Friday, September 02, 2005

You Promise You'll Win Games? | by Pete

We all know Notre Dame’s first game against Pitt is mere hours away. We also know that Charlie Weis has a great old-school flat top and Dave Wannstedt’s mustache must prevent him from drinking milkshakes. However, what none of us knows is what to expect from this year’s football team. We hear good things, but the suspicions are hard to shake.

Being a Notre Dame fan during the Tyrone Willingham era was like dating a supermodel with a heroin addiction. In the beginning, things were amazingly perfect. We were winning all our games, she’s amazingly gorgeous, and when things are so good, you could easily overlook some problems that might suggest troublesome issues under the surface. Sure, it took us three games to score an offensive touchdown, and sure, she sometimes travels downtown to see some “friends,” and forgets to sleep every couple days. But hey, we’re winning all your games, and she’s a supermodel, who am I to complain?

Of course, things quickly unraveled. Starting with the Boston College fumblepalooza, the Notre Dame squad lost their stride, and things took a turn. To continue with the metaphor, I learned my supermodel girlfriend just sold my car for a quick fix. But I really wanted to believe in this football team/smack head, so I convinced myself that these were just little hiccups on the way to bigger and better things.

Of course, the second season of the Tyrone Willingham tenure proved me oh so wrong. Things were terrible, the team lost games to teams that normally were below us, and lost games by LOTS of points to the teams we wanted to run with. The offense was as anemic as Bob Ross on Valium. It’s like if my supermodel girlfriend started owing some of her “friends” some money, and as collateral, they broke my leg with a baseball bat.

Throughout the entire debacle, I got very little support in airing my concerns with the current arrangement. The media was convinced that Tyrone Willingham would do for football what Einstein did for physics, and it was just a matter of time. My friends can’t believe I’m griping about dating a supermodel, they’d kill to have that situation. Part of me always thought they’re right, and that I just need to be patient.

Nonetheless, I’d just about had it with this coach and this girlfriend. However, the summer came around, and both swore that they were cleaning up their act. Summer practices were going well, the “system was getting implemented,” and the team was ready to get over the hump and start winning games. My girlfriend got herself checked into rehab, her track marks were starting to heal, and she’s a supermodel. So, with the optimism all Notre Dame fans have, I believed it, and was excited for the next season.

The BYU game last year is like walking into the bathroom and finding my girlfriend passed out in the bathtub with her belt around her arm. I couldn’t believe I bought all this hooey, and I knew things were never going to get any better. It was just a matter of when I could get rid of them.
Watching that BYU game last year, my heart broke. I knew that Tyrone Willingham would never be able to produce a competent football team, and Notre Dame would not succeed until he was fired. Well, he was fired.

But now what? Yes, Notre Dame got a good coach, a great coach even. But that doesn’t change the fact that the mood on campus is cautiously optimistic. We hear good things from practice reports, we’ve heard the glowing endorsements and seen the glowing diamonds of his Super Bowl rings, but we’re not completely sold yet. We really want to be sold; we want to know that Charlie Weis will lead Notre Dame to 80 more national championships. We really do. But we’ve heard it all before. We’ve heard of players “making strides” and the team looking sharp in practice. Unfortunately, the current student population’s experience with such statements is that they’re strictly jargon to describe a team that will continue to falter.

The way to best describe the mood on campus is very excited and very terrified of that excitement. We’ve been hurt before, but this time it should be different. If you were to ask people on campus their expectations for the football season, you’d get three answers. There are the people who are convinced that we’re doomed to a lifetime of sub-mediocrity and bowl losses, and predict 2-4 wins. Then there’s the people who like what they hear and the pedigree of the coaching and predict 7-9 wins all the while being completely terrified that they think that. And finally, you’d get the most populated category, the people with no idea whatsoever. I fall into the second camp, because I think this team is more talented than our nonexistent coaching showed in past seasons, and I think a good coach can always win at Notre Dame.

Of course, all these concerns could be put to rest this Saturday. If the football team comes out sharp, plays with error-free intensity, and Bill Diedrick remains in the frozen tundra, the student body will warm up to this football team quicker than a microwave. Remember, while the student body is suspicious of the football team, all of us are close enough to those magical eight games to remember the sweet taste of winning. The seniors were there for it, and it’s safe to say that it’d be near impossible for the rest of the student body to have completely missed out on it. This is a campus that is starving for a great football team. But while we were all swayed by the seductive non-answers of Tyrone Willingham, this time we need the money up front.