Friday, September 23, 2005

Ex-Notre Dame Hater Says He's Glad Irish Have Some Fight Again

This probably sounds strange coming from a guy who once hoped Notre Dame lost every football game it played.

But I always said that Sept. 23, 2005 might be a good day to be strange.

So I’m going to say that I’m glad first-year coach Charlie Weis has Notre Dame football back where it belongs—among the nation’s elite collegiate teams.

Oh, I know, the Fighting Irish were beaten last week by Michigan State., 44-41, in overtime, but not until after storming back from a 38-17 deficit.

Regardless of that loss, I already knew Notre Dame had arrived. Again. The Irish won at Pittsburgh and they won at Michigan. Beating coaching giants like Dave Wannstedt and Lloyd Carr on their home turf told me immediately that Notre Dame is back where it should be—thinking about finding a way to get into the national championship game in a few months against Southern California.

I mean, this is “Rudy” all over again. If this keeps up, the Four Horsemen might decide to saddle up for about the 100th time—or at least ask for press box credentials and a parking pass in the handicapped lot at South Bend.

The leprechaun might be chosen to deliver the pregame speech when the Fighting Irish play Southern California, and it might out-Knute Rockne anything Rockne ever did.

And I couldn’t be happier. This is what college football is supposed to be all about.

Obviously, the excitement and the miracles are back at South Bend. Notre Dame is again recovering fumbles late in the fourth quarter, getting last-minute touchdown passes from its quarterback [a kid with the Irish name of Brady Quinn, no less], big tackles from its defensive unit and brilliant coaching from a guy who absolutely looks like he should be working in the shadow of the Golden Dome—an overweight alumnus with a flat-top haircut named Charlie.

Charlie has the appearance of a steel-mill worker who wears size XXL boxer shorts, sweats the 7 a.m.-to-4 p.m. shift and has three Old Styles at the corner tap before calling the wife and saying, “What’s for supper?”, then driving the rusty ’95 Ford pickup back home.

This man knows his football, and he’s got four Super Bowl rings to prove it.

The Irish don’t even have to resort to players flopping on the field these days to stop the clock the way they did under Frank Leahy more than 50 years ago when Iowa’s Forest Evashevski called them the “Fainting Irish.”

I mean, Charlie’s Irish are legit. The Gipper would be proud of them. So would Ronald Reagan, the real Gipper. Rockne, too. I know the guys in the big office at NBC are proud of them. When a football team has its own TV network, it’s always nice to win once in a while.

And that comes with no apologies to Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham, who couldn’t coach their way out of a paper bag and always found a way to screw up a Friday night pep rally.

Notre Dame football has made a triumphant return, and I couldn’t be happier. A top-25 poll is not the same without Notre Dame in it. College football needs Notre Dame. Ever since I was a kid, I’d hear that whenever Notre Dame wanted a high school player, it got him. That’s the way it should be. Then the guys that Notre Dame didn’t want could do their darnedest to upset the Irish.

That’s why Hollywood makes movies about Notre Dame.

Next up for the Irish is Willingham’s Washington team. Tyrone was coaching Notre Dame a year ago, but it was very obvious he wasn’t the guy who was going to take the Irish to the Promised Land. Charlie is the guy, and he’ll do a number on Tyrone this week.

I’ll be paying close attention. So will The Gipper and Rockne, wherever they are. We all know that it’s not an official season unless Notre Dame is winning.

Send a rousing cheer on high. And, please, don’t forget to shake down the thunder from the sky.

Vol. 4, No. 377
Sept. 23, 2005