On Super Bowl Sunday, Clint Eastwood declared "it's halftime in America," a rallying speech intended to get the public fired up about buying cars in Detroit.
It's just a little bit past halftime in the Notre Dame baseball season, and the Irish need something to get them fired up right now. They've lost five in a row, seven of their last eight, and it seems nothing is going right.
I'm here to tell you that can all change this weekend. This isn't Pollyanna speak. I don't wear rose-colored glasses as I write this.
The main thing Notre Dame is missing right now is confidence.
You can see it in every move they don't make, every step they don't take. Confident teams don't hesitate going after balls in the outfield. Confident teams don't hesitate running the bases. Confident teams shrug off mistakes, rather than dwelling on them.
This is not a confident bunch right now. The weekend sweep at Seton Hall left deep marks on the psyche of this team, and they are still thinking about things that happened a week ago.
They need to think about what happened a month ago.
They need to think back to that Sunday night at Alex Box Stadium when 10,000 people thought they were showing up for an Irish wake, and instead watched Notre Dame not just beat LSU, but whip them 7-1. They need to remember they made errors in that game and bounced back with double plays. They need to remember they had enough speed to pressure a top 10 team into making mistakes on bunts. They need to remember that when everyone expected them to fail, they delivered clutch two-out hits.
What has changed about that team? Injuries and illness to Trey Mancini and Charlie Markson? They're coming back. No, the difference is this squad between then and now is only the pressure they put on themselves. That Notre Dame team took the field relaxed with no pretense. Now it looks as though every at-bat, every pitch and every ground ball carries the weight of the world with it.
To a certain extent, the Irish need to adopt the Rhett Butler approach and frankly, not give a blank. That's not playing with apathy... it's just not playing with pressure. It's playing loose, letting it rip, and if you make a mistake, forget about it and move on to the next pitch.
The last place team in the BIG EAST, the Cincinnati Bearcats, are coming to town. They've lost seven one-run games and a pair of two-run games, so they've had their hearts not only broken, but picked apart like Play-Doh. Their marquee win came over Pittsburgh, the next-to-last team in the conference. Brian Cleary's 11-21 squad is having a tough season, and they're not going to play with any pressure on them.
The Irish need to respond in kind.
t's much too early to say this season is "Gone with the Wind." It's only halftime in South Bend. Confidence can be built anew just like an American car, and the Irish can start rolling on the winning track again.