Remembering My Notre Dame Friend

The first time I ever saw Lou Somogyi’s name, I was in high school. My dad had received a Blue & Gold subscription for Christmas, and given my nascent interest in attending Notre Dame, I started paging through them as well (when Dad was done, naturally).

Since his name seemed to be on a lot of the basketball bylines, Lou’s articles naturally caught my eye. As I read more and more of them, the free- and fast-flowing facts always amazed me. These were the days long before search engines, so Lou obviously had experienced a lot of Notre Dame athletics to be as well-versed as he was.

These were also the days before columnist headshots, so in my imagination, Lou was a grizzled veteran of the Stadium press box — the graying hair and gravelly voice of experience, always willing to recount the games gone by, tossing profanity-laced anecdotes around the smoky haze with typewriter clacking.

Lou Somogyi

Years later when I finally met him, I realized how incredibly inapt that description was. Even this week when he left us at 58, though, it wasn’t any closer to being true. The rough-edged implication simply didn’t fit who Lou was.

Joe Theisman once said if the Notre Dame spirit could be bottled, it would light up the universe. While you can’t pick up that bottle at the Hammes, I think Lou Somogyi is as close as we’ve come to it in a human being.

It wasn’t so much Lou’s knowledge of Notre Dame history, which certainly was par excellence and there has been no shortage of reminisces on that front. Mike Brey called Lou his “Notre Dame historian”, Tommy Rees cited Lou’s “gift of storytelling”. A friend quoted Bob Davie at press conferences, saying, “Look, if you want to know all about the history of ND Football, don’t ask me. Ask Lou Somogyi.” Lou had instant recall of so many facts and figures for Irish football and basketball, a lot of the time it was quicker to ask Lou than to check Google, and there was a much better hit rate with Lou.

But much more important was Lou’s gentle nature and default mode of kindness. As cliched as it may sound, when you spoke to him, Lou had that rare ability to make you feel like you were the only person on the planet at that moment. The attention to detail so obvious in his articles followed him off the page. He spoke as he wrote, with respect and without agenda, and was always willing to see the good side of anybody in the Notre Dame orbit.

There aren’t a lot of topics that would unite the vast majority of Notre Dame fans these days, and probably even fewer ND people who command almost universal respect. Lou Somogyi’s residence near the top of both lists, however, is unquestioned.

I can’t claim to know him well enough to be able to say how hard he had to work to be that kind of person … heck, I consider myself fortunate to have known him at all … but from my vantage point, it looked effortless. When I started covering the men’s basketball team in the early 2000’s, Lou made sure to introduce himself, and always was ready to answer a question, no matter how silly. He was a tremendous help on the days when my book project seemed to have stalled and I was having trouble writing my way out of it. When I was exchanging DM’s with him on his last birthday, he made sure to tell me how he always checked in on NDN in the mornings to “see what was going on”.

I’m sure he had bad days as we all do, but either he never had one on the days I encountered him or he realized it was more important for your interactions with him to be about you and acted accordingly. I know which one I’m leaning towards.

I called Lou my “Notre Dame friend” above because unlike “grizzled veteran”, that description fit him whether you knew him personally or not. No matter how he came into your Notre Dame life, via a class, a newsletter, a television, or a computer screen, you felt he was a friend. And you would be correct.

Lou was one of those people who fit so easily into your world that you felt he somehow always had been a part of it and always would be. It’s easy to realize and accept the logical impossibility of the former, but we’re being bludgeoned right now with the sudden reminder the latter wasn’t going to happen either, and we’re looking for ways to cope.

In a world where the nice people seem to be in shorter supply, it is all the more terrible when one leaves long before he should, and all the more important his life be remembered tangibly. For my part, in addition to giving to the Lou Somogyi memorial scholarship being sponsored by BGI, I’m resolving to smooth down some of my more rough edges to a more Lou-like equilibrium. It seems the most useful way to keep a part of him with us.

Have any memories of Lou? Share them in the comments below.

