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Friday, October 9, 2015

A Reckoning Redone

It is said that the years soften old grudges, and that, inevitably, old wounds heal, and we make peace with our demons.  But there are also those enmities that endure; hates that will not be quelled by the tides of our lives or the perspective of days.  These are loves in their own right – because it is impossible for hate, on its own, to survive.  They are passionate defenses of beloved things, because we cannot separate the instinct to protect from the drive to love.  There are a great many reasons to hate Notre Dame.  Even without my own self-imposed limits, I could never hope to list them all.  Besides, that’s ground better covered by more seasoned scribes.  But, I hate Notre Dame because I love Navy.  Make no mistake, this annual battle is as much a morality play as any you’ll see in the MCU.  Need help figuring out whose wearing the respective white and black hats?  Well, that’s what you’ve got me for.  And so, here we are, on the cusp of the annual reckoning that is Navy-Notre Dame, and here are three (more) reasons to hate Notre Dame, because sometimes that thin line between love and hate is actually the line of scrimmage:

1.         Respect.  There is lots of hubbub this year about “mutual respect” – including both teams wearing identical “base layers” and warm-up gear – with all the subtlety of a train wreck – emblazoned with the words “RESPECT”, “HONOR” and “TRADITION.”   The official Navy Athletics outlet went so far as to note the “storied history and brotherhood between our two schools.”  Huh?  In 2007, a young Notre Dame undergraduate named Matt Couture was interviewed by ESPN after his team started the season 0-3, and he noted that the season would be considered "a success" as long as they "continued the streak against Navy."  Now, let’s be clear, he didn’t say that the season would be a success by beating Navy.  No, it’s a success if we continue to prove our domination.  That’s not respect, folks… that’s supercilious disdain (or at least the closest thing that a Notre Dame undergrad can muster).  That’s the echoes of once-Presidential candidate John Kerry noting that you should study hard and “do your homework” or you’ll end up in the military.  Twenty-three years after I first put on my uniform, I’ve only ever been made to feel badly for it once.  In South Bend.  Nominal “thank you”s and school-sponsored tributes aren’t respect, they’re obligatory, and trust me, you can feel it in that stadium.  For my part, I don’t wear a uniform anymore, and I’m done giving respect to those who don’t return it.  So, the only respect I’m looking for from Notre Dame is not scurrying out of the stadium and into the locker room when we’re singing Blue and Gold again like you did the last time.

2.         Honor.  Honestly, comparing the “honor” of Notre Dame (and it’s athletic department) to Navy’s honor, is a bit like comparing the modern Notre Dame teams to those from fifty years ago.  You know, where one is legitimate, and the other is complete, undeserving and overrated bullshit?  On one hand, you have centuries of explicit dedication to the development of honor in the students of the institution, including a student-led honor board, guest speakers including military and national leaders and training at every level to ensure that it is not simply lip service but actually put the principles of honor into daily practice, and on the other you have none of that… or what we like to call, Notre Dame.  Seriously, where exactly is the “honor” on the Notre Dame campus?  They have an “Academic Honor Code” – but, it’s got less teeth than the average great-grandparent, saying you’re “sorry” goes a long way in avoiding any real penalties, and this “storied” tradition has been around since… 1989.   That’s right, Notre Dame’s Honor Code is younger than their last national championship.  (  Oh, and it only deals with academics.  Seriously, Notre Dame’s most recent “star” quarterback was “given the opportunity to transfer” as a result of academic violations so egregious that not even they could cover it up.  Notre Dame wouldn’t know honor if it walked up and slapped it with a rake – which, come to think of it, isn’t such a bad idea. 

3.         Tradition.  Let’s be real about this.  I’m not saying Notre Dame doesn’t have tradition, but we’re one of the very few schools that has a great deal more.  As I said back in 2007 (when I predicted the first reckoning), Blue & Gold, we wore them first and we (still) wear them best.  We’ve been playing football longer than Notre Dame, and we never needed Notre Dame to save our school.  The traditions that made us great 100 years ago, still, in large part, make us great today.  We don’t need made up stories about practice squad players or “sidewalk alumni” to tell our story.  Our story has been told on the high seas and battlefields for the last 150 years.  Our last Pro Bowl NFL quarterback graduated just fifteen years before Notre Dame’s.  Every player on our teams is a leader – in their unit, their community and their family.  Notre Dame’s last great leader graduated when I was five years old.  If we have a modern tradition, it is a tradition of competitiveness without competitive advantage; of being a scrappy and difficult underdog and of translating heart and hustle into victories.  Notre Dame’s modern tradition?  Delusion.  Every year, ESPN trots out the rotting corpse of Lou Holtz to predict a National Championship (which will never happen again), and statistically, Notre Dame is 6th most overrated team since 1989 (  Talking about Notre Dame’s “tradition” via its ROTC units couldn’t be more disingenuous.  They’re about as Notre Dame as most of Indiana is Catholic.  They, like those few alumni who truly do respect Navy, are the exception, not the rule.  There’s only one school that has a tradition comparable to ours, and we play them every December, not November.

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The years haven’t softened my resolve to watch Notre Dame driven to the ground.  In fact, they have hardened it.  And no matter how many years or wins later, I expect it to continue to do so.  You can’t love a team like Navy and be equivocal about Notre Dame.  We aren’t brothers-in-arms, or brothers at all – we are polar opposites.  If Navy is good, Notre Dame is evil.  It’s just that simple.  Sure, you’ll hear Jimmy Roberts slurping the Irish like a fan boy blogger (which he, essentially, is), and telling anecdotes about a player or two who had a hard upbringing, so that we’ll forget about the whitewashed and moneyed bigotry which festers just under the façade of “Touchdown Jesus” – but he’s not fooling anyone.  Especially not me.  This weekend, I channel my inner John Kreese, because I don’t want them beaten, I want them out of the tournament.  You got a problem with that?  Good.  Now, go sweep the leg, Navy.