I really must applaud the basketball lads for doing their best to fill the time in the bleak mid-winter. Not for them, a regular-old basketball game. No, our Notre Dame men are pushing their contests from long to longer and even to epochal – and by that I mean measured in geological time. It is a noble effort, but I fear it may be shortening their life-spans and those of the Leprechaun Legion, who did not see much daylight last Sunday after their own “exertions” on and off the court.
Oddly, from the basketball team’s short pants and sleeveless jerseys, to the boxer trunks of the Bengal Bouts competitors, to the burlesque of the Keenan Revue, this period of cold weather is marked by a peculiar lack of clothing. This brings a much-needed respite for St. Michael’s Laundry, but let’s not go over the top with the exhibitionism, Keenanites – there may be nuns watching your bawdy show.
It even seems there is no football news circulating. Well, at least none of the truly noteworthy and exciting “petty or bizarre things that happened at Notre Dame” variety that our “journalists” do so enjoy peddling. There was some small incident in Tuscaloosa, wherein several members of a college football team attacked and robbed a student. But since it didn’t happen in South Bend, it wasn’t remarkable. Say what you will about phantom girlfriends, they don’t beat up their classmates for candy bar money – really they’re the ultimate safe date, and no chance of parietals violations.
The only news of any more than passing note this week has come out of Rome where the Pope abdicated. That’s right, the whole Pope…just said he’s packing up and leaving…shoving off…hanging it up…turning off the oven, killing the lights, stopping the mail, and handing over the keys. This is obviously an event of great moment for us as a Catholic university community, and not just because I’m pretty sure it’s written somewhere that every Baptized student gets an automatic 4.0 when the Pope quits. In casting about trying to find parallels for this unparalleled situation, my mind (obviously) turned to Notre Dame football. As the only Catholic college football team* in the uppermost echelon of the sport, we have a uniquely analogous situation by which to understand an occurrence not seen in centuries. You see, both the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have an absolute monarch: The Supreme Pontiff, and The Head Coach. And the similarities are illustrative. Shall we have some examples – yes we shall:
The Pope is a leader who holds religious authority for billions of followers in every country around the world.
The Coach is a leader who holds religious authority for millions of followers in every country around the world.
Though revered by many, the Pope is also reviled by others for his teachings.
Though revered by many, the Coach is also reviled by others for his play-calling.
The Coach has thousands of ardently loyal students ready to go anywhere and do anything for him.
The Pope has thousands of ardently loyal priests ready to go anywhere and do anything for him.
The Coach has vicious detractors, outsiders who will stop at nothing to undermine him and who delight in his misfortune.
The Pope has Jesuits.
The Pope is the supreme authority of his own country, Vatican City, an isolated an somewhat antiquated universe unto itself.
The Coach is at Notre Dame.
The Pope was once attacked by a sick and crazed woman.
The Coach leads his team before tens of thousands gathered in the Stadium where he buried all six opponents this season.
The Pope says mass on St. Peter’s grave.
Even though it goes unsaid, we all know that ultimately the Coach has to answer to Ted Hesburgh.
And so does the Pope.
Yet, there remain contrasts and dissimilarities between the two sacred offices, Papacy and Coachacy:
The Pope is married to his bride the Church and has millions of sons and daughters in the form of the faithful, hence he is called Holy Father.
The Coach has one (real) wife and three kids, and you just know he is reminded every night that he’s “not the high-and-mighty Head Coach in this house,” and though undoubtedly loving and obedient, the kids can come up with some things to call their father other than Holy.
The Coach puts his pants on one leg at a time.
The Pope wears a housedress.
The Pope can be infallible.
Oh, Hell NO…just ask the Alumni.
The Coach has allowed the introduction of “Crazy Train” into the Stadium.
The Pope has demanded a return to sacred music in church.
The Pope has Jumbotrons in St. Peter’s Square.
Oh, Hell NO…just ask the Alumni.
Perhaps the most important similarity:
The Pope has led a return to the traditional worship of the Church.
The Coach has led Notre Dame back to its tradition of winning…which is an act of worship.
And the most important difference:
Apparently, the Pope can leave and move on to something else.
The Coach can’t.
*Don’t get me started.