This weekend, Notre Dame Seniors will enter the Stadium where they never saw their team lose this season. But they won’t be cheering for just another football victory. They’ll be cheering for a far more important victory – their own graduation. Keep in mind: football is a nice touch, but our whole purpose here is the education that culminates in graduation. And that’s why more of our football players graduate here than anywhere else (and by “more” I mean very nearly every single one of them). So it is fitting that victory be laid on top of victory by conferring degrees in the 360 degree arena of triumph known as Notre Dame Stadium…until they change it…again.
I know change doesn’t go down well here. It never has. But somewhere there seems to be written a list of things that can never change because of that equally elusive value called tradition. I will now shatter a few ill-conceived, though perhaps cherished, notions about change and tradition with respect to things on this campus. Shall we start at the beginning – yes, we shall.
My Log Cabin. These days, that ramshackle old hovel where I sheltered from the blinding (literally) winter of 1842, is reverently called the Log Chapel. Sure, we made it a chapel, after we built a suitable, modern building. Believe me, there’s nothing that can’t be turned into a chapel, and no building is complete without one. But the cabin was not my creation; it came with the property…and there was a reason Steve Badin was only too happy to be rid of all of it. So every time you genuflect going by the cabin-chapel, remember that it’s an outbuilding I moved out of as soon as I could. Oh, and it’s not real. The original Log Cabin burned down, just like so many things here. What you’re looking at is a replica.
My Old College. That’s what it’s called now. When I built it is was just The College, whole, entire, and complete. It was basic, utilitarian, and constructed with absolutely no eye toward architectural beauty. And it shows. It probably should have been torn down at some point for the sake of reusing the bricks in something better. But it’s built like a brick sh outhouse, so there was no sense in getting rid of a perfectly serviceable building. Still, I’m sure the lads who live in it now would agree with the outhouse analogy on more levels than one. Its floors slope at various angles in every direction; the doorways are low and trapezoidal; and it creaks and groans like a tramp steamer hung up on a rocky shoal. Yes, our little carbuncle called Old College is what Notre Dame originally looked like. How do you feel about change now?
My Sacred Heart. Well, it’s Jesus’ Sacred Heart, but my church. Again, not the original. Check the cornerstone – it says 1871. Did you think I had no church between 1842 and 1871? And the Lady Chapel is an addition. When The BVM says She wants a place of Her own, you build it, even if you have to add it onto the back.
My Main Building. Everyone knows it’s not the original. It’s actually the third. Like it? Most people do. But it didn’t come with a Dome. That wasn’t added until three years later. And it wasn’t Golden until three years after that. Again, when The BVM says She wants a giant gold footstool, you do it. Remember, too, that the Main Building was offices, classrooms, dining hall, and dormitories all in one. Change is a blessed thing when you can move a horde of raucous and pungent college lads out of your office. Which brings me to…
My Hall. The luxuries I gave my lads! A standalone dormitory with private rooms! I had already given them electric lights – first college in the country using that exciting modern science (really, I’d do anything to get away from open flames). But My Hall, which now thinks it’s a college…fine…does not appear in its original form. The wings are later additions so we could pack more bodies in there. And the porch came even later than that. The porch was built onto the front to prevent the lads from dumping buckets of water out the upper windows and onto unsuspecting victims entering through the main doors. No joke.
The list could go on; but let’s focus on the thing at hand – the Stadium. Built in a rush (as so many of our building have been) it was elegant in its own way. But just ask my esteemed successor Ted Hesburgh and he’ll tell you the Stadium was unpopular just 30 years after its opening, by which time it was considered antiquated, undersized, and crude. Ted considered demolition and reconstruction (a fire is much cheaper), but he had priorities: First a Library, and then Ned Joyce’s sports big-top. So the Stadium survived until it was encased in a concrete shell that can never be called elegant in any way.
Onto the Stadium we now want to add offices, classrooms, dining facilities, and something called “luxury boxes” which is precisely what I called the private sleeping rooms in Sorin Hall when we built that. So it will be just like the Main Building was originally. We are returning to tradition! But traditionalists aren’t happy because at Notre Dame there is a pervasive confusion between “custom” and “tradition.”
