Gipper-less

The wound is still fresh.  I am waiting for the happy day when memory fails.

For those of you living under a rock (or in major areas of Canada), Notre Dame was defeated by Alabama in the BCS Championship Game on Monday night, 42-14.  Defeated is too kind, really.  Crushed.  Annihilated.  Destroyed.  Held under water while flailing uselessly against the cruelties of fate.  Something more along those lines.

A few comments that have been thrown around to describe ND’s performance include getting “a good old-fashioned spanking”, suffering a “blowout loss”, and “You could almost hear television sets around the country flipping to other channels.”  I can’t fault that logic — I went to bed at half-time in order to save my sanity.

My favourite comment of the night was from Coach Kelly himself, during the half-time interview:

“Where do the fixes need to come in the second half?”

Kelly: “Uh, maybe Alabama doesn’t come back in the second half.”

You have to respect a man who can tell a joke and a heavy truth in the same sentence.

This hasn’t been an easy forty-eight hours for Irish fans.  We are a wounded tribe, staring in disbelief at all the heartbreaking, soul-searing instant replays.  That was an ugly game.  We couldn’t even catch the damn ball, let alone score a touchdown.  All credit to ‘Bama — they were amazing.  We, on the other hand… were not.

Even God can’t come up with a good excuse for how we played.

But now, as the shock fades, one realizes just how much history hurts at a time like this.  Is this a more storied team in college football than the Fighting Irish?  How many tales have been told about the glory days in South Bend?  And now, the team of 2012-13 that looked like it would join the ranks of Lou Holtz and Rudy and The Gipper and Knute Rockne as legends to be passed on to future generations has to square itself with the fact that it just didn’t measure up.

They didn’t become national champions.

They didn’t carry Rudy off the field.

And (you probably saw this coming)… they didn’t win one for the Gipper.


After a phenomenal season that had everyone smiling and whispering “team of destiny,” it all flitted away in the space of about five minutes and two bad calls.

I didn’t recognize Monday night’s team.  No, wait, I lie.  I did recognize them.  Brian Kelly’s boys changed in front of my very eyes from the #1 team in the nation into the Toronto Maple Leafs.   That was a Leafs’ worthy game.  As a life-long (ergo hopeless and pathetic) Leafs fan, I can recognize a team phoning it in.  On Monday night, I don’t think Notre Dame even picked up the receiver (which is better than the Leafs are doing these days… in a world of iPhones, my beloved Leafs are still working the rotary dial).

A student dropped by my office yesterday morning to discuss/lament/bewail the game.  (I might have gone on a bit in class about ND being undefeated throughout the season.  I also put Rudy on the syllabus for my Irish Diaspora Film course this term.  Oops.)  This student had a great line to sum it all up: “It was men versus boys out there.”

“Very big men,” I added.  Watch the footage: the entire Notre Dame defensive line looks like a pee-wee team compared to the Crimson Tide.  Still — and I’ve had to work up to saying this for a day and a half — it was a fabulous season.  To be precise, it was a fabulous season from September to December of 2012.

Last night, I heard someone say, “Unless something is perfect, it’s wrong.”  All right, I admit it — it was Lewis on Coronation Street talking to Audrey just after Nick jilted Leanne at the altar for offering herself to Peter again before their wedding, but Leanne didn’t know that Carla was back from America, and then Eva spoke up during the ceremony and ruined everything.  Whatever.  The sentiment still fits.  Because of Monday night, the 2012-13 season was not perfect; that said, it was still good.

Irish fans are certainly in pain this week, possibly for the rest of the month, and maybe for many years to come.  The Crimson Tide washed us away.  But it could have been worse: it could have been a shutout.  But I really don’t want anyone to say to me, “There’s always next year.”  That’s what Leafs fans have said for over 45 years now.  It does not help.  I fervently hope and pray that any similarities between the Irish and the Leafs ended with Monday night’s game.  I’m doing my best to forget that the Leafs were once the Toronto St Patricks: another Irish team (don’t even ask about the lack of apostrophes and/or faulty pluralization in Toronto spelling preferences).

And just as my Notre Dame pain is beginning, ever so slightly, to recede, I awoke yesterday to the news that the hockey lockout is over.  I am now, officially, a Leafs fan in a Montreal Canadiens world.  Time to pull my toque firmly over my head and avoid direct eye contact.  As soon as the Leafs fail to make the playoffs (again), everything will be fine.

But, before I leave ND until next season, I need to hear it again, just one more time:

Pure masochism.  Bring on the zambonis.

Creative Commons Licence
Midatlantic Musings by Jane G. V. McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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About midatlanticmusings

Historian of the Irish Diaspora and masculinities, wife, mother, lover of good books, red wine, fine whiskies, pop culture aficionado, and Star Wars wonk.
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