We realize an entire generation of football fans have grown up to maturity (or at least as close as you'll ever get to maturity) without Notre Dame being "good." They have seen spikes, sure. Tyrone Willingham, a degenerative nerve disease and coach, took Notre Dame to ten wins in 2002. Charlie Weis, who later went on to work as offensive coordinator for an obscure team in Central America, led the Irish to a 10-2 record in 2006. That season ended with an exhibition against Louisiana State in the Sugar Bowl. Remember the time Charlie Weis tried to out-Les Miles Les Miles? Oh, Charlie. You couldn't have known the power of the Cult of Les, but did you have to make a mockery of his rites, his traditions? His fakes on special teams?
(At the :20 mark. If you are a Notre Dame fan, do not watch, and if you a Florida fan, just remember that Will Muschamp is the head coach, not Charlie Weis, and keep saying this to yourself until the hyperventilation and heart palpitation passes.)
Like how Jamarcus Russell isn't really doing a lot of reading there, but is instead just heaving the ball up to Early Doucet and soft-tossing passes to wide open receiver? Ah, fortunately it all turned out for that young man, and he went on to play in the NFL with a degree of success.*
So if Bill Connelly's preview of Notre Dame is right--and there are reasons, good ones, to believe it may be--Notre Dame is going to be...[winces]...sort of good next year. It's not that we hate them, or ever have had reason to hate them. If anything, they deserve your pity since they have had their leaders inflict one of the more brutal runs of coaching malfeasance forced upon them: Holtz, the quality that burns when you pee for years afterward, Bob Davie, George O'Leary (resume blew up on launch pad,) Willingham, Weis...it's a list that reads like the sad roster of teachers at a mining colony in the 1880s.
Well, first Mr. Robertson was a great teacher, but we found out he was tooting laudanum in between classes. He died of the pleurisy, and then we discovered he'd drank away most of the school's funds in morphine and spent the rest on scarlet women. So we used Mrs. McGill, who taught geography in a manner that suggested that Montana was not only an alien colony, but was contained entirely in a corner of the classroom. Our town is now full of desperate people in need of knowledge and a proper understanding of where Montana is.
---"A history of a mining town I just made up," Spencer Hall, 1883.
They deserve your pity for that string of Lundbergs foisted on them by clap-brained managament alone, but WAIT THERE'S MORE. Their home games are molested by NBC until their television contract expiers in the year 3729. They lost to Greg Robinson while he was head coach at Syracuse. They attract not just bandwagon fans but the worst possible bandwagon fans, the detritus of the sports universe attracted to name brand programs and winning like cheap whores to imitation Fendi bags. They play in a stadium without a Jumbotron, and protest as the Luddite elitist class might, this is a form of poverty. (Pull up them bootstraps, ND Alums, and get thee a jumbotron. They are tasteless, distracting, loud, and FABULOUS.)
Pity can only move you to do so much, however. There is much to actually like about this Notre Dame team, as well. Their star wide receiver likes to party, and could totally do you and himself a favor by using your friend's flailing limo service after nights out on the town. Like all Brian Kelly teams, their quarterbacks are delightfully disposable. One will get injured in horrific fashion, the other will take his place, and the results will be similar and similarly productive because for once Notre Dame has hired a coach who knows his ass from a hole in the ground where one keeps a simple but effective playbook.
They have defense, real, smashy, pain-inflicting defense, too. They have a linebacker who, for at least the next three seconds, will not be the overhyped linebacker the media morphs into kind of a Mormo-Catholic hybrid Polynesian Tebow. Actually, apologies. This has already happened. You may now be tired of Manti Te'o before you ever got to like him. This has been a message from the football hipsters of America.
Quality-wise, if the thought of extending a kind thought towards Notre Dame seems too repellent for even your calloused soul, then think of them as a Brian Kelly team: well-coached, disciplined, aggressive, and fun to watch. We don't mean fun to watch in the way Notre Dame games for two decades have been. That meaning implies Notre Dame's role as "Our Beloved National Snuff Film," and in 2011 we should all move on past that. Other teams of prestige now occupy that role of fallen nobility scrambling for moldy pastries in the gutter.
We demand new ogling, new horrors. This year's emaciated princes clawing each other's eyes out for a scrap of green pork in the alley could come from any number of candidates: Florida, Auburn, Texas as they attempt to break in two new coordinators, USC as they suffer under the yoke of the NCAA's sanctions, Michigan as they rebuild under Brady Hoke, or--why hello there, Ohio State! Is that a Joe Bauserman you're wearing? Why, it is, isn't it! What kind of party is this? Oh, never you mind. Here's some paint thinner in a red solo cup and a hammer. Quick drink it before it leaches through the plastic, and put the hammer to good use before UConn cranks you over the head with that rusty crowbar.
Notre Dame fought their way out of that bumfight the same way everyone else did: by writing checks until something worked. That something is Brian Kelly, and for once, they could be a very satisfying kind of good: 10-2, an at large bid in a BCS bowl, and dammit, possibly a victory if they go to the Orange Bowl and play some busted-ass ACC or Big East Team. (Unless this team is West Virginia, and then you die at the hands of Holgo the Barbarian. Don't worry, it will be a noble death.)
This is all null and void the minute the echoes are awakened, and someone slaps together the inevitable Brian Kelly book about how he turned around the Irish, etc, blah blah blah. Then you may feel free to hate them again without reserve, but even then you'll have a novelty you haven't had for years: you could hate Notre Dame this fall because they are sort of good at the footballs.
*None! HA-ha! Cough Syrup