Custom is the way things are generally done, and have been done for a while. Tradition is a collection of customs that have been handed on from generation to generation and age to age, so that they have become freighted with deep, symbolic meaning. Customs change; traditions endure. Anything that changes over time is, therefore, a custom. Something that has never changed is a tradition. And there are no such things as new or recent traditions – unless you’re talking about oxymorons.
Furthermore, we’re talking about THINGS here. Buildings are things, and things cannot be traditions. They can be old or beautiful or relatively unchanged for many years. But they’re still just things, and we do not place inordinate value in things. I was upset when my second Main Building burned – but I built a better one. And then I installed electricity. And recently, they entirely rebuilt the interior. That sort of change is called progress. This place started with someone else’s log cabin – but look at it now! Since it’s summer, we’re going to build even more buildings that I never thought of. So I suppose you could say it’s a custom at Notre Dame to preserve its older buildings; but one of our most cherished traditions is progress.
Do what you want to the Stadium. It was already changed once. And it’s just a thing. Victory is a tradition. We have preserved that tradition on Cartier Field and in Rockne’s original and into the current Stadium-within-a-stadium. But the greater victory, the tradition of graduation, we have preserved even longer…on the Main Quadrangle, in Washington Hall, in the Fieldhouse now gone, in the Stadium, on the South Quadrangle, in the Joyce Center, and back in the Stadium again. The location is just a custom; the graduation is a tradition – and a glorious achievement. Congratulations, Seniors! And be prepared: Notre Dame will have changed by the time you come back. It always does.
Send three volleys of cheers on high for our Seniors! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hooray! As final exams end today, so begins your last week at Notre Dame. Be proud. Be gracious. Be generous. Be humble. But above all, be happy! For you have achieved something great. And you have achieved it together. When you arrived here as a herd of freshmen in 2009, did you think that in your Senior year you would see your classmates lead your football team to an undefeated season and a #1 ranking? Probably not. And so you have learned something – you have learned to believe. You see, we use football not just as a diversion, we use it as a teaching device. That’s the only way to be #1 on the field and #1 where we are now…graduation.
What, then, did you learn on the field and in the stands over the past four years? You learned that the only way to achieve victory is through very hard work, every single time. You learned that success is not instant – it is gradual and it requires both dedication and change. And you learned that to any goal which you ardently desire, you must devote your intelligence, your courage, and your strength.
In the classroom, which you have occupied far longer than the Stadium, and which you have shared not just with your classmates from the football team, but from every one of our tremendously successful teams, you have learned to think and to reason, to calculate and to deduce. In the classroom you learned to use your mind; in the stadiums and arenas, you learned to use your heart. And that is why, when you graduate, you wear a mortarboard on your head and a black robe across your chest. You are clothed in the uniform of achievement and victory.
But this cap-and-gown is really the Shamrock Series uniform of your life – it’s pretty funny looking, it’s comprised of a combination of odd colors, and you only wear it once. It also leaves out something essential…it leaves out your hands. You’ve learned to use your intelligence and your courage, your mind and your heart. But what about your strength? That’s in your hands. Hands that will write, compose, and design; hands that will care, heal, and cure; hands that will instruct, admonish, and encourage; hands that will pile up treasures and give away gifts; hands that will hold your children or be anointed with the oils of holy orders.
And it is onto your hand that is placed the most important symbol of Notre Dame graduation: The Ring. A beautiful ring that at graduation is taken off, flipped around, and put back on for the rest of your life. Our Lady’s Golden Dome on one side; Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope on the other; sprinkled throughout with the Irish symbol of blessing, the shamrock. It is not a symbol of graduation – it is a symbol of life.
Whenever you have the chance, look at the ring of an older alumnus. It is nicked and dinged, and there are chips missing here and there. So, too, will your life be marked by tests and trials, failures and losses. But these blemishes do not diminish the overall beauty of the ring; they make the ring unique to the wearer. And neither will these travails diminish the overwhelming beauty of your life; they will make it your life.
Whenever you have the chance, look at the ring of an ancient alumnus. It has been made smooth by age and years of hard wearing. All the sharp features are gone, along with all the scratches and scars, and it shines brightly all over. Let that happen to your life, too.
