As you may have followed throughout the past few months here at Insights, we've been talking with celebrities about why they love college sports and, in some instances, why they love Notre Dame. This is one of those times.
Chances are, this guy will look familiar. Tom Cavanagh, who starred in the series "Ed" at the beginning of the decade and was also in "Love Monkey," "Trust Me" and had a recurring role in "Scrubs," took the time to talk with Insights about his love of Notre Dame football. It's somewhat fitting, too, that Cavanagh will likely be the last celebrity interview I do on Insights as we discovered during our conversation that we have a mutual friend. Small, small world. Insights thanks Cavanagh for the time and I think you'll really enjoy the interview, which will be in multiple parts. In Part I, Cavanagh explains how he started watching Notre Dame, part of his Gameday routine and his feelings on college sports.
Irish Insights: How'd you get started following Notre Dame football?
Tom Cavanagh: "Oh, man. It goes way back. Way, way back. You know, like, you know Terry Hanratty, right? Even before, my dad was a huge Notre Dame football fan and also a Canadian football fan. He grew up playing football in Canada and there's some cross-pollination between Notre Dame football, obviously, with the Toronto Argonauts and so forth. That was the start of it, so to speak, and we're Irish Catholic and Notre Dame, well, they're the Irish. It was a natural fit. So we started, we just were into them. Then, I ended up marrying into the family because my mother-in-law, I'm not going to say the year, but she was Notre Dame homecoming queen. No joke. One of my good friends, John Walters, has written books on them. I think his recent one is Notre Dame Golden Moments, which is basically a bunch of football games that shaped college football history, and I think a lot of it has to do with being Irish Catholic."
(Eds. Note: Insights also considers Walters a good friend.)
II: Since you grew up around it, what's your first memory? Is it the Hanratty stuff? Other things?
TC: "No, it's Hanratty. For some reason, Hanratty and (Joe) Theismann and then you get into contemporary stuff like (Joe) Montana and all that kind of stuff. But what's the subject matter you want to touch on? Because I can talk about any of it.
II: Basically, what I've been doing is talking to people about why they love college sports, why they root. Mostly what I do is Notre Dame, but I've expanded it to other people, too.
TC: "I can touch on that, too, because part of it, for me, and frankly I feel kind of strongly about this, purity and college athletics maybe doesn't always collide, but when you compare it to professional sports, that's one of the things, that's why March Madness is one of my favorite sporting events ever. I just lose my mind over it. This is like their Stanley Cup and Super Bowl, their championship all rolled into one, even if it's like, say for example Davidson's run or pick an upset. We remember those games 20 years later. And it doesn't matter it wasn't for the championship. This was the pinnacle and when you watch it, these kids, this is their pinnacle. Such a large swath, none of them are ever going to play professionally, certainly not in the NBA, but there's a purity to that.
"I played college athletics and it always makes me think of the team I played on and the lessons that I learned are lessons that I carried through to this day. I'm not just talking about the game itself, but rather the lessons that you learn on the playing field are life lessons that you can take with you through life. I look at the college scene and many of these people are having the same experience, learning those life lessons in addition to the thrill of playing alongside friends and playing in front of the crowds and all the excitement that comes with it. There's a real immediacy to it and a real purity to it and I know right now, so much is tarnished by, I've watched it in the last while, stuff that we knew when I grew up with it, the AAU and the full-time travel and that takes away from the sandlot. I think that's a bad thing because a hell of a lot of talent came out of the sandlot in the first place, you know. I look at this article I'm reading on Bryce Harper, for example, and I read it with dismay. I know this kid has all the talent in the world. At the same time you look and this guy's a pro already. He's bloomed as a pro already and that happens way too early these days, I think. I just worry about the life lessons because the enjoyment and the life lessons go hand in hand and you want to make sure that the people who are running the show for these kids are doing right by the children."
II: Getting back to Notre Dame, is there a favorite memory for you that sticks out?
TC: "(Exhales) Ohh, man. There's just some great games, you know. I guess you don't forget, I like going to the Stadium. There's been, no offense to Michigan, your new faithful, but there's been some huge victories over Michigan. Sometimes, those rivalry victories, to be every inch as satisfying as the big bowl wins. That's the crazy thing about Notre Dame. I have a friend, his name is Steve Pasquale, you should talk to him, by the way, he's on the show 'Rescue Me,' the Denis Leary show. So his whole family went to Notre Dame, they have season tickets and when we can't get to a game, he comes over to my house and what people don't know is that Steve and I control the fate of a Notre Dame victory or loss by the positioning in my living room. Yeah, remember the Reggie Bush Push, that's because Steve was doing 'A Soldier's Play' in New York and he had curtain coming up and he ran. He was supposed to be at the theatre at 7:30 but that's after Brady Quinn drove us down and we scored and he thought it was a victory so he left. He had to be there at 7:30 and he was late. My house was 20 blocks from the theatre so he had to sprint to get on stage and there was this crazy commotion in a bar as he runs by. He thinks, well, the game's ours and we won. He doesn't know about that...4th-and-9 play and so he kind of stops off in the bar, and sees the Reggie Bush push, and that's his last thing and he opens up the stage play with a big rant in front of all the other soldiers.
"He plays the (captain) and he tells me later that the other actors on stage were like 'What the hell has gotten into Pasquale?' Normally he usually comes out with a rant and he's angry but this time their hair was being ripped off their heads he was screaming so loud. He was so furious that Reggie had scored. We still think that was our, he had to leave and I was standing by a chair or behind a chair with a football in my hand. We also have to have a football and the right person has to be holding it and he was standing off to the side able to see the TV but that formation was working for us in the big comeback and he left and then we lost. That's our responsibility. Now that I say that I don't think you should print that because I don't want the legions of Notre Dame fans to hold me directly responsible for that."
II: Following up on that, what is your Gameday routine? It sounds like you definitely have one.
TC: "Here's the thing. If Notre Dame is playing, when I played college basketball, I would be there like hours early, just warming up, just sitting in the locker room before anyone got there, be in the gym before the lights were on, shooting around, getting ready. I like to have my own time in the arena, that kind of thing, because it's a privilege to be able to do that. When I do theatre, I like to do that, get there early, sit in the seats, that kind of thing. So if we're just going to watch the game and it's Notre Dame, Pasquale and I will be sending each other text messages the night before. Like 'Curfew. Get to bed.' That kind of thing. The first text message in the morning would be like 'Going to head out for a light jog and stretch it out, get the kinks out.' You know. Then we'd be texting each other 'Have a good breakfast, have some oatmeal. Make sure you're irrigated, all that kind of stuff.' Then there's some light stretching and he's over the house and we're both wearing the jerseys well before. And if we go there, half my family is from Chicago and they are always there, so if we're at the stadium then we have to get there ridiculously early because we have to have to get the tables out, get the football out, get the tailgating going, that kind of thing."
Make sure to check out Part II of Insights' interview with Cavanagh.
- Fame And Notre Dame: Actor Tom Cavanagh -- Part II
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- Why I Love College Sports (Fame And ND) -- Actor Ted McGinley -- Part II
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- Why I Love College Sports (Also Known As Fame And Notre Dame): IRL Driver Graham Rahal
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- Fame And Notre Dame: Stone Temple Pilots Frontman Scott Weiland Part II
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