I stayed up too late last night. Working on three hours of sleep, I didn’t leave the stadium until 10:00pm, trying to get some work down and slugging through the Five Things We Learned. Even after trying to wrap this game up with the Good, Bad, and Ugly, I’m still struggling with the defeat.
But that really isn’t it. Last night, as I tried to rally and meet some old friends out in South Bend for a final night on the town (Friday should’ve been enough, trust me…), everyone I talked to felt the same way: absolutely spent. So instead of Corby’s or the Linebacker, or a trip down memory lane to Finnegan’s or Coaches (or whatever they are called now) it was a restless night watching extra inning baseball and 2:00 a.m. MSNBC investigations from the year 2000. (Lester Holt did some fine work on his Hollywood Vice episode.)
So I fired up the laptop last night and did some reading. And man, I really wish I didn’t.
There is nothing worse than reading the post-game blatherings of some people. Message boards, chat rooms, blogs, national columnists, it doesn’t matter the size of your audience if you’ve already framed your thesis and simply want to jam your opinion down people’s throats.
Yesterday’s game only had two true outcomes: Notre Dame wins or Notre Dame loses. Yet you’d think that this Notre Dame team and coaching staff lost a 32 quarter football game to the Trojans after reading some people’s opinions.
Whether it’s the rantings and ravings over in the morbidly negative Rock’s House, or the lowest hanging fruit bash job by a guy who spent more time hobnobbing during the game than actually watching it, it doesn’t matter if you hide behind a moniker or spend an hour a day on national television, it’s utterly disappointing when people make up their mind before the team ever steps foot on the field.
That’s why I can’t write the easy story today. That’s why I’m not throwing around stats and facts that make Notre Dame’s recent averageness look even more mediocre than it really is. Make no mistake, the Irish have not been an elite team for much of the past 15 years, but I struggle to place the blame of others on a group of athletes and coaches that haven’t had much to do with that.
For those who pine for the days of Rockne and Leahy, or even Ara and Lou, I’ve got a message for you: Those days are over. In today’s college landscape, it’s just not possible to monopolize the football world and win them all. Notre Dame isn’t the only mecca, it isn’t the only favorite son. (Especially with its own sons lobbing the largest hand grenades.) And while you’ll point to USC or Florida, I’ll give you a tip of the cap and say you have a fair point. Then I’ll also point out the mind-bending losses to Stanford, Oregon State, and Washington for a recklessly arrogant group, or ask you how Florida will be without a transcendent player like Tim Tebow, or if you’d be happy with a rap sheet than involves over two dozen players that have been on your roster.
There are people that want Charlie Weis to fail so badly that they’ve given up on being objective and simply want to find ways for him to get him out. (I’ve seen arguments spring up already about the hypothetical two-point play Weis would’ve surely managled.) And while those people will point back to Weis’ own words (9-3 just isn’t good enough), or his inability to get past big opponents, they are largely ignore the facts that this football team is improved.
Last year, I wrote something similar, but the gist of it is still the same. Firing a coach is serious business, and a move that wipes out momentum in recruiting, player development, and team confidence. And when you’ve got players like Robby Parris, Golden Tate, Jimmy Clausen, and a defense that was shredded for much of the day all stepping up during crunch time to rally the team, you’ve learned enough about the Irish that even in defeat that they will give their all for their head coach.
It’s easy to look at this as a black and white issue. Win or go home. A loss is a loss. Eight straight just isn’t good enough.
I just can’t seem to do it.