Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Ten Commandments of Irish Football

Notre Dame 28, Temple 6

All right, Irish revelers--my fellow Lunatic Legion--let us go forth and rejoice. The Irish have triumphed again!

It was not, perhaps, the stalwart defensive effort everybody was hoping for--nor was it as much of an all-day scoring spree as we might have anticipated based upon the first two drives of the game. However, thanks in part to a truly horrific kicking game, we pulled out a solid, non-nail-biting win against an overmatched (but still quite plucky) Temple team.

After the game, though, I had several people say to me, "Great game!" And instead of agreeing like a normal person, I looked at them like they were noodle-heads and said, "Really? I mean, we won and all, but what game were YOU watching?"

This was not a game that readily inspired me to believe I was going to be able to watch the Irish play Michigan without danger of stroke and/or cardiac arrest. I mean, did you SEE our kicking game? Did you SEE IT? And what about our defense in the second quarter? What about those Louis Nix penalties? And what about that sack we gave up? I mean, YIKES.

At which point I said to myself: Lisa, thou shalt Get a Grip.

I still experience a sense of football-induced PTSD whenever it seems like our team might possibly, marginally, in any way begin to stumble against a team like Temple (or South Florida or Tulsa or...let's not go on). I also seize up whenever it seems as though the rejuvenated Reesus might revert into the Turnover Tommy of olde. (Keep thy focus, Reesus. Convert thy third downs to firsts. Sow your passes not unto infertile soil but into thy players' open hands.) I have to remind myself that with a new and relatively untested receiving corps, not all of the missed catches are going to be the QB's fault. And a couple incompletes are no big deal when your QB is completing 69% of his passes for 346 yds and 3 TDs.

But the Crazy Irish Fan within me does not care about logic. Crazy Irish Fan wants to live in a world without doubt. Crazy Irish Fan wants perfect passes all of the time--and perfect defensive play even MORE of the time. Crazy Irish Fan wants redemption for the game against Alabama, proof that last season was not a fluke--was not all just a paragon of wild luck--was not all just an euphoric dream---and Crazy Irish Fan wants all of that RIGHT NOW. I mean, IMMEDIATELY. First game of the season, we should be smacking down our opponent 59-9. Right? RIGHT?!??!

To which I say: No, Crazy Irish Fan, you cannot have it all at once. Stop being so crazy. And maybe take a minute to remind yourself what you can expect from Brian Kelly's teams. For one thing, you can expect the team to improve over the course of the season. (Remember how no one was really sure about us last season, and then 3 or 4 games in, all of a sudden it was like HOLY SHIT THIS TEAM?) For another: you cannot expect this team to be last season's team.

No matter how much I protest that I know this year is going to be different...let's face it, I really wanted to see the defense look pretty much the way it looked last season (nvm that Manti Te'o is gone; I mean, you've still got Nix & Tuitt & Shembo & all those guys, right? The defense will just magically reinvent itself and fill that gap, because...because magic....). I also really wanted the offense to make all touchdowns look as easy as they looked on those first two scoring drives. Because then I'd be able to focus on all the ways in which we're going to pulverize the Skunkbears instead of worrying about all the weaknesses we'll have to deal with when we play Michigan this week. (And seeing as the winner of the ND-Michigan game traditionally goes on to have a pretty stellar season--considering this is the last time we're playing Michigan for who-knows-how-long--considering it's a night game in the Big House--there's enough to worry about in this game already.)

It occurred to me, as I was mulling over my own insanity, that there are a lot of things I have to remind myself of throughout the course of every season so that I do not have an aneurysm. And with all the irreverent "Reesus" references flying around, I got to thinking...why not write some of these reminders down for myself? Y'know, like commandments. For myself, for the team, for my fellow fans. Therefore--lo, I present unto you...

The Ten Commandments of Irish Football

I. Thou shalt have no other teams before the Irish.
God. Country. Notre Dame.

II. Thou shalt not make unto thy helmets any graven image, nor any likeness of any thing that is on the dome or the library above, or in the monogram or leprechaun logo below...
...and thou shalt pretend as though the Shamrock Series uniforms have been smited from the Earth, and thou shalt speak no more of them after the neutral-site "home game" is done.

III. Thou shalt respect thy opponents
and not underestimate the desire of thy foes to defeat Notre Dame; nor shalt thou laugh at thy fellows when they lose to FCS opponents* -- for he who loses to Tulsa and Navy and South Florida cannot cast stones....

