The Notre Dame Disease
by Mark Lennox
It’s that week again. Notre Dame Week. The first rivalry game of the season for Michigan. The buildup to this game will have a little more zest thanks to the Irish thoroughly dismantled Michigan State in East Lansing. Pundits nationwide are quickly anointing the Irish as one of the dark horse contenders for the season. Given their schedule, if they were to go undefeated (they won’t), you’d have a hard time keeping them out of the hunt.
Realistically, however, Notre Dame should not be worth the sudden hype. No. No they should not. Just like Michigan, Notre Dame often gets a lot of its recognition based on its name and past accomplishments alone. Michigan was rated way too high going into the Alabama game this year with so many holes that needed to be filled but that didn’t stop prognosticators from ranking Michigan No. 8 going into the season.
It’s the Notre Dame disease. A disease of the mind where pundits and fans overrate schools based on their name. This arena is flooded by people who think Notre Dame has a place at the table simply because they are Notre Dame.
Let’s just forget that Notre Dame hasn’t had a 10 win season since 2002. It doesn’t matter that their record in bowl games over the last 10 years is 2-10 and have gone 0-3 in BCS bowl games. They look in the mirror and see that golden dome and believe that they matter. Looks can be deceiving. Just because Snooki THINKS she looks good in Cheerleader shorts that say “Juicy” when she walks out of the house doesn’t mean that the rest of us think that.
Where Notre Dame has gone wrong and will continue to go wrong is thinking that your name actually means something. Notre Dame cannot and will not win any games this year because of that clover on their helmet. In fact, in post-World War 2 America, Notre Dame is one of the most mediocre programs in the history of College Football. I won’t go into it to the depths that this guy did but he does point out that a lot of Notre Dame success, like Michigan’s took place during an era where segregation and discrimination affected a team’s success.
Truth be told, nobody cares what your name is. Nobody cared who Alabama was when they went 27-31 from 2001 to 2006. People care now, because Nick Saban has built a machine in Tuscaloosa. Their name sounds a lot better with two national titles in the last three years next to it, but Alabama was still just Alabama with bad coaching prior to that. Nobody rolled over for the Crimson Tide because they were the Crimson Tide.
Don’t think for a second I’m thinking we’re more high and mighty. Michigan fans have been negligent in this process as well. During the RichRod years and the last few years of the Carr era, the Wolverines tried to win games based on the “We’re Michigan, we should win” strategy. Appalachian State didn’t care. Oregon didn’t care the following week. Ohio State didn’t care for seven consecutive years.
Many Notre Dame faithful believe that college football glory is not only their entitlement but, damn it, it’s their birthright. From the snide little leprechaun, to Touchdown Jesus, to Tom Hammond claiming that a rainbow was specifically shining down on Notre Dame when Kyle Rudolph scored the “game winner” only to see Denard and Company march down the field and break their hearts…again.
Michigan fans are arrogant, yes. But Notre Dame fans make Michigan fans look like the most humble human beings on the planet.
I asked a coworker who is a diehard Notre Dame fan how they expected to beat Michigan this week despite having a wide receiver playing safety and no other conceivable talent in the defensive backfield. His response: “They’re Notre Dame, they’re more talented.” No, sir, they are not.
There comes a point in time where you have to look in that same mirror and say “This isn’t working.” Making an effort to say ‘We need to actually join a conference instead of feigning independence’ would be a start. Playing nearly 50 percent of your games in the ACC without taking on the ACC moniker is just another feeble attempt at hanging on to some ideal that had it’s death rattle in the late 1950s.
While I’m incredibly apprehensive to announce Michigan’s return to national prominence, I like where they’re at a hell of a lot more than I do Notre Dame because I believe in results on the field. Last time I checked, Michigan has broken Irish hearts three years running.