Make no mistake, your hands haven’t spent all of the last four years bent to work or folded in prayer. Your hands have caught footballs on the quad and held beer cans at parties. Your hands have clapped when your teams have won and when your friends have made fools of themselves in ridiculous situations. Your hands have stashed things in pockets, and executed pranks and dirty tricks. Your ring doesn’t somehow consecrate all these exploits, but it reminds you of all these good times that you’ve enjoyed under the Dome etched in its side – and in your hearts forever.
When you arrived here as a herd of freshmen in 2009, we said, “Welcome to Notre Dame!” As you graduate in 2013, we say, “Welcome to your lives!” No matter where you’re going, whether it’s across the country or around the world, you won’t be far. Because this place will always be here. And a good part of you will always be here…forever.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” If you tell me that’s from a really cool folk rock band and you like to listen to it late at night when you’re drunk and nostalgic because it reminds you of your high school senior retreat, I’ll increase your Theology requirement from two courses to 16. It is Biblical Wisdom Literature, and in this fleeting season of dramatic transition, we turn to it for guidance. Classes have ended, papers are coming due, final exams loom, and bags are being packed. Soon all students will leave for home and Notre Dame will fall silent, if ever so briefly. Let us take just a moment now to reflect on the year past, the summer upon us, and the year to come – to reflect on our seasons and our purposes. Besides, it’s a “Reading Day,” and this is a lot more edifying than the beer labels, bar menus, and South Bend Silver Hawks tickets you’ve been reading for the last two days.
A time to be born, and a time to die. Figuratively, the year that was 2012-2013 is dying. But, oh, what a year it was! Grapes have to die to make fine wine, and one good school year must come to an end in order for a new one to be born. The vintage that has been 2012-2013 will find a place of honor in the cellars of Notre Dame du Vin. And it’s just a foretaste of the sweetness that will be 2013-2014, which is ready to be born in just three months’ time. Now let that sublime thought wash over you while grinding out that last Philosophy paper or studying for that Chemistry final. And knock it off with the wine, or you’ll fail both.
A time to plant, and a time to uproot. We have some lovely grounds, don’t we! Especially in Spring with everything is in bloom. When you step out in the last few days on campus, let the natural beauty of the place form a lasting memory for you, so that whatever unpleasant tasks you must complete, you will remember Notre Dame and rejoice in anticipation of your return. But don’t pluck any of the flowers, or you will find a groundskeeper revving his lawnmower right outside your window at 7:00 in the morning. And, groundskeepers, while your plantings are gorgeous, I wouldn’t be at all offended if you cut down those flowering trees that smell of profound body odor.
A time to kill, and a time to heal. Kill all those tiffs and grudges you’ve held onto throughout the year, especially with your roommates. You may not be living with them next year, and you may not be living anywhere near them next year. But – who knows – you may never see them again either. You don’t have to part company on great terms, but at least go your separate ways on civil terms, because you yourself were no prize to live with. And if you’re having trouble healing the wounds in any friendship, kill a bottle of wine with your old pal; at least you’ll forget why you can’t stand him.
A time to break down, and a time to build up. Your rooms – you’ve had to break down your rooms. And I know that was very hard for some of you, because you invested hours and great effort in making you little square of Notre Dame a showplace. Truly, I have never seen cardboard beer cases used to create so many fetching interior designs. I don’t really know what a “Man Cave” is, but if you made a fine one this year, perhaps you can advance to a “Masculine Cavern” in your new room next year. Over the summer, some dorms will be renovated, most will not – but either way, you won’t be able to tell the difference. And Morrissey…there’s nothing we can do about Morrissey.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh. I hope you love Notre Dame, I really do. But cool it with the weeping. It’s college – it’s only supposed to last four years. So love it, but don’t get maudlin. And we had llamas. I would think that seeing llamas on the quad would be enough to make you laugh – why do you have to set couches on fire just to get a giggle?
A time to mourn, and a time to dance. Less dancing during “Reading Days” and you won’t be mourning when your grades come in. And you can’t tell me that St. Edward’s Yacht Dance is not an elaborate scheme to flee parietals by seeking refuge in international waters. If your parents are hippies, you get three months of no parietals – so just deal with my French boarding school rules for a few more days.
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together. Ummm…the Grotto is a large gathering of stones…and…well, we know that there were certain medicinal plants in ancient Israel that caused fantastical dreams or hallucinations. That might account for some of the visions in the Bible; and it might account for this mysterious piece of advice. So we’ll just leave it at: don’t get stoned and avoid stoners.