*unless thou is referring to Michigan vs. Appalachian State

IV. Thou shalt not gripe about a win,
nor bring the woes of Jonah upon thyself like a scourge when there is no whale of defeat to devour the season whole. Instead, thou shalt look upon thy victories and rejoice. (REJOICE!)

V. Thou shalt not bear false witness against this year's team.
Not even if thou is obsessed with comparing it to last year's team. (Just get over it, thou. It's never gonna be the same.)

VI. Thou shalt not covet thy future opponent's box scores,
nor thy opponent's all-time win percentage, nor thy opponent's Heisman trophy, nor his ranking nor his championship rings nor his regular-season record, nor anything that is thy opponent's. Thou shalt snatch victory from thy current week's opponent and nothing more.

VII. Thou shalt honor thy coach* and thy athletic director.
Even if thy coach insists that Michigan is not a "historic rivalry" for Notre Dame and then takes it back again two days later. (Also, thou should not make such a big deal about thy coach's contract--it is not as though the contract is a guarantee of job security, as thou well knows.)

*Unless thy coach is some sort of prig like Pete Carroll, in which case thou shalt campaign for the termination of thy coach's contract immediately

VIII. Thou shalt not kill the referees.
Thou shalt settle for being righteously indignant, even if thy referees are woefully possessed by demons or blinded by cataracts or bribed by the opposing team's football boosters.

IX. Thou shalt remember the football Saturday,
and thou shalt not have work, nor baby showers, nor volunteer commitments, nor any friends nor family who choose to get married on Game Day.

X. Thou shalt beat USC.

With all that written out, I guess it's time to remind myself:
-It's only the first game
-We had zero turnovers
-After letting Temple drive into the red zone three times in the second quarter, ND's defense buckled down--Temple's possessions in the second half ended with Downs, Punt, Punt, Punt, Downs, Fumble ...and only one of those drives made it into Notre Dame territory
-Penalties are just mental mistakes and we can FIX those
-Stephon Tuitt's still a beast

Last Scent of the Skunkbears

So guys. What with Notre Dame moving to the ACC and committing to play 5 ACC opponents in football per year (despite retaining our "independent" status), we've cut our series with the Wolverines a little short. Which means Saturday night's game in Ann Arbor may be the last regular-season matchup between Notre Dame and Michigan for the next 10-15 years or so.

This seems odd for those of us who began watching football after 1978 (when the ND/Michigan series resumed), but it's not as though this rivalry hasn't taken its little breaks before--usually after one coach had a hissy fit about how the other team's coach treated him, which sometimes resulted in Michigan campaigning for the Big 10 to boycott Notre Dame for no other reason besides poor manners. So if you hear about Brady Hoke accusing the Irish of chickening out on the series with the Wolverines--don't listen to him, he's just being a little snot (na na-na boo boo).

Regardless of what one team's coach says about the other, I predict this game is going to be an absolute brawl.

Prime time in the Big House probably gives 17th-ranked Michigan the edge--except, you know, Notre Dame has that whole thing going where they play way better in hostile environments than they do at home. So who knows? Denard of the Dashing Dreadlocks is gone; Michigan's new QB, Devin Gardner, remains relatively untested after a 59-9 victory over Central Michigan (during which Central's QB & top RB went down with injury); Gardner went 10 of 15 with 1 TD and 2 interceptions. This bodes well for Notre Dame's secondary, if you ask me. And let's face it--for the past few years, the decisive factors in our games against Michigan have been A) turnovers, and B) last-second scores by Denard Robinson. Even last year's game, with Robinson throwing five straight interceptions, Notre Dame still only won by 7 points. >.< So let's hope for a positive turnover margin, yeah?

Of course, it doesn't really matter who's starting at QB for the Wolverines, or whether Notre Dame is currently ranked slightly higher in the polls; when it comes to the Notre Dame-Michigan game, all bets are off. And especially for this game--we have to win. Who doesn't want fifteen years' worth of bragging rights?

So get ready, Irish fans. It is time for one more clash of the blue-and-gold and the maize-and-blue. Bust out your "I Heart Appalachian State" bumper stickers, re-read Blue-Gray Sky's "Letter to Michigan Fans", and get ready to HAIL, HAIL, to Michigan, the Assholes of the World as we victory clog our way out of Ann Arbor for the last time this decade.


South Bend Tribune/JAMES BROSHER
South Bend Tribune/JAMES BROSHER

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