
That would be the college football team, not his son-in-law.
Don’t be surprised if the Irish win.
This one’s for you, pop-pop.