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. Nothing after midnight from here on out. Your bed at home is your homefield – you may welcome as many fans as you want. Just not here in The BVM’s house.
A time to keep, and a time to throw away. Make a list of all the good things you did this year, all the achievements and all the celebrations. Then make a list of all the disappointments, mistakes, and failures. Keep the first and promise yourself that you will repeat and multiply everything on that list next year. Take the second, wrap it around a stone, and throw it in St. Mary’s Lake. It’s deep – you will never see that list again. And the act of writing might get you off our butt to finish that Philosophy paper.
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak. It’s important to speak to those who are important to you before the whirlwind of finals week begins and comes crashing to a staggering close. Don’t miss the chance to say ‘see you next year,’ or ‘farewell,’ or even sometimes ‘goodbye.’ But then respect those quiet hours. Just because you’re confident you’ll pass, doesn’t mean your neighbors are. If you’re having trouble keeping your voice down and maintaining a respectful silence, imagine you’re an alum sitting in the Stadium during a big third down – that’ll shut you up tighter than a duck’s butt.
A time to love and, and a time to hate. It’s been a pretty good year – indeed, this year was, itself, a time to love. If you made the most of your year, you really shouldn’t have had much time to hate. But if that’s not the case for you, come back in August and start over as though from the beginning. Remember: one Spring, as my lads went home, the Main Building was a smoldering heap of rubble – but by the time they came back in the Fall, a new one had risen in its place. And it’s still there.
A time of war, and a time of peace. Have a peaceful summer. The war starts at 3:30 on the afternoon of August the 31st, in the Stadium.
We have a controversy! There is a tear in the seamless garment of our unity. Ugly voices are raised in shouting and discord. Someone has messed with the Stadium! And this time it’s serious – someone has messed with the tickets. Alumni and Subway Alums, put the lead pipes and letter openers down; this doesn’t call for violence on your part, because this has nothing to do with your tickets. You will continue to be given one-sixth of the tickets you request at twice the price you expect. This time the catastrophe has fallen on the students. A brief summary of events in this vast injustice is in order first.
All students can buy season tickets at a “reduced” price.* Each undergraduate class year occupies a quarter of the student section, stretching from the north end zone to midfield under the press box.** Within a subsection, each student is assigned a row and seat number that corresponds to a faded glyph on a worn wooden board. Students generally, but not always, try somewhat successfully to locate themselves around or near said faded glyph for portions, but not all, of the game. In essence, the row and seat number is a vague suggestion that keeps a certain subtle order to the overarching chaos of the student section. Yet, the seat number is not, in fact, a seat, since no one sits in the student section, except during halftime – if they’re not standing en masse to throw dessert items at each other.
In recent history,*** students quite literally camped out in an unruly and booze-fueled queue outside Ned Joyce’s sports big-top. In this way, the first semi-comatose senior on the ground when the ticket office opened in the morning, received the best seat in the Stadium; and so on down the line until that last “football-is-vulgar” freshman deigned to pick up his tickets so the other kids in his section didn’t make fun of him. Then that was forcibly organized into a controlled camping event, complete with chaperones and distracting non-alcoholic games. Then this became an early evening picnic where students listened to live music (the only way to hypnotize them into obedience), and there were stickers and a lottery and a drawing – like a big parish bingo night, only for people a quarter of the usual age. Finally technology advanced to the point that each student is given a number of the beast some sort of lottery number that allows them to apply, register, PAY IN FULL, and later pick up the appropriate tickets. So as you can see, at an institution where tradition is prized above all else and preserved at all costs, there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the ever-evolving student ticket policy. I call it the Heraclitus system, because all that is constant is change.
*Students currently pay the same amount for tickets that I used to charge for four years of a Notre Dame education.
**There’s some provision for graduate students, law students, and future masters of business administration. It’s wedged between the upper and lower classes. Like an ocean liner, state rooms above the grad students, steerage below.
***When the Stadium was built, we couldn’t even fill it. Then the War put a dent in the number of students available to cheer during games. After that, the ticket office, the Prefect of Discipline, and the rectors had a couple of systems. And then we went coed.
