Oct 22, 2012, 12:06 PM EDT
It’s fair to say that Oklahoma isn’t looking at this weekend’s game with Notre Dame as just another Saturday on the calendar.
“Probably the most anticipated game here since 2000, when Nebraska came in here ranked No. 1 in the country and we were No. 2,” Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said. “It was a pretty incredible day.”
That’s what Notre Dame has waiting for them this weekend at Owen Field, where the No. 8 Sooners will welcome the No. 5 Irish, a game that means quite a bit to Oklahoma fans. How much? Well, I’ll admit I was more than a little surprised when reading this article by the Oklahoman’s Barry Tramel, who explained why Oklahoma fans hate Notre Dame.
Blame it on the 1957 Fighting Irish. Terry Brennan’s squad finished the season with three losses, but walked into Norman and blanked No. 2 Oklahoma 7-0, shocking the Sooners after getting pasted by OU 40-0 the year before and ending the Sooners’ 47-game winning streak. From that moment on… well, it hasn’t been pretty.
Do yourself a favor and read the entire article. But here are a few choice snippets from Tramel’s piece on the OU-ND series, a match-up the Irish own with an 8-1 record.
Jack Laffoon says he never voted for Ronald Reagan, not because of politics, but because Reagan portrayed Notre Dame star George Gipp in “Knute Rockne, All American.”
“I still remember my mother crying on that dark fall afternoon in 1957,” said Laffoon, then a Tulsa grade schooler and now a retired Air Force man living in Corinth, Texas. “A bunch of papist hooligans had stolen the game from the mighty Sooners.”
And here’s another choice cut, this one comparing Oklahoma’s loss to Notre Dame in 1957 to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In fact, between Oct. 13, 1951, and Oct. 11, 1958, OU lost three games. All to Notre Dame.
Call it a hate-hate relationship Sooner fans have with the Golden Domers.
“Hate is a little too strong, but let’s go with I am intensely interested in the Sooners cleaning their clock,” said Richard Luttrell of Richardson, Texas. “I’m a little too young to remember Nov. 16, 1957, but that date was tattooed in my brain by my parents just like Dec. 7, 1941 — another day of infamy.”
Even though he’s ashamed to admit it, this fan hates Notre Dame so badly he even hates Lindsey Nelson.
Irwin still can recite his access to the Sooners in the pre-Internet days of the 1970s.
One or two televised games per season. Fifteen to 30 seconds of highlights each Saturday during the Prudential College Scoreboard Show with Dave Diles. Three lines of type and a box score in the Sunday paper.
“Do you remember what the Notre Dame fans had?” Irwin asked. “A one-hour … replay hosted by Lindsey Nelson every Sunday morning! Aaaarrrrrrrgh!!!!”
Irwin said he’s embarrassed that the jealousy, “born of youth,” continues to color his perception even though he now has virtually unlimited access to Sooner football.
“I still hope the Irish lose every week,” he said.
As you might expect, the players, 18-23-year-old kids like quarterback Landry Jones, might not have the same disdain for a football program that the Sooners haven’t played since he was ten-years old. But that doesn’t mean he’s not excited for the prime-time match-up, where ESPN’s College GameDay will set up shop this weekend.
“We’re excited for this one,” Jones said after beating Kansas on Saturday 52-7. “I’m not going to say we had Notre Dame marked on our calendar, but we’ve been looking forward to it, for sure. It’s a huge game for this program.”
Jones, the lynchpin of the Sooners offense, and one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country, might be best served coming into Saturday with this attitude.
Because if he knew he were playing to avenge Jack Laffoon‘s mother’s tears, that might heap quite a bit of pressure on a college kid.
“The tears were not for the loss of a game alone,” Laffoon said. “The tears were also for the perceived loss of respect our homeplace had suffered.
“The streak brought respect to a state devastated by the Dust Bowl and besmirched by Steinbeck’s portrayal of Okies … for 47 games, we were the kings of the world.
“That was gone, wiped out, never to return and never to be repeated. I had no choice but to instantly despise them and all of their ilk.”
First Tom Joad, and then the Fighting Irish. As we roll forward to Saturday evening’s monumental game, consider this a two-fold reminder. First, Notre Dame fans aren’t the only people who take college football too seriously.
But probably more important: Oklahoma fans really don’t like Notre Dame.