When Robert Mangan, an information technology systems administrator at Children's Specialized Hospital, launched a staff-wide bet before his alma mater's final run at a national title last night, he was confident his top boss, University of Alabama alumna Amy Mansue, would show up to work in Irish garb today.
But as he watched the University of Notre Dame sink in the quicksand at Sun Life Stadium — trapped without a score late in the game while its defensive line handed 35 straight points to Alabama — Mangan conceded he would have to sport crimson gear at the company's Mountainside headquarters the next day.
"I'm wearing one of the ugliest reds I have ever seen in my life," said Mangan, who was sent an Alabama hat and jacket from the organization's New Brunswick hospital this morning, courtesy of Mansue. "It just amplifies the disappointment."
Though Mansue, president and CEO of Children's Specialized, formerly refused to place bets on her team, she agreed to the terms of Mangan's wager — that whoever lost would wear the winning team's apparel today. She even kicked off the competition by allowing staff to dress in their preferred team's attire on Monday, which also happened to be the first day of orientation for new employees.
"I was the first person our orientees saw on their first day, and I walked in wearing a fancy skirt — which was the right bottom half — but I wore my Alabama T-shirt on my top half," Mansue said. "One of our goals is to have fun, so this was my way of demonstrating fun for them, but now they just think I'm nuts."
Christopher Paladino, president of New Brunswick Development Corp. and a "religiously converted" Notre Dame fan who attended last night's showdown in South Beach, Fla., said he typically exchanges regular banter with Mansue via e-mail, phone and text message anytime the Fighting Irish or the Crimson Tide play a game, but he noted "we almost purposely haven't talked about this matchup in the last month."
"I remember during an LSU game that 'Bama ended up losing, (Mansue) was at a formal and I sat in front of the TV and texted her a play-by-play. But, no, we didn't do any texting last night," Paladino said. "I have to give it at least 24 hours, and then I will humbly reach out to her."
Paladino, a frequent flyer, said his 6 a.m. flight from Florida today was possibly the quietest plane he has ever traveled in, as he noted it was "filled with Notre Dame fans from New Jersey and New York, still wearing their Notre Dame garb but looking like they were put through the wringer."
But Paladino and Mangan both have faith that the Irish will make a strong comeback next year, as the team has set its bar at the college bowl level, where it hasn't emerged a victor since 1988.
"Once you get this far, you really want to win … but (Notre Dame) was probably a year or two ahead of their plan to be at this level, so I know they're going to be better next season," Paladino said.
If both teams meet in the next Bowl Championship Series title game, Mangan said Notre Dame "has a much better chance, since Alabama is graduating its best players this year." But acting on the side of caution in the wake of last night's "degrading" 42-14 loss, Mangan said he would root twice as hard for the Irish to ensure Mansue will greet the new hires in a Notre Dame jersey next year.