That brings us up to date. Now back to this week’s travesty. It has been announced from on high that during this coming football season, within each class section, seating will be “general admission,” or what I like to call “free for all” or “every man for himself” or “last one in is a rotten egg” or “this is how people behave on a sinking ship.” Have you ever seen the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain – it will look something like that, only with yellow-clad ushers replacing enraged bulls. The impetus behind this most recent change is to allow the truly ardent fans direct access to the seats closest to the field. In this way, the Stadium will be louder and the team will win more (more than 6-0 at home?). And this is where the fur flies.
The great and powerful authority that orchestrated and announced this change is the Leprechaun Legion. This is the student organization dedicated to increasing…for lack of a better term…school spirit at all sporting matches. They publicize, advertize, excite, urge, cajole, give away free food and clothing, demand, guilt, and herd in order to increase student attendance at athletic events. They also want to augment, raise, lift, amplify, and otherwise make bigger the intensity and volume at each of these events, all in the name of helping our Irish teams win. This is all for the greater glory of Notre Dame, and the Legion deserves our unreserved thanks. However, in this case, the Legion determined that there was a problem with the student section, investigated other student sections, devised a solution, sold it to the Athletic Department, and then dropped it on the students like an unwanted but permanent dorm room guest.
My first question is, when did Notre Dame students have a problem with unpopular decisions and rules being unexpectedly announced with no student consultation and enforced from above? That’s how this place has always worked, people! That’s how I set it up. At least this time the decision was made by your fellow undergraduates, not some unnamed and inaccessible Administrator in the Office of Continual Improvement and Never-Ending Betterment.
My second question is, who on God’s green earth could attend a Notre Dame home football game and NOT realize that there are serious problems with the “level of excitement” in the Stadium? In a monastery, Great Silence is the period of night after the last chanting of psalms and before sunrise. In Notre Dame Stadium, Great Silence occurs shortly after kickoff, during every timeout, and frequently on third down. If the Legion has a way to fix that, who could ever complain?
The issue is whether or not Great Silence emanates from the students, or is possibly caused by a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the students. I would argue that the interminable timeouts, during which the winners of Mishawaka coloring contests and employee non-used-sick-day awards are trotted into the north end zone, are a greater problem than the students. It has rudely been put to me that Notre Dame’s “wine and cheese” alumni-and-friends base is the problem – I take that as an insult to my own and my University’s French heritage. Will general admission in the student section get the cadavers in the gold thrones to cheer? Is it a good idea to alter the one cheering corner of the Stadium in an effort to inspire the rest?
Yet, my third question is, who’s averse to trying to get the Stadium back on its collective feet? A football game is like Mass – you’re supposed to be in the pew before the priest comes out of the sacristy, and you’re supposed to stay until he’s gone back. When High Priest Kelly is leading his acolytes onto the field, many student-parishioners are still in the parking lot…literally. And just like Mass, you’re there to sing and respond actively, and to pay attention to the sacred actions – not to chit-chat or visit with friends. If that’s what you’re here to do, don’t bother the worshipers. Stay in the vestibule of the upper seats and gossip away. And so, is it terribly unjust to allow the true-believers to sit closest to the object of their devotion?
Sure, the power-lushes want to maximize happy hour and still be able to stagger to a seat where their double-vision won’t be too badly impaired by heads in front of them. You’ll figure it out – you got into this University after all. Sure, some students want football tickets more than they want a diploma; this is their season. For those who don’t care so much, content yourselves with joining your closest friends for one of only 24 extraordinary, nationally televised spectacles of pageantry and drama that you will ever see – you’re only ten rows higher than you might have been had the lottery-gods favored you. Sure, some students will cut their “total football weekend experience” short in order to stand in line for their ideal seats. But how many true fanatics can there be out of a mere 8,000; how much space can they take up when we already pack you in hip-to-hip, knees-to-backs? And don’t we want those carrying the most water for the team closest to the field?
My only complaint with the new student ticket policy is that it doesn’t apply to the rest of the Stadium. Imagine how the House that Rockne Built would rock if the bitter and the mute were relegated to the upper deck where they could grouse about kids-these-days in hushed tones while their buttocks went numb from four hours of sitting. This is a Stadium, not a museum. At Notre Dame, traditions here are traceable back decades and even centuries, not to the last time someone tinkered with the system. If students spend too much time complaining that every minor change and potential improvement constitutes a slap in the face to all that we have held sacred per omnia saecula saeculorum, they’ll start to sound like…GASP!…alumni.
Everyone who wants a ticket will have a ticket. If we try really hard, the Stadium might become a place where our team loves to play and our opponents fear to tread. If we do that right, we could very well have another undefeated home stand, and all will be right with the world. Now go back to complaining about things that truly will never change – the weather, finals, and parietals.
This weekend marks the start of the 2013 march to victory for the football team. Fitting, then, that the team is guaranteed a victory in any event because they play with themselves [Editor’s note: Padre doesn’t always appreciate how certain phrases have changed over the years.] [Padre’s note: Get your mind out of the gutter, so Mark May’s can float by.] What used to be the old-timers’ game, the intrasquad scrimmage, or simply ‘the spring game’, has been officially exulted to The University of Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring Football Festival. Some might think this a bit too much – but when you start with a musty log cabin and finish with a 19-foot-tall gilded statue of The BVM, nothing is too much in these old eyes.
This is a weekend for pure, unadulterated celebration. We cheer for both the True Blues and the Glittering Golds. It is the one game that does not force us to welcome a viper into our hallowed Stadium. And while we will watch the lads play to get a sense for how good they will be this season, we must still pause to consider the vipers. Well, not really the Vipers, since none of our opponents have adopted that moniker for themselves. Such symbols are not to be underestimated, for they represent the drive and inspiration of our enemies. So let’s look at monikers and mascots to gain insight into what lies before our Blues and Golds in just a few short months.
To begin, we make a distinction between moniker, which is the team’s nickname, and mascot, which is their emblem. Our own situation provides the perfect illustration of the difference. We are named the Fighting Irish. This symbolizes the contribution of the Hibernian people to our University from the very first day of its founding. It also symbolizes our teams’ will to fight its way to the top, despite ridicule and violent opposition. And if you don’t think that’s as valid now as it was 90 years ago, you apparently didn’t watch or listen to anything during the entire 2012 season. Our mascot is the Leprechaun. Irish folklore tells us that the leprechaun is a diminutive elf who makes shoes for other fairies, likes a drink, hordes gold, and is secretive and tricky. Though that certainly describes generations of our Alumni, the Leprechaun’s qualities which we prefer to emulate are his wit, his tenacity, and his loyalty to his own. Interestingly, Irish folklore also tells us that there are no female Leprechauns – feel free to add your own Catholic-prudery-parietals joke at this point.
Now let’s categorize our opponents by type, starting with those taking a totemic spirit animal. We have two birds: the Owls and the Falcons. Both noble fowl and fierce hunters…of rodents. Owls only come out at night to carry off field mice and they can turn their heads fully around to look backwards. We will be playing them by day, there’s not one lad on our team who could possibly be considered ‘mousy’, and the Temple Owls will spend a lot of time turning their heads as our defense intercepts their passes and returns them for touchdowns. Falcons are the fastest birds of the air and vicious killers…of bunnies. The Air Force Academy even brings a falcon to its games. They are able to do this because this falcon’s ancestors were captured in small nets and kept in a coop like chickens. Hence, this fierce hunter now chases a leather chew-toy and responds to its master’s gentle cooing. It also wears a hood to keep it blind – so too, the Air Force Falcons will never see the Irish coming.
We have two feral cats: the Panthers and the Cougars. These are essentially the same thing, just living in different locations, and they survive by killing baby deer…and rodents. They scavenge rotting carcases, too. Big cats tend to play with their food before going in for the kill. As a result, panthers occasionally lose their prey after a long fight they seemed sure to win. I am told the term ‘cougars’ now more frequently does not refer to mountain lions, but means ‘lecherous older women’. Which is odd, because I thought that was what they called the USC Alumnae Association.
And then there are the Wolverines. The wolverine is the largest weasel in North America. The wolverine lives in a filthy, stinking hole. When you don’t play with the wolverines anymore, the cry crocodile tears. During the Civil War, General George Armstrong Custer led a brigade called The Wolverines. The 2013 season will be the Michigan Wolverines’ last stand against the Irish – and it should go just about as well for them as Custer’s Last Stand went for him.
Next we have those opponents with human mascots. There are the Boilermakers who are named after what they have historically done. You will note, they are not called the ‘Gamewinners’. There are the Sooners, also named for what they have historically done. In this case, the original Sooners were cheats and thieