This Can’t Be A Coincidence: People Associate “Notre Dame Football” With “Annoying”

November 27, 2012

Way back in April, I wrote a post called “The Most Annoying Traits of Football Fans” in which I described behaviors that make the rest of the football-watching world cringe when they see them because they make the rest of us look bad.  Some of the things I talked about in the post were:

  • Overuse of the phrase “Nobody gave us a chance”
  • Being disappointed or bragging about events that happened before you were born
  • Justifying a loss based on “We let them win” logic
  • The use of (insert fanbase or mascot)-nation
  • Being a team’s apologist
  • Not acknowledging any other team’s success
  • “Fire the coach” guy

And most of all:

  • Deifying or idolizing teams, players, coaches, GM’s, or owners

On Sunday (November 25th), I got more hits for that particular article than I ever had in a single day since it was posted.  This was the day after Notre Dame beat Southern Cal 22-13.

I find it very hard to believe that those two happenings are a coincidence.  Notre Dame Football falls into the same category as the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, and LA Lakers, Bill O’Reilly, and Howard Stern: everybody has an opinion about them.  This year’s BCS National Title game is a dream-scenario for the media in this country because both the fans and the dissenters are going to tune in to anything that has “Notre Dame” in the headline unlike if it were any other college football team in the country.

So Domers, just in case you were wondering, here is why the rest of the college football world may find you annoying.

Since 1993, the Irish fanbase has been quieted and humbled somewhat due to their inability to win a bowl game for thirteen years (1994-2006 seasons), a revolving door for the Head Coach position, losing to opponents at home that would not even be an afterthought during Notre Dame’s “glory days” (Syracuse, Navy, Tulsa, South Florida, Stanford, UConn, Pitt, Air Force, Purdue, Boston College, and Navy*) and the George O’Leary scandal.

For the next 43 days (and the entire offseason if Notre Dame wins), all of that will go out the window.  Anybody who even has the most tertiary connection to Notre Dame will claim to be a lifelong Fighting Irish fan.

At the root of it, I think that’s why people find the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to be annoying.  No other school in the country can call on that many people for support.  If Southern Cal goes to the BCS National Championship, the entire state of California is not rooting for them.  People who watch their favorite team or school for twelve to fourteen Saturdays a year can’t stand it when somebody who never talks about college football (or any other sport for that matter), starts watching and rooting for a team when they get close, or only when things are going well. That just reminds us of the worst behavior of politicians.

Other schools don’t get a special exemption from conference championship games.  If Texas were to leave the Big 12 for whatever reason and become an independent, do you think the BCS would make a special exception for them and invite Texas’ Athletic Director to the discussion just because they are Texas?  I highly doubt it.  Giving Notre Dame the privilege of being able to call the shots is like having the 106-year-old town founder approve any city ordinance.

Other schools don’t get movies made about their walk-ons.  At any other school, the story (or more truthfully, myth) would rise to “campus legend” status, but not get its own movie, and it shouldn’t.

That’s another thing that irks people about Notre Dame.  Their major contributions to college football were so far in the past that nobody alive today can remember them first-hand, but the rest of the football world is expected to bow to them just because they are Notre Dame.

Case in point: Who and when was the last Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner?  That one’s easy; Tim Brown in 1987.  What about before that?  John Huarte in 1964.  The Irish had two Heisman winners in the 50’s (Paul Hornung and Johnny Lattner), and three in the 40’s (Angelo Bertelli, Johnny Lujak, and Leon Hart).  So basically, any casual fan would have a hard time remembering or visualizing a single play that six of their seven Heisman Trophy winners made because it happened over fifty years ago, and in an era when only two to three games were televised a week (and less than that in the 40’s; that was still the era of the radio). Just think, in the 25 years since Notre Dame last won a Heisman Trophy, players from schools such as Houston, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Auburn, Wisconsin, BYU, and Colorado have all won one.  And none of those schools have the nationwide following Notre Dame does.

