Ah, the jumbotron — that offseason topic that fires up the Notre Dame fanbase like no other. The outrage and hot takes ranks somewhere right above Shamrock Series uniforms and right below re-gilding the Dome with platinum*. Bayou gave his thoughts earlier this week and I’ve made my thoughts on tradition and change well known in the past.
This Roundup will not re-hash those thoughts. Instead, I wanted to pass along some sage advice my pastor gave to myself and my future bride last weekend:
The only thing that I need to do this wedding are the two of you, myself, and a marriage license. Everything else is just extra. You’ll have other people give you all kinds of opinions on what they think your wedding should look like, but never forget, all of that is just the gravy added on.
And really a potential addition of a jumbotron**, an installation of field turf, new helmets, piped-in music, or the Halloween costumes that are the Shamrock Series uniforms is just that — it’s all gravy. The meat and potatoes of a football game is simply two teams facing off against each other with a ball, some coaches to lead the men into battle, and some officials to make sure it doesn’t turn into the Roman Coliseum.
Notre Dame Football, however, is far more special than that. There is a dessert that follows this football meal that we like to call “The Forty Year Decision”, a specialty that the majority of the top college football powerhouses simply don’t offer. Many thought that entire meal couldn’t be served at Notre Dame anymore. We felt as if Notre Dame Football turned into the “let them eat cake” of the college football world. That’s why 2012 was such a big deal and Kelly went as far to call it “Faith Restored”.
#1 in the BCS and #1 in GSR should have been one of the biggest stories in college football and should be a huge focal point in this offseason, but it wasn’t and still isn’t.
Because the focus is on the damned gravy.
Every time these arguments surface, it becomes much like arguments in wedding planning. Everyone has their idea, their vision, for the Notre Dame Football Experience®. If you can’t see eye-to-eye, then there just must be something wrong with you and your understanding of tradition, Rockne, technology, or Notre Dame itself. The arguments and anger over the ancillary rise to a fever pitch and the true heart of the entire event is lost in the fire.
“But, Tex” you say, “how are you so blind? Don’t you see that when Notre Dame tries new things they fall on their face? Just look at the first attempts at piped-in music and Shamrock Series Helmets. These things matter!”
Want to know why both of those occasions were such disasters? It wasn’t just horrid execution (make no mistake, both were terrible). It was because the surrounding games left a lot to be desired.
Against Southern Cal, we were beaten over the head by more than just “Crazy Train”. Notre Dame stumbled out of the gate, trailing 17-10 at the half, and just when it looked like the Irish had a chance to tie it up, Crist fumbled a snap and it went 80 yards in the other direction. Everyone was already in a sour mood because the game itself was ruined and a “Seven Nation Army” couldn’t hold back the anger of the end result.
To put it another way: no amount of gravy in the world is going to fix a crappy steak.
For the first two quarters we were pissed that our steak first came out raw, then as jerky. In the third, it we saw that perfectly cooked steak coming our way only to have the waiter trip over himself and dropping it, completely ruining that one as well. Finally, we get one more serving of charred mess and we’ve had it by that point. We try to wash it down with the gravy just so we can eat something, but even that is sour.
End result: we hate everything and everything sucks.
While the Maryland game was a decisive victory, the game itself was a bore. Toss in a sub-par opponent that we really didn’t care about, mix in scoring lulls against said sub-par team and you are left with plenty of time to focus on bad helmets and mismatched greens on the uniform.
Compare that to the Miami game which had uniforms sporting helmets that were far worse than anything Adidas could’ve dreamed of the year prior. The Irish defense dominated and the rushing game obliterated the Hurricanes in the second half. Oh, and it helped that this happened against Miami, a team universally hated by Irish fans.
Sure, the gravy might have been mysteriously two-toned and ugly as sin, but the main course was so tasty that you could happily ignore it and move it to the side.
“Well, Tex,” the other side now says, “thanks for proving our point!” As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast!” (No, not that other famous Corso quote).
Just as no amount of gravy will save a piss-poor entree, far too much of it can smother and ruin it. Not only that, if too much focus is given to the sauce, you can likely expect the quality of your main dish to suffer as well. In short, there needs to be some form of balance.
To circle this back around to the original wedding analogy, I could easily ruin my own wedding by focusing on all the ancillary junk that really doesn’t matter. I could also go the opposite direction, completely bare-bones removing all the “gravy” as my pastor put it, but that would be a rather boring wedding. Adding a reception, family and friends, an open bar, and some music will certainly make the night more enjoyable for all and won’t completely overshadow the entire event of actually being wed.
And that’s pretty much where I’m at with anything added to ND Stadium or any future enhancements of the gameday experience. I’m fine with adding things as long as it doesn’t completely overrun the heart of Notre Dame Football.
By all accounts, ND gets that. The piped-in music has been reeled in and better thought out, complemented by mics amplifying the band (P.S. stop playing “Rumor Has It” for the love of all that is holy). Crazy uniforms have been relegated to one game a season, a game which isn’t even played in front of Touchdown Jesus. “Crazy Train” has turned into a punchline/actual thing that makes fans cheer despite its initial overuse.
But through it all, the heart of Notre Dame Football still remains: the quest for and expectation of excellence on and off the field. Until I actually see that change…well…it’s all gravy.
*I may or may not have totally made this up to properly equate said outrage
And when I talk about smothering with gravy, I give you Wyoming. While certainly not the worst of the field turf design offenders (hey, it’s at least green), going with mountains on this design is just a bit much.
I hope all of these go on Iowa’s jumbotron. I had no idea who Damon Bullock was before this week, but I now know he’s is absolutely hilarious.
Big Game Bob takes aim at the SEC. Oh man, I wish I had listened to Finebaum after these comments. Related, what in the hell happened to Stoop’s face?
The College Football Hall of Fame finally rights a major wrong. Tommie Frazier is finally in. Now let’s fix that whole Rocket not being in because seriously.
Want a look at the all-time wins race? Texas’ SBN presence, Barking Carnival, gives a mostly Texas-centric look; however, Notre Dame fans will be please to know just how close we are to surpassing Texas in this race.
So we’re making a little bit of our own gravy. Ok, that sounded completely wrong; however, we are dipping our toes into the merch pool with some #HLSRecap themed offerings. Yes, you can customize these with your Twitter handle if you so choose. Check them out, let us know what you think.
I have, admittedly been slacking on really finding some unique brews. I will remedy this soon; however, I think it’s fitting that this week I go in a different direction.
As I mentioned before, I have a wedding in my future and it will occur one year from now on this exact date. With that in mind, I remembered that the first drink I ever bought my future wife was, in fact, a beer:
Yeah, I pulled out all the stops on this one didn’t I? In my defense, this was what she wanted. DON’T JUDGE!