Pair from suburbs make '30 for 30' documentary about 1988 Notre Dame-Miami game

It's considered one of the greatest college football games of all time - the 1988 national championship between Notre Dame and the University of Miami.

The media framed the matchup as Lou Holtz's wholesome Notre Dame players against Jimmy Johnson's wild Miami party boys. Win one for the Gipper vs. win one for the stripper, as one sports announcer described it.

Most people refer to it as the “Catholics vs. Convicts” game, a nickname adopted from a popular T-shirt sold at Notre Dame.

“Catholics vs. Convicts” also is the name of a documentary about the game, made by husband-and-wife filmmakers Patrick Creadon and Christine O'Malley, both suburban natives. Creadon grew up in Riverside, O'Malley in Barrington.

The documentary, which premieres Saturday, Dec. 10, on ESPN's “30 for 30,” doesn't just revisit the game with interviews. It also weaves in a little-known, heartbreaking story about the student behind the “Catholics vs. Convicts” T-shirts. The student was Creadon's best friend and roommate at Notre Dame, and he was punished by school officials in his senior year for selling shirts on campus after they repeatedly asked him to stop.

“The story does bring back some painful memories, because of what my friend went through. ... (He) paid a very high price because of that infamous T-shirt,” Creadon said. “I had to pause at the beginning and think, do I want to relive this?”

Sportscaster Brent Musburger holds up a "Catholics vs. Convicts" T-shirt, which makes up a large part of Patrick Creadon and Christine O'Malley's "30 for 30" documentary, which debuts on ESPN Dec. 10 after the Heisman Trophy ceremony. courtesy of ESPN

Creadon never liked or wore the T-shirt. He found it mean-spirited and unsportsmanlike.

But he knew Notre Dame fans - himself included - wanted to beat Miami in the worst way.

In 1985, the last game for beloved Notre Dame coach Gerry Faust, Miami humiliated Notre Dame 58-7. That was Creadon's freshman year.

“That's when the bad blood was created (with Miami). Three years later, now we're seniors, and we're really good,” he said, noting that both teams were undefeated. “The only thing we want to do is take down Miami. That game meant everything.”

It also meant everything to Creadon's dad, who died in 2015. He was a huge Notre Dame fan, attending 380 Notre Dame football games in his lifetime. They played the Notre Dame fight song at his wake.

Ten weeks after his dad's death, ESPN called Creadon to see if he'd be interested in making a documentary about the game. They asked if he knew anything about it.

“I said, 'How much time do you have?' I know everything about the game, and that shirt. They couldn't believe it,” Creadon said. “My dad might have had something to do with that (movie) coming together.”

It also might have been because Creadon and O'Malley are a powerful filmmaking team, making acclaimed documentaries on everything from America's debt crisis (“I.O.U.S.A.”) to SpongeBob (“Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants”).

“I just like lots of different things,” Creadon said. “It's a fun creative challenge to take on different things.”

His career started in front of the camera, as a child model doing commercials and small movie roles. One memorable gig, when he was 8, was in a CTA commercial where he sat on the bus while Walter Payton jumped on.

Creadon was always interested in how things worked behind the camera, and after graduating from Fenwick High School and Notre Dame, he enrolled in the American Film Institute and started working on commercial projects.

Documentary filmmakers Patrick Creadon, who grew up in Riverside, and Christine O'Malley, who grew up in Barrington, pose with their daughters Grace, Charlotte and Fiona. courtesy of Patrick Creadon

He met O'Malley on a film set. They went into business together, creating O'Malley Creadon Productions, a company that makes documentaries and commercial work. They also married and had three children. They now live in Los Angeles.

“We're always looking for really good stories to tell,” Creadon said. “We're very lucky in the sense that we've carved out a niche for ourselves, where we make independent documentary films. We don't have to answer to anyone else. We're going to tell a story honestly and in an entertaining way.”

- Jamie Sotonoff

Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for people from the suburbs now working in showbiz. Email and

“Catholics vs. Convicts”

Airs on ESPN Saturday, Dec. 10, after the Heisman Ceremony, which begins at 7 p.m.

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