It’s not just the Heisman where Notre Dame is more legend that reality.  Think of all the stories of Notre Dame lore.  Win One For the Gipper was over eighty years ago and the term is now used sarcastically.  The Four Horsemen was a publicity stunt and a colorfully written newspaper article perpetuated by Grantland Rice.  Two of their most famous games, 1946 vs. Army and 1966 vs. Michigan State, were a scoreless tie and a 10-10 tie in which Notre Dame played most of the game not to lose (yes, I am aware that their starting quarterback was out of the game and had one game left against USC, but still no excuses).  If either of these games were re-played on ESPN Classic or some other venue today, they would be viewed as being on the same level of boring as last year’s LSU/Alabama regular season game.  Arguably their greatest win of the last thirty years (vs. Florida State in 1993, #1 vs. #2) was effectively nullified the next week at home by an inferior opponent.    You can’t live off of ghosts of the past forever, but Notre Dame certainly tries.

People don’t like it when you try to get special treatment, but can’t answer the question, “What have you done for me lately?”.

I’ve only scratched the surface of why people may find Notre Dame annoying.  I find it very interesting and not coincidental whatsoever that a blog post I wrote over six months ago racked up that many hits on that day.  Can we keep one thing in mind over the next six weeks?  Whoever has the better football team will win this year’s BCS National Championship; not the team with the more storied tradition.

*That isn’t a typo; It just feels really good to write that Notre Dame has had a really hard time beating a service academy in recent years (yes, I’m aware that Notre Dame won “at” Navy this year).


Historical Matchup Of The Day: San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints

November 25, 2012

Thirty-two years ago, America saw its first glimpse of what the San Francisco 49ers were slated to become, and that is arguably the best single decade any team has ever had in modern NFL history.

On Pearl Harbor Day 1980, a young Joe Montana and the 49ers came back from being down 35-7 at halftime to the winless New Orleans Saints at Candlestick Park.  This is one of those games where about four million people will tell you either that they were there at the game, or that they watched the entire game on TV.  Ninety-nine percent of those people are lying.  This was not a nationally televised game, and both teams were in the last leg of miserable seasons.

San Francisco started the year with three straight wins, but then continued to drop their next eight.  The most embarrassing of those eight losses was a 59-14 shellacking by the Cowboys, a game in which San Francisco turned the ball over ten times.   The 49ers came into this game having won two in a row, but the 5-9 49ers were playing for pride in this game, not a playoff spot.

The 49ers’ problems were pretty moot by comparison to the Saints.  New Orleans came into the game with an 0-13 record, and things were getting pretty ugly.  There were two games in which the Saints did not gain 100 yards in offense.  In their 40-7 loss to the Saint Louis Cardinals, the Saints offense had the same amount of turnovers as first downs (3).

Something funny happened at the start of this game, though.  Archie Manning and the Saints came out like they were fighting for a playoff spot or home-field advantage in the playoffs, and the 49ers were flat.  Manning threw three first half touchdown passes, and the 49ers’ offense didn’t cross midfield.  The 49ers’ only touchdown came on a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown by Freddy Solomon.  New Orleans went in to halftime ahead 35-7, and looked well on their way to chalking up their first win of the season.

In the second half, the 49ers didn’t do anything they didn’t try in the first.  No gimmicks, tricks, or special plays.  Just execution.  They scored two touchdowns in the third, and two more in the fourth, all while holding New Orleans scoreless for the rest of the game.  Dwight Clark made what I believe to be the most athletic play of his career (yes, including The Catch) when he made a sideline-to-sideline 71-yard catch and run for a touchdown to put the 49ers within 14 points heading into the fourth quarter.  Once that play occurred, it seemed like the fourth quarter was nothing but a formality.  the 49ers were on a roll, and the Saints could do nothing to stop them.  The game ended up going to overtime, where Ray Wersching kicked a 36-yard field goal to win it, 38-35.  At the time, this was the greatest comeback to victory (by margin of deficit) in NFL history.

New Orleans would have to wait one more week for their first victory, 21-20 over the Jets (always the Jets).

Even though they didn’t win another game for the rest of the season, this one game gave the 49ers the confidence that they could win any game they were in, no matter the opponent or the situation.


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