Running Into a Backwards Gauntlet: An Analysis

By this point, you’ve all probably seen the video. Cam McDaniel goes running full speed into a gauntlet pointed in the wrong direction, despite previously pointing it out to Brian Kelly just moments before.

If you haven’t here it is (ESPN took the original down, we found another, times won’t match up below, but you’ll get the gist):

On the surface, this looks like an embarrassing moment for Notre Dame. We brag about our smart student athletes that are also good at football, yet here is the video evidence of one of them looking like a fool. Further, our head coach completely dismisses the impending disaster before it happens and on national TV no less.

However, you are wrong. This is a shining moment for Notre Dame. Let’s break down the video and enter the mind of Cam McDaniel to show you why.

0:00 – You notice something is wrong. You’ve run through this gauntlet hundreds of times in your career, but today it looks different, menacing.

0:03 – It hits you.

“Coach, isn’t the gauntlet backwards?” you ask with full confidence. You’ve saved someone, possibly even yourself, some pain, but more importantly, embarrassment. After all, you know that camera is right behind you.

“No, it’s not backwards!” chirps Kelly. The dismissive tone stings. There’s anger there. It’s slight, but Kelly can’t go full-purple in front of these cameras. Not now, not while ESPN thinks they are getting some filler footage to appease a football-starved audience.

You know somehow, some way, there will be hell to pay.

0:05 – 0:16 – Kelly goes over the drill, “Over, side, over, side, cut…”

Over. Side. Over. Side. Cut. Got it.

The drill is burned into your memory the instance Kelly takes a breath. Your body is programmed to do this, but still…

“…finish on the other side.”

There is no other side, coach.

The drill movements are slipping from your mind as the thought plays over and over again in your head.

There is no other side, coach.

You are already on the other side, asked to somehow bend space and time to go back to the start. The task is impossible, we don’t have the technology, much less on a football field where the only science available is physics: a body in motion will be abruptly stopped by an immovable object.

All these thoughts flood through your head in a matter of seconds, but your mind finally calms. There is hope…

God, I hope he sends GA3 through first…

The missing seconds between 0:16 and 0:17 – Kelly looks at GA3, shifts to you, and shifts back. It’s coin flip time, which junior will be forced to run to their doom?

“You’re up, Cam.”


A wry smile crosses Kelly’s face. You knew there would be hell to pay and here it comes, just seconds later.  Kelly might as well of said “Ok, ‘Mr. It’s Backwards and I’m Afraid of the Scary Little Gauntlet’, let’s see what you got in front of these cameras. Everyone is watching you.”

Oh God, everyone is watching me.

Images of Sportscenter’s “Not Top Ten” enter your mind. You know you’re about to be number one. There will be GIFs — the Internet will forever remember Cam McDaniel, the dumbass that ran into a backwards gauntlet.

You’ve never felt this level of defeat before. It’s like you’re back on the sidelines of Sun Life Stadium, but somehow it’s worse. There was hope then, even if microscopic, that something could go crazy and the improbable could happen. There is no hope here. None. This isn’t improbable, this is impossible.

The whistle blows.

Over. Side. Over. Side. Cut.

You look up and see the enemy that is about to defeat you.

0:17 – Your body is on autopilot. Even if you wanted to stop you can’t. You’re committed, you are going to get your ass handed to you and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Wait…I’m committed…

The thought seems fleeting, but it takes over. You know what you need to do…

0:18 – FUCK IT.

You lower your shoulders and prepare for impact. The doubt is gone, you are going through this damn thing. This immovable object has just met the unstoppable force.

What though the odds be great or small / Old Notre Dame will win over all…OVER. ALL.

The lines of the familiar refrain swim through your mind pre-impact. All — whether it’s Temple at the end of the month or this gauntlet right here, right now, you are going to win. You are wearing the blue and gold and your coach just told you to get to the other side and you are going to do it.

0:19 – IMPACT

0:20 – 0:26 – Your stunned coach now realizes his mistake. He tries to make light of it, laugh it off and play to the cameras.

But you look back at your steel opponent. It moved. Half a yard to be exact.

Sure, it seems like nothing, but half a yard can make all the difference in the world — just ask Stanford. Your coach just asked for the impossible and you gave him half a yard, ball still in your hands, and you are still standing while the gauntlet buckled.

The immovable object moved.

Post 0:26 – You toss the ball to a student manager as everyone sets the drill back up in the correct fashion. The ESPN cameras are moving along, cameraman dying of laughter. They think they got you, embarrassed you, you know different.

You look at coach Kelly, he looks at you and nods with approval.

He knows and you know one simple truth: Notre Dame needs half a yard?

Give the Cam the damn ball.

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  • Father Sorin

    In 171 years, we have never failed to embrace the spirit necessary to attempt the impossible. That is the only way to start with a log cabin and finish with a Golden Dome on a building we had to reconstruct from a smoldering rubble heap in a mere four months. Our McDaniel lad was asked to attempt what he knew to be nearly impossible. But he did not question – he tried with all his strength. And that so-called gauntlet most certainly moved. Now, when the season finally arrives, Brian Kelly will have no doubt that he can ask young Cam to follow any order, no matter how difficult, and the lad will do so without question. And even if the result is just a foot of turf, that oftentimes is the margin of victory in this famous Game of Inches. What is more important, Cam McDaniel and his teammates have just experienced a very necessary, very physical demonstration of what it takes to run through the gauntlet of life. You try, with everything you have, and you achieve something, no matter how small. And then you do it again and again…for 171 years.

  • Mark (@stogiesnbeer)

    Love it Tex, thanks for turning my face palm into a hellova laugh.

  • beyeg

    Well done Tex, I have to wonder however, if GA3 had gone, what would have happened when he didn’t lower his pad level? Ouch

  • trey

    Once again…Run CMC, ND’s next Heisman winner

    • Nick

      It’s “Run CMD” like a computer.

      • NDtex

        Oh I’m rolling with this abbreviation. Well played.

        • trey

          As a computer nerd, I approve of this as well

  • kyndfan

    I just laughed so hard I almost pissed myself…ok, I may have peed a little…I should go to the bathroom…

  • ndIRISHlc19

    Thanks for finding the silver lining in what would otherwise be embarrassing!

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