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Touchdown Jesus: Faith and Fandom at Notre Dame

Touchdown Jesus by Scott Eden

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Released in October 2005 to a near-banning by the Notre Dame bookstore (it has since reluctantly agreed to carry a copy or two), Touchdown Jesus is a book about fanaticism, obsession, passion, Catholicism, and that peculiarly American sporting phenomenon: college football. It's also about a place that inspires devotion to the point of pilgrimage and loathing to the point of bigotry. It is a portrait of an ensemble cast of those fans who die the hardest when the Irish lose on autumn Saturdays. And it is a narrative of ivory-tower political machinations and the uniquely Notre Dame personalities—priests, administrators, academics, coaches—who must deal with this institution's greatest boon and its direst dilemma, which is football. It is, at bottom, an attempt to understand what drives big-time spectator sport: the money, the tribalism, the myth-making power of the masses, the need to believe.

Carefully selected passages from two reviews:

In his nuanced account of the 2004 Notre Dame football season that saw the firing of head coach Ty Willingham, Eden, a class of '97 Irish alumni [sic], weaves a story staggering in breadth: the culture at the relatively small university where religion and football have all but merged, the team's expansive and dedicated fanbase, and the relationship of spirituality and sheckels . . . This is one of the rare football books that will appeal even to those who've never touched a pigskin.
   -Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review

Eden is able to capture the spirit of the combination of secular football and the Catholic religion . . . just as the Touchdown Jesus mural does on the face of the Hesburgh Library.
   -The (Notre Dame) Observer

 

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