HLS Book Review: Always Fighting Irish

In our October Giveaway post, I mentioned that we here at HLS were lucky enough to get some promotional copies of Always Fighting Irish: Players, Coaches, and Fans Share Their Passion for Notre Dame Football. Thanks to some work travel, I was finally able to have some time to work through this 400+ page work compiled by John Heisler (ND’s Senior Associate Athletics Director for Media and Broadcast Relations) and Tim Prister (Senior Editor of IrishIllustrated.com).

I must say, I came away very impressed.

As Heisler notes in his acknowledgement, he wanted this book to be the ultimate collaboration of the history of Fighting Irish football to celebrate its 125 history. To do this, he expanded on Prister’s original work, What It Means to Be Fighting Irish, which contained many interviews from former Irish stars dating from 1938 to 2003. Much of Prister’s work is dropped into Always Fighting Irish, but to say this is simply adding on nine more years of history would be a great disservice to this book.

Always Fighting Irish easily reaches Heisler’s lofty goal. Whether it is Notre Dame traditions, notable games, or the people that shaped ND football to what it is today, this book contains everything that anyone would ever want to know about ND’s 125 history. This book is basically the equivalent of taking hundreds of media guides, history books, and interviews and mixing them all together in an easily digestible format.

The book is split into very logical sections, allowing for easy reference for future lookups or for allowing the reader to quickly jump to the section their section of interest. The book starts with what I’d call a “quick primer to ND football” with chapters on ND and its traditions, 125 “firsts” that ND had, and ND and our rivals and “rivals”.

The book then gets into the real “meat” of ND’s 125 year history with chapters on the 125 most important games in ND history (with a separate chapter devoted entirely to the Irish’s bowl history) and the 125 most important people in ND football history. Each of these two gigantic topics are further split into two separate chapters covering the “old school days” and the more “modern era” of ND football. The result is five chapters of everything you ever needed to know about Fighting Irish football, with the aforementioned interviews from ND players and coaches mixed in.

The mixing of the straight history and stats with the interviews is easily my favorite feature of this book. I’m a stats guy and love digging into the numbers, the history, etc, but even I would get bored of reading hundreds of pages of stats and box score recaps with nothing to break it up. The interviews allow for not only that needed break, but also allow you to go beyond the box scores and stat lines. After all, Notre Dame football isn’t Notre Dame football without the personal stories and experiences — the magic that makes ND what it is.

I also appreciated that the “most important people” goes beyond just the coaches and players. Included in the list are national writers, university presidents, and others, that, while they may not have had a presence on the field or sidelines, had a major impact on making Notre Dame football what it is today. Leaving these men out would’ve been a great disservice to ND’s history and their inclusion shows that Heisler wanted to make sure that readers would see the bigger picture.

The book then concludes with two chapters devoted to the eleven national championship teams and the teams that just barely missed their shot at national title glory. Once again, interviews are sprinkled throughout both chapters and contain some of my favorites.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this to any Irish fan, especially ones interested in the programs history. It will definitely have a spot on my bookshelf for constant reference alone.

If you are interested in a copy, you can try to win one in our October Giveaway. The book is also available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon. Be sure to pick up a copy today!

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