This week’s One Foot Down podcast talks about the weight of Notre Dame’s football history. I don’t have a podcast (yet), so this medium will have to suffice for a response. Figures this would be the week WordPress released the new GUI, so we’ll have to see how this goes.
First, as Josh did, some necessary housekeeping. I also recognize the depth and breadth of ND fandom. I have no issues with Josh at all, I usually like a lot of what he writes, and he is, of course, welcome to his position and opinion. And this probably will piss off its share of readers. Regardless, I feel the need to respond on behalf of those of us with a little more experience on what ND can and should be capable of in its football program and to put a finer point on some of the issues raised.
Let’s start with….
Josh (and OFD’s) position is to recognize any and all titles ND football has earned. I have no problem with them doing it, but I also have no problem with Notre Dame not.
You can’t on the one hand criticize Alabama for all the ridiculous titles they claim — a well-earned criticism, to be sure — and then turn around and do the same thing. It grates on the same part of my psyche as the participation trophy mania of what my dad would have called “America Today”. Recognizing true achievement should not be a negative.
I agree, ND should have a national title for either 1989 or 1993, but it didn’t happen. Sometimes life isn’t fair. We as Notre Dame fans can appreciate what those teams achieved, but I fail to see the need to push that requirement upon unwashed masses whose opinions on the subject, quite frankly, don’t mean dick. Mopes being mopey doesn’t give us license to do the same, and it never should.
If the AP or UPI/Coaches or BCS or CFP recognize Notre Dame as a champion, they’re a champion. Otherwise, a small plaque in the locker room and a larger place in ND fans’ hearts is a perfect place for it.
My issue with one-off uniforms isn’t tied to some kind of tradition. I’ve long been on the record my preferred uniform for ND are the green-and-gold they wore in the latter half of the Devine era. Names on the jerseys aren’t a deal-breaker for me either … they’ve always put names on the back for the bowl games, at least. I agree, the uniforms always have had a little slip and slide over the years, and the preference for traditional versus tradition is and should be just that.
But I imagine we’d agree while ND may not always have to be traditional, surely they should always be tasteful, and in this area, the results definitely are mixed. The garish split helmet from a few years ago was an affront to the cornea. And the less said about the pinstripes this year the better.
The issue you didn’t talk about, though, is the big one I have — the money grab these alternative jerseys represent. Jack Swarbrick tries to pass these off as some kind of homage, when in fact they’re the latest effort to separate Notre Dame fans from their dollars. Things should be worth what you pay for them, and tossing out another jersey simply because you believe ND fans will buy them is a piss-poor reason.
If you have a uniform, wear that uniform.
I also disagree with the assertion a national title in 2018 would be “Notre Dame’s greatest national title of all time”. Yes, 14 wins would be more than the other title teams needed. Yes, the last two games against the top two teams in the nation would be an outstanding achievement.
But while it’s not my intention to denigrate what this team has done (not to mention diminish how much I’m enjoying it), let’s remember there’s a reason the ND haters were grousing about the schedule. The last two games will be a buzz saw, but the 12 that came before it? Outside of #7 Michigan, the teams that were supposed to be a murderer’s row turned out to be more of a spanking machine — #20 Syracuse and #22 Northwestern, with eight losses between them, are the only ranked foes they’ve faced so far.
If all the scheduled teams had played up to their billing, if SC, FSU, and VaTech had been their usual selves, yes, I’d be more amenable to your point. But I’m still going to hold 1988 — games against #2, 4, 5, and 7 — and (if we’re considering co-championships) 1989 — games against #1, 4, 7, 8, 15, 16, 17, and 18 — up as the standard here.
Which segues nicely into my final point — I truly don’t understand how any Notre Dame fan can in any way be “sick and tired” of the Lou Holtz era. I also don’t get how remembering the Holtz era detracts from what this current team is doing.
The Holtz era means so much to people like me because it’s the last era at Notre Dame with proper stewardship of the football program. Remembering it is vital because that stewardship has been in short supply since then. People like me feel it’s important those lessons not be forgotten lest they never come again.
Notre Dame hasn’t gone 30 years since its last national title because of some amorphous changes in the winds of the sport. They haven’t won a title in 30 years because they hired:
- A sycophantic assistant with no head coaching experience who never understood nor appreciated what Notre Dame was
- A decently-talented coach who couldn’t bring himself to admit the falsehoods on his C.V.
- An average coach who took the job only under pressure from national figures, never really wanted to be here, and recruited and coached like it
- Another lifetime assistant whose status as an alumnus and all its potential benefits were drowned out by his incredibly boorish manner and inability to lead
- A flavor of the month coach with six years total at the Division 1 level who viewed Notre Dame as a stepping stone to the NFL from the day he interviewed and tried to take that step the first opportunity he got
Fortunately for us, that flavor seems to have abandoned his dreams of advancement and chosen finally to focus on succeeding right where he is, and we as Notre Dame fans are reaping the benefits of the last two seasons. But that happy accident borne of painful and almost record-setting failure came at a very steep cost which, maybe, shouldn’t have been necessary to pay.
I’m sorry you were too young to truly experience and appreciate what happened during Holtz’s era. I’m sorry ND football has been so poorly run in the subsequent years and that it hasn’t given you much to watch and appreciate. That’s not our fault, and it’s not Holtz’s fault.
It is, however, the fault of a good many people in the administration ranks at Notre Dame who find quality football embarrassing. They’re the ones who hate the weight of history, and yearn for the opportunity to shed that yoke. They’d like nothing better than for ND football to go away so they can gain the “respect” of their fellow academicians — people who, they fail to realize, are never going to like them anyway.
It’s a dirty job….
If you feel Notre Dame fans are holding on to traditions too tightly, maybe it’s because we feel it’s all we have left of what we were once taught Notre Dame was. The Dome seems to care a hell of a lot more about looking good than doing good, and that’s bothersome to me and mine.
What you consider “blue-collar and throwback and white and conservative”, we feel to be a Notre Dame based on work ethic, not glitz and glamour. Make whatever sizzle-and-steak comparison you want, that’s where it’s coming from. When the people in charge are more concerned about how much money they can make from the corporate tents and jersey sales than how the team is performing, that’s a recipe for 30 years of disaster, and ND has reaped what it sowed.
I agree, this program definitely would benefit from a championship this season, for many many reasons. But even if they win, I’m not going to appreciate the Holtz years (or the Parseghian years or the Leahy years or the Rockne years) any less than I ever have, and that appreciation won’t detract from the pride I (and a lot of others) feel right now in this team.
Lou Holtz isn’t what’s wrong with Notre Dame football — the feckless administrators that have sold it out are. Let’s give credit where it’s due there.