“It’s been a busy week on Lakes St. Joseph and St. Mary.” I tried to snap myself out from under my writer’s block by channeling Garrison Keillor. It didn’t work. So I tried some Earnest Hemmingway: “Brian Kelly’s fingers ached. Great drops of rain plonked against the window. He hated Twitter.” But neither worked. I did, however learn, that I might be able to write as well as Brian Kelly and I might know as much about Notre Dame sports as does the creator of A Prairie Home Companion.
As the first Sunday of Lent recedes in our spiritual rearview mirror, I cannot help but think that this week figures somehow too in the liturgical year of Irish sport. The women’s basketball team are champions of the ACC, for the fourth time, while the men are a three-seed in the conference tournament, set to start, for them, on Thursday. And the football team is ready to launch itself, now, for real, into another season. Yes, this week, whenever it started, is big for old Notre Dame.
I’ve decided to take a new approach to football this season. Whereas in the past I was consumed with “10 things to watch” and “8 players who need to step up,” the college football equivalent of a Cosmo cover, I am now going to trust in the process and digest what I can from the coverage. I am not going to tip my hand or hat as to what I think is critical. I have learned that I don’t know nearly enough to do so and that at the end of the season, The Irish will be where they were meant to be, by preparation, execution,
The player I most want to see succeed this year is Jerry Tillery. I think he has earned the sobriquet of “erstwhile” or “perplexing” or “disappointing” after his seasons under the Golden Dome. Yet, there is something about him, a certain je ne sais quoi, that makes me want him to be great this year. We all saw it in the Showtime series A Season With. There is something good inside him, something good outside of the gridiron, that needs to live this season.
I am going to trust in the coaching staff. None of us have any clue about running an elite college defense or offense. We pretend that we do, to greater, or lesser, degrees of success. We don’t know what is going on inside the locker room or the scrimmage huddle, such that all we can do is guess about what is going to be best for the team. I am going to trust that in Coaches Elko and Long, Coach Kelly has selected men who will get the most out of their systems.
Ash Wednesday’s Gospel reading cautioned us to do our good works in private or in silence, lest we fall prey to the temptation of doing them for the sake of recognition. Maybe that approach will serve me better. There will always be statistics to analyze and personalities to cover, schemes to dissect. I’m just going to try and leave out the grand prognostications. I’m not good at them anyway.