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Unbelief and the power of Rocket

Nov 16, 2010, 1:34 AM EDT

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The Notre Dame pep rally has died a slow death, losing the sheer electricity of the Lou Holtz days back when an over-capacity crowd turned the JACC’s Friday night pep rallies into one of the toughest tickets on campus. In it’s current iteration on the Irish Green, it’s really a glorified picnic, “a family friendly environment for fans to hang out, enjoy multiple food and drink vendors, and take in both live music and Notre Dame-oriented entertainment.”

(Not my description, that’s straight from Notre Dame’s official website.)

But last Friday night, Rocket Ismail was the guest at the pep rally. And when Rocket addresses the team and the crowd, you can’t help but feel the electricity in the air. Whether it was his stirring address before last year’s game against USC (“Don’t Flinch!”) or last Friday night, you wonder what it’d have been like if modern day Rocket got up and addressed Notre Dame Rocket and his teammates. I can only guess that it would’ve blown the roof off the JACC center, with thousands of students ready to runs through the walls of Notre Dame Stadium.

As usual, Rocket was excellent, whipping a crowd that was likely there for nothing more than a few  beers and some forced pageantry into a frenzy. More importantly, he hit on a key issue that’s plaguing the fans of “Irish Nation.” (Rocket’s word choice, not mine.)

Thanks to WNDU-TV in South Bend who shot the video, here’s Rocket’s speech in it’s entirety:

If you’ve been a Notre Dame fan for any length of time, it’s not hard to know what Rocket is talking about. That “not again” feeling, I’ve seen it typed thousands of times in live-blog comments or emails shot my way throughout a season. Ismail did even one better, identifying the problem that’s been plaguing Notre Dame football since the Davie era.

“There’s a thief in the house. And he’s been hanging out in our house for far too long,” Ismail said. “And we’ve identifed who this thief is. Listen… His name is Unbelief.

“I’ve run into him a couple of times. And when I run into him, he’ll be dressed just like he belongs in the Irish family. He’ll have the hat on, he’ll have a big ND on his shirt. Sometimes, he’ll even have a letterman’s jacket on. But this is how you identify him.

“He’s the person that very subtly and seductively will say something like, “Eh — maybe next year.” He’s say something like, he’ll stand and in one voice he’ll cheer and then when the road gets a little rocky, when the challenge seems to be able to surpass what his expectations are, he’ll say this. ‘Here we go again…’

“I have come to warn you, Unbelief. You don’t belong in our house. You do not belong in our house. And I have come to equipt you, the true Irish nation, I have come to empower you, the true Irish nation.

“Unbelief is going to be at the party, unbelief is going to be at the restaurant, unbelief might even try to sneak up in the hotel, unbelief might even try to sneak up in your dreams. You tell that son of a savage, get the hell out of my room. If Unbelief tries to show up at the meeting tomorrow, when you’re at the middle of the field, if Unbelief tries to show up in the huddle, you tell him, ‘To the back, Son.’ I ain’t got time for you. Don’t let him come in. Don’t let him come in. Do not let Him come in.”

Rocket’s willingness to point the finger at the very fans that wear the blue and gold is another example of an influential Irish member questioning the fanbase that supports Notre Dame. While it isn’t hard to understand why that “not again” feeling often comes to a quick boil, it seems as if that ‘sky is falling’ mentality has invaded the psyche of a football team that hasn’t been a part of 15 years of struggles, but merely a rocky window that included a coaching transition and a wholesale system change.

While introspection might eventually solve what’s ailing the Irish, Rocket’s speech on Friday night reminds everybody of two things:

1) The psyche of a college athlete is a fragile thing and 2) Rocket Ismail is a helluva public speaker.

  1. danno27 - Nov 16, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    Haha, did you see when he starts shoving players and Armando A. hides behind his crutch? Great speech – I’m now pumped up to go to work on a tuesday morning.

  2. c4evr - Nov 16, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    A rousing speech with plenty of truths, but he only seems to be hitting a homer with the leprechaun and BK (both smiling and nodding in agreement) while most of the players show not much emotion. That’s the by-product of a program that has traveled from “How much are we going to win by this weekend?” (under Holtz) to “I hope we can stop Army’s option attack…”. I don’t see a turnaround happening for at least 3 yrs. – especially with the brutal 2012 schedule. If that shows my unbelief, then make me a believer… I’ll be in the stands next Saturday with my 3 yr. old boy expecting to be inspired.

    • 1notredamefan - Nov 16, 2010 at 12:10 PM

      Yes indeed that is exactly what Rocket was talking about… Opinions are opinions but when on a weekly basis you condone the team you supposedly love and care about you become part of the never ending problem with our program< YES YOU!!!! So I am done reading your infectuous comments of "Unbelief" and hope to not see you around the real Irish website "Inside the Irish" When we all win!

      • 1notredamefan - Nov 16, 2010 at 12:14 PM

        By the way who is c any way? Charlie?? Ya he would have won against Utah huh?? We all saw what happened last yr. after the loss to navy and conn. They are on about the same level, relatively speaking as a Stanford against us last yr!!!

