O'Donnell: Notre Dame had no greater lucky charm than Regis Philbin
OUTLINED AGAINST A CLEMENT OCTOBER SKY, there was no need for any further juice in the press box at Notre Dame Stadium.
Not even a sudden appearance by Regis Philbin.
In approximately 90 minutes, No. 1 ranked Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush and USC would be laying 14½ points against Charmin' Charlie Weis and his upstart band of Ty Willingham holdovers.
Even by the standards of an autumn in South Bend, crackle was in the air.
Well-founded rumor was that at least one member of The Fourth Estate had 10 large on Brady Quinn, Tommy Zbikowski and 'mates as the Irish dreamed yet another impossible dream.
(The actual number was $10,400 -- $9,900 to win $9K on Notre Dame and another $500 in travel expenses for a trusted brother to take "the yo-yo" to Las Vegas the evening before.)
The media milled.
Suddenly, Philbin's voice hovered over the front row:
"Here they are! The ultimate image makers! The people who are going to write their stories tonight about another historic Irish victory, a game that will put the name of Charlie Weis right up there with Rockne and Leahy, Parseghian and Holtz!"
Philbin was oh so close.
Only an impossible closing sequence, including a miracle lob by Matt Leinart to Dwayne Jarrett on a fourth-and-9 and the decisive "Bush Push" enabled Carroll and Co. to skulk off with a 34-31 win.
Philbin was just visiting the press box. He was surrounded by a coterie of priests, friends and skywriting boosters en route to wherever the most Golden Domers get to sit for a green daze like that.
He died this week at age 88. He sold likableness, and as Eddie Cantor long ago said, "Likability is 90 percent of the game."
His love for ND, in all its dimensions, was a forever thing. That passion began when his father returned from World War II after having served in the Marine Corps with Moose Krause, a Chicago-bred star in the final recruiting class of Rockne.
"At night Krause would regale the other officers with stories about Rockne and George Gipp and The Four Horsemen," Philbin told media. "My father was very impressed and his impression impressed me."
Philbin graduated from ND in 1953. That meant he arrived to catch the fifth of six unbeaten seasons by Frank Leahy -- 10-0 in 1949.
He reveled in his status as "Notre Dame's No. 1 fan."
His prediction on that October afternoon was so very close.
And even more fulfilling if you had the Irish with the 14½.
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• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at email@example.com.