11 thoughts on “Remembering My Notre Dame Friend

  1. I have been a subscriber to Blue & Gold since the early 80s..I have always read Lou’s column first..His passion for and knowledge of ND Football was amazing.. I had a chance to meet him in the 90s and he gave me Great insight on Lou Holtz’ resignation.. ND Football has never been quite the same since Lou Holtz left.. I can only hope Blue&Gold fares better.. Terrific Tribute Mr. Coffey.. Thanks.. Have an Awesome Day! Go IRISH!!

    Best Regards,

  2. I went to High School with Lou, then joined the Navy for 20 years and now work for the Government. I recently friended Lou on Facebook and wish I had tried to figure out the site years ago. I sent him a message telling him how much I enjoyed his articles for the 30 years, and he responded almost immediately. What a great guy, left us all too soon. RIP my friend.

  3. I met Lou @ least a dozen times and every occasion his demeanor was always the same, like he
    know you for years. Always a gentleman. When I heard that Lou passed away I got a knot in my
    stomach in which I have now writing this e-mail.ND Family and Friends, we lost a very good person,
    Lou please look down on us and keep us Strong, you will be dearly missed. My prayers go out
    to his Family. RIP Lou….Go IRISH!!!!

  4. George E Kruszewski says:

    Have been reading articles by Lou since the 80s. Such a wealth of knowledge on Notre Dame Football! Unequalled and encyclopedic in that knowledge. One of those individuals who can’t be replaced. Gone way too soon. Rest in peace Lou.

  5. John Amberg (Camarillio Brillo) says:

    Like El Kabong, I first saw Lou’s name in the Blue & Gold Illustrated publications. When it was print only, I would look forward to each issue, especially during the football season. I always enjoyed Lou’s columns towards the back of each edition. Boy, that guy new ND football inside and out. I never had the pleasure of meeting Lou, but from the very kind words from The Bonger and others, I too would have been lucky to call him a friend, or at least a friendly acquaintance. The Notre Dame Nation is much the poorer for having lost such a great advocate and reporter. Rest in peace, Lou.

  6. It was the early 80’s there was a magazine drive at the HS where our kids attended and our oldest said there was a Notre Dame Publication I should get, so I said sign me up. The name that struck me when I got my first copy of BGI was Lou Somogyi! From that day on I always searched out his stories first. When the Rocket was rumored to be leaving before his senior year I called BGI and Lou answered. My first impression was that he had known me all my life, we had the nicest discussion, Lou didn’t treat me like some sod buster that had just came to town for the first time. Later on I wrote him several times and we visited about Frank Leahy being from my home state. He put me in touch with Frank’s son and we had several very pleasant exchanges. Lou was a wonderful person and although I never met him in person, I felt I knew him like a close relative. God Bless you Lou and RIP!

  7. Lou is the first person that comes to mind when I think of excellence in reporting of ND football and he will be missed.

    I only knew Lou threw his articles in the B&G and other ND outlets. If it’s said that he could make people feel like they were the only person in the world when he spoke to you then he also had the talent to make it seem like his articles were written just for the individual reader. He had a gift for storytelling and weaving ND history and interesting factoids into his reporting of current events.

    More often than not it seemed like ND football history repeats itself and Lou always had a knack for putting both the good and the bad in their proper perspective.

  8. Like other readers, I would immediately go to Lou’s articles upon receiving my copy of Blue and Gold. His knowledge and insights were second to none.Greatness is synonymous with Notre Dame football. He was great. Plain and simple.

  9. Jason Wilson says:

    I had always assumed Lou just made it a point to consult whatever statistical resources were available and did so more than other writers to weave his fun and fascinating to read stories. Now I understand and appreciate that he is “Louggle”.

  10. Bob Devetski says:

    Unlike many who knew Lou by his writing, I knew Lou personally for many years as a tennis player. We fought it out many times on court, and he was always so gracious afterward. We had lunch together periodically, and those lunches could have easily gone on for hours, if I didn’t have to get back to work. I have great memories of ND games-football and basketball–from the 1970’s. Lou routinely corrected my faulty memory of game details and also gave me added details of what was going on behind the scenes. More than anything, he was a great friend who is greatly missed.