  3. c4evr - Nov 16, 2010 at 6:43 PM

    Sorry that I hit a nerve, 1NDfan. Apparently, admitting to having unbelief in a team that’s in a tailspin well into it’s second decade is the sign of a traitor. I guess you never considered that my ‘unbelief’ might be from poor leadership from the AD and even poorer hires in the Head Coaching department over the past decade. My question to you is, “Why do you have a Jim Jones-like loyalty to those who have done more to destroy the tradition of ND than any player(s) ever could?” I understand you drinking the Kool-Aid because that’s what true Irish fans do, but c’mon, at some point it becomes self flagellation. Don’t let your loyalty blind you to the paradigm shift that is happening in college football – the ND mystique no longer has the cache it once did and the program is in the midst of finding out where it fits in the new college landscape once the dust settles… and it no longer matters how many rah-rah speeches you hear. The simple truth is that the rest of FBS schools have caught up with – and in a few cases surpassed – the Irish. The intangibles that were so alluring to recruits have given way to omnipresent technology and TV exposure that used to be a market cornered by ND. South Bend used to be a place that people talked about and rarely glimpsed – it had a magical presence that extended beyond it’s physical boundaries. Believe me, I know the aura that surrounds ND from the documentary I produced for Rudy when he was trying to peddle his life story. I also interviewed Ara, Wally Moore, Joe Yonto, Brian Boulac, and Bob Gladieux – So I KNOW the ND story. Lou Holtz – and I hate to say it because he is my favorite coach – probably doomed the program after he left. There have been no Prop 48 guys since he left under violations questions during his tenure. Tony Rice led ND to their last title as a Prop 48 guy, so even Lou recognized and adjusted to the needs of his team at the time. The short story, Notre Dame tightened it’s academic requirements for athletes to the extent that they can’t compete now – EVEN IF THEY HAD LOU COACHING IN HIS PRIME. Notre Dame has been de-mystified and is now in search of it’s new identity… the longer fans like you hang on to an outdated image of who the team should be, the longer it will take for that new identity to emerge.

    • domer77 - Nov 16, 2010 at 7:03 PM

      c4ecr. You are spot on this time. Could not agree more. Hey, where is 9IRISH on this one? Probably looking up some other insightful trivia that even the most ignorant ND fan already knows. Hey did you know that Urban Meyer once coached Irish wide-outs???? Brilliant!

      • 9lirish - Nov 17, 2010 at 9:25 AM

        domer77 – I’m right here. I am not too sure what your beef is and why your are calling ND fans “ignorant.” May I suggest growing up just a little, these messages boards are for true ND fans to share their insight/opinions on what has been a very trying season, not for prepubescent kids that are blocked by their parents’ parental controls on the interent so resort to sports message boards to express their own inherent immaturity.

        Enjoy nap time on your little blanky today.

    • kevvy1231 - Nov 16, 2010 at 7:45 PM

      c4evr,

      I don’t think it’s as simple as you are making it. I trust/believe that your knowledge of the program affords you information I wouldn’t know until hearing it from you, but don’t tell me that a team like Notre Dame last year, which was playing competitively against every opponent, could not have been pushed toward a very successful season with better coaching on the defensive side of the ball and winning mentality. Winning is what matters. People don’t go to Norman, OK because of anything remotely alluring or mysterious. They go there because it’s a winning program/history. Name any team that has recruited as well as Notre Dame has lately and performed as badly, yet still pulled in the recruits. (I can’t think of any really)

      Just saying that the Notre Dame name may not be as powerful on the field lately, but there is still plenty to be excited about with Notre Dame as a football and academic institution, and the ability to recruit pretty solid players has not diminished. If Kelly can recruit well and win more games, the rest takes care of itself. Look at what Stanford has become over a short period of time, you know?

      I don’t really understand your last statement: What is the old identity and what could it change to? You can’t really erase an identity. The teams with the strongest history always rebuild faster than the ones with no history. So I’m not sure if I’m misunderstanding you.

  4. c4evr - Nov 16, 2010 at 8:20 PM

    By new identity, I am simply referring to the inevitability of having to join a conference as opposed to remaining an independent, which years ago was a great advantage and is becoming less so with each passing year. And I concur that ND consistently gets top 20 recruiting classes that somehow, mysteriously, do not develop to their full potential. I don’t think it’s the kids – they’re just doing what they love to do. So you have to look at the direction, or lack thereof, that school leadership is taking. But that’s only half the story, meanwhile conferences – namely the SEC, who have produced the last 4 Natl. Champs – continually attract the elite players. My opinion is that the current spread offense is a terrible mismatch for the style of football that put ND on the map. The spread favors the fleet of foot. ND teams have been accused of many things, but being fast hasn’t been one of them for a long time. It’s funny you mention Stanford, they seem to be the one team that plays ND’s brand of football – and it is wildly successful. Again, I point to the men in charge of the ND vision in regards to its football program. Finally, the ND mystique is still alive and well as evidenced by the number of progeny that still commit.. but I think you’ll start seeing more situations like Nick Montana where, while Charlie’s job was still in play, selected Washington over ND. His father’s legend may have been more of a deterrent in that situation, but my point is the farther you get away from the last winning/dominating season, the harder it will be to maintain the level of interest, even among the most ardent followers.

    • 1notredamefan - Nov 16, 2010 at 8:57 PM

      You are disgusting and I respect nothing that comes from your words! You talk like a true hater in-disguise yet in-plain site, I truly don’t care about who you interviewed, talked to, read about, or kissed ass! I know that I’m a fan of Notre Dame and the reason’s I am are dear to me and feel as though most fans feel the same way if they are real fans!

      Also, you must not know about the many droughts throughout many historic college programs? Get real, and like I said please remember your stance when we are dancing in the streets, It shall be soon for those of us “Believers”

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