I have been waiting for Notre Dame football to be "back," as John Brandon says, my whole life. The team hasn't won a national championship since 1988, and I didn't enter the picture until 1991. Still, that doesn't mean my childhood wasn't completely saturated with the Fighting Irish.
Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine and Holtz. Eleven national championships. To my brothers and me, they were idols. The last four each won their first national championship in their third season of coaching. With each new Notre Dame coach - Davie, Willingham, Weis - we watched their first season hopefully, but we really waited for their third. That's when we'd just know if Notre Dame was "back."
the "ones" who would lead us back. Two years ago, near the end of the Weis era, a friend of mine compared Notre Dame football to Santa Claus - something you believe in fervently as a child but now you can't bring yourself to do it anymore.
"The Brian Kelly Incarnation of Hope," as dubbed by Brandon, is moving Irish football into the 21st century. Football is an old game filled with traditions, and we (the Notre Dame nation) know this because we were the start of it. This institution of football has been hesitant to join the "razzle-dazzle" of college football recruiting precisely because it ignores those traditions and moves into definitively sketchier territory. Once upon a time, kids grew up hearing about and watching the majesty of Notre Dame football and just knew that they had to play here. Perhaps not so much anymore. Unless those kids are 30.
It is a step forward but a look back to drag all of our "national championship booty" out to show the young men who come here trying to decide if this is where they want to play. Many of today's recruits haven't sat in their living room to watch Notre Dame win a national championship as Rudy did, but we can show them that this is a place where that happens - where it is important for it to happen. There is a sense of awe in the Guglielmeno Complex that anyone with a heart can feel.
Brandon says everyone will always have to hear about the Irish incessantly, even if they, for lack of a better term, sucked. If we lose a game in our sometimes-forgiving schedule, he says the commentary will be "They lost only one game." It is that mentality that makes me sure cynicism will never really overtake Notre Dame. We've endured over 20 years of what some consider sub-par football, but no one can keep themselves from thinking, "Maybe this will be it."
I'm still watching for Kelly's third season, but would be fine with a title in his second year.
- Lauren Chval