Notre Dame gears up to face Alabama
Miami: The Notre Dame faithful are gathering in their droves here, the weekend of the big game.

But so are the Alabama battalions and the good-natured rivalry has already begun.

At a nice beachside restaurant here the numbers of Notre Dame and Alabama fans were about equal and the good-natured ribbing lasted through three courses.

On the plane from New York the numbers were overwhelmingly Notre Dame, the subway alumni traveling from all points North, South, East and West  to support their team on the big day.

Many are still pinching  themselves that they are here at all. You would have got odds of 100/1 on it before the season started.

I feel the same myself, suddenly strolling  around in shorts and a T shirt, when I should be shivering in a New York winter. I associate Notre Dame games with cold crisp Autumn days in South Bend , not T shirts and  88 degrees in South Florida.

Interesting  to me is how many Irish-born I know who are going to the game. The contest in Dublin between Notre Dame and Navy opened up a huge new fan base for the Fighting Irish, the fact that this is a dream season and that it kicked off in Ireland makes it even more remarkable.

The ‘Bama folks have seen it all before. Bill Petersen, a fanatic Alabama fan was in the restaurant eating with his wife and two daughters.”I wanted to bring them to learn and witness the old time football religion,” he said gesturing at his two young  girls. “It is  the closest thing next to religion in bringing Alabama folk together.”

And Notre Dame folk too. This game is already a blockbuster and South Florida will bleed crimson and blue and gold these next few days.

The talk is all about tickets which are apparently, dropping in price as the game nears. The question for many is when to buy their tickets, ten minutes before kick-off or now when the market seems to be saturated.

All I know is that through the graces of a dear friend, my in-law Pat Egan and I have two of the most precious ducats in all of sport-- and no, they are not for sale.

Go Irish!