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November 1, 2002

by Bill Hogan


When it comes to Notre Dame, there isn't a single college football fan in the country that can claim indifference. They are what the New York Yankees are to baseball fans; you either love them or you hate them – there is no middle ground.

Even sportsfans who don't particularly like college football can usually muster up an opinion or two regarding the 'Fighting Irish'.


In this country, Notre Dame Football is as unpopular as it is popular. That's why they are the only college team that has their own television contract. The networks know that whether the Irish are 8-0 or 0-8, they will always have a nationwide viewing audience.

When they are winning, their many supporters will watch and cheer. When they are losing, their many detractors will watch and jeer. Either way, the TV ratings will almost always beat those of game seven of the 2002 World Series.

For the first time in nine years, Notre Dame has a legitimate shot at a National Championship. The networks couldn't be happier. ND fans are celebrating coast to coast and Irish haters are starting to crawl back into the woodwork.

"Wake up the echoes".


It's nice to be able to wear my green mock turtle-neck with the gold ND logo embroidered on the pocket around town without worrying about some smart-aleck Southern Cal fan cracking wise. Last year, there were a few occasions when I came close to taking the term 'Fighting Irish' far too literal.


The success of this year's team is a double-edged sword for the real diehard fans that attend the games at Notre Dame Stadium. During the Davie-era demise, one could score a game-day ticket for fifteen bucks. Now, it'll cost up to 400 dollars just to get into the Rutgers game on November 23rd.

There should be free admission to all 2002 home games for any Irish fan that can produce a ticket stub from last season's Nebraska game. (There was far more red in the stands than green that day).


Does anybody think that if George O'Leary hadn't gotten caught 'massaging' his résumé and lost the head coaching job this summer he'd be leading an 8-0 Irish team onto the field against Boston College this weekend? I don't.


O.K. all you fair-weather ND fans, there's plenty of room on the old band wagon – climb aboard. But if you're going to wear the green and gold there are a few thing you need to know:

* When pronouncing Knute Rockne, the 'K' is silent. And Pat O'Brien played the title role in the 1940 classic "Knute Rockne – All-American", not Ronald Reagan.

* The Four Horsemen is not the name of an old John Wayne movie. The term was first coined by legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice in 1924 after a game in which Notre Dame beat Army. It was a reference to the great Irish offensive backfield of Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden.

* "Rudy" was – and is – a real person. Just not as good looking as the guy who played him in the movie.

* It's crucial that every new fan learn at least one verse of the fight song:
"Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame"
"wake up the echoes cheering her name"
"send a volley cheer on high"
"shake down the thunder from the sky".

* And it's "Touchdown Jesus" not Touchdown, Jesus!


I love these sportswriters who are gushing over Ty Willingham every chance they get nowadays. Here's a newsflash: he was every bit as good a coach in August when you guys ranked 44 other college football programs ahead of his before the season even started.


I wonder if I'm the only person who saw the Irish on the cover of the September 30 issue of Sports Illustrated – when they were 4-0 – and thought 'that's it, they're doomed'. Talk about bad mugombo.


If Oklahoma, Miami and Notre Dame all finish the season undefeated, the 'powers that be' will figure out a way to make sure the Irish play in the BCS National Championship game. There's no way they'll let a marketing opportunity like that slip through their fingers.

In fact, I think there's a little known, never used clause in the BCS by-laws that stipulates Notre Dame will play in the year's biggest bowl game every time it can be adequately justified.


My apologies to those loyal Hogan's Alley readers who happen to hate Notre Dame.



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