by Mike Coffey
We fear change. That’s the accusation we get here at NDN, anyway, usually coupled with some reference to leather helmets and Rockne’s barnstorming and other lazy analysis.
Thing is, we really don’t. Change is not bad … that which does not change dies, after all. But it’s important to know the reason behind the changes, because those are the details in which the devil is hiding.
Change that promotes some kind of improvement can be a good thing. After all, we went from the aforementioned leather helmets and other kinds of padding to more solid materials, which were safer for the players. ND implemented a training table, allowing the players to have a better diet. Exercise equipment has improved, allowing players to avoid injury. We build the Gug, which gives the players a central location for meetings and training and other team-related things, saving time and possibly improving camaraderie. All good stuff, but it’s good stuff because of the resulting benefits, not because of the change itself.
Some changes also flow naturally, even to things some consider sacred. The uniforms have changed in style here and there over the years. Names have been on the back and not been on the back, the colors have rotated around with the blue and gold and green, sleeves and monograms have changed. These things can be (and usually are) affected by style, trends, technological advances, etc. They’re part of the fabric of who we are. If I had my druthers, we’d have the Devine-era green jerseys with names on the back. But sometimes it’s others’ druthers, so c’est la vie.
I’m personally also not opposed to some changes others may consider anathema. One of our posters put together a rendition of the stadium that would allow for luxury box seating, and I think it’s very well done and might be a good idea because it leads to improvement — the raised bowl keeps the sound in better, and the kind of crowd that might object to standing and loud cheering would have a place to go to satisfy their need, both of which might create a better home-field advantage. And all could be accomplished without damaging the aesthetics of the stadium itself. Positive things accomplished with limited negative effect — that’s change that I (and a lot of other folks) can get behind.
What I object to are specious changes that are made for reasons other than improvements. To wit:
When we’re rotating in uniforms and helmets to sell more crap at the bookstore, I object. That’s low-rent whoring and should be beneath us. Yes, I realize the “Come Sweet Cash” mantra has been out there for a long time. But even though it was there, we weren’t getting beaten over the head with it. The blatant non-apologetic display rankles me. We have a uniform for a season, whatever it happens to look like, and we should wear it.
When we’re talking about replacing a playing surface with one not proven to be safer for the student athletes — and may, in fact, not be as safe — because it’s the flavor du jour, I object. Grass on dirt is natural padding. It doesn’t cause “road rash” injuries and is softer than a plastic-based surface. Maintenance costs and the difficulty in maintaining a grass surface in ND’s climate are factors, to be sure, but other venues at Michigan State and Green Bay manage to maintain a mostly-grass surface with the same limitations. Let’s try that out before going whole-hog into better living through plastics.
When we’re talking about putting in a video screen to generate revenue at the expense of a unique venue in college football, I object. Maybe that makes me old-fashioned. But I won’t apologize for valuing that when I attend ND games, I don’t have music blaring at me and am not assaulted by video appeals to the short-attention-span generation. I like listening to the band and watching the cheerleaders and yelling loudly for my team. I don’t need Ozzy or MAKE SOME NOISE to accomplish that, and I haven’t for the 30+ years I’ve attended ND games. That’s what college football is supposed to be about. Instead, a lot of other venues have turned it into an electronic extravaganza. If I want to play a video game, I’ll play a video game. If I want to attend a college football game, I’ll attend a college football game. But I won’t apologize for wanting to keep those two experiences separate, because at too many college football stadiums these days, they’re not.
“Change with the times” goes the riposte. Fine, I’ve got no problem with that. But change for the sake of change is stupid and distracts from the true problems. Shiny new uniforms doesn’t change the fact we’ve lost at least three games every season since 1994. They can pump in as much Crazy Train as they want, but it won’t solve our quarterback issues. And the next time a five-star recruit makes his decision on where to attend college based on a video screen will be the first. “The kids like it” is not a reason to do anything, because kids have liked Notre Dame for a long time without those things, and winning football is the strongest attraction of all.
“Who cares about the changes as long as we win?” goes another. Those posts make me want to cry, because they mean the glitz-mongers are winning. Yes, winning games is important, and I’m not necessarily opposed to changes that increase the chances of winning, provided our values aren’t compromised. I imagine that would describe a lot of you reading this, so we’re on the same side here. But Notre Dame is a unique and special place. I don’t want that to change. You shouldn’t either, especially if it only serves superfluous ends. Seven Nation Army doesn’t help us win. LOUD CONTINUOUS NOISE flashing in five colors doesn’t help us win. Good players and coaches do, and the aforementioned things don’t bring us those either.
If all that makes me a crotchety old alum, fine. I’ll wear that mantle proudly, and I’ll fight specious change to the last. If that’s not your bag, fine. Read a different website, because NDN won’t be for you.