Monday, May 26, 2008

What Has Been Missing Recently At Notre Dame

"It is an image immortalized in time, with Oliver's head kept down as he follows through on the ball, his right index finger pointing toward the goal posts. Both Father Ted Hesburgh and Father Ned Joyce, the school's president and vice president, respectively, can be seen in the background watching intently." - Lou Somogyi from his article on, "Remembering Harry O: 1960-2007".

When I was a younger, I remember the many mythical game finishes at Notre Dame. There was the comeback in the 1979 Cotton Bowl. The Fighting Irish (Yes, I like "Fighting" along with "Irish". I think it connotates never giving up.) trailed 34-12 with a little over eight minutes remaining. As everyone knows, Notre Dame came back. On the last play of the game, Joe Montana hit Kris Haines in the right corner/sidelines in the end zone for the game tieing touchdown. The Irish won, 35-34. Then, there is the kick by Harry Oliver. As he approached the kick, the wind, which had been blowing into his face, stopped. He booted the 51-yarder and Notre Dame defeated Michigan, 29-27, as time ran out.

Let's not forget men's basketball, also. The Irish, on January 19, 1974, trailed UCLA 70-59, with just over three minutes remaining. UCLA had won 88 games in a row. The Fighting Irish came back, scored the last 12 points of the game, and won, 71-70.

These are just a few of the comeback, miracle finishes. Anyone following the Fighting Irish during these times, felt something special about Notre Dame. I mean "special" as in damn near supernatural. It was if Notre Dame was a visible sign of miracles. We believed in them - that's for sure. I know these comebacks/miracles inspired me in sports and in life to never give up.

I think belief is what has been missing in the last several years. Things have been too predictable for the most part. We win the games we are supposed to win and lose those we are supposed to lose. We predict games and we predict season won-loss records. What is missing is the belief that we are Notre Dame. The belief that we can overcome the odds and win when we are not supposed to. But, the belief is even more than that. There is a supernatural, religious aspect to that belief. Remember (those who are older), the bumper sticker from the early 1970s, "God Made Notre Dame Number 1"?

Why has this belief not been as predominant as it once was? Is it the times? That could be one answer. Is it two coaches, who did not believe in the mystique of Notre Dame? It could be that, these two coaches, Bob Davie and Ty Willingham, back to back, are responsible for the diminishing of the belief in the specialness of Notre Dame in a mythical sense. They did it in two ways. First, neither really "got" Notre Dame. I think we all know what "get" means. It means to have a belief in the supernatural/mythical aspect that is Notre Dame. The second way they hurt this belief is plain old not winning. Eight years of mediocrity can do nothing but hurt. Imagine an eight year old boy growing up during this era. By the time he is 16, he has not seen anything special about Notre Dame.

We have to get that belief in the supernatural specialness of Notre Dame back. There is room for the idea of Notre Dame as underdog rising up. Practical ideas have their place. But, so does the belief that we can do anything to overcome odds - that we are Notre Dame. Idealism belongs at Notre Dame. Bob Davie and Ty Willingham were not idealistic. Knute, Ara and Lou, were. Idealism and belief go hand in hand at Notre Dame. Let's bring it back!

We Are ND!



Anonymous said...

It's interesting that in '05-'06 we had several of those games, but it was different. We went to the wire with USC but then lost. In '06 we had amazing comebacks against MSU and UCLA, but the difference there was that we were heavy favorites going in. It would be nice to see something like that when we are the underdog and the stakes are high.

Anonymous said...

Whats been missing at Notre Dame???? LUCK!!!! Plain and Simple. Notre Dame used to rely on luck alot and it just plain ran out. The fact that Notre Dame doesnt recruit the "Thugs" either is a huge factor. Just honest opinion. Notre Dame will never amount to anything but mediocre to good at best. Charlie Weis will NOT succeed at Notre Dame.

Ted said...

Hey Anon (post at 12:01 PM), exactly how can you be so certain ND will never be successful in football because we don't recruit thugs? How can you be so certain Charlie Weis will not succeed at ND? What magnificent ability have you been granted to be so certain of these points? If you are wrong, will you step forward and acknowledge your error in judgment? I doubt can hide behind anonymous.

Anonymous said...

It has nothing to do with pure luck. Haven't you ever noticed how "lucky" winning teams always are? They make their own luck thru talent, hard work and the mentality that you don't give up until the clock reaches zero.

CW is getting the talent and he will make them work hard. He "gets" Notre Dame.

Tony said...

I agree with everything you said here; however, I do disagree with one aspect. Your statement that a child growing up during the mediocre era could find nothing special about Notre Dame. I am 20 now, and attending ND, and most of my exposure to Notre Dame came during the Davie/Willingham era. Some how I came out of all that being a rabid Notre Dame believer. Neither of my parents attended ND. The closest relative is a cousin in law who attended there. My first game was the 1995 Navy game. It was snowing and sleeting, and the game wasn't anything special in terms of miracles. But somehow I came through the bad times an even stronger Notre Dame fan. There is something about Notre Dame that latches onto you and brings you into her warm embrace. Whether it is good times or bad times for our teams, the University is something special in itself that will always create that Notre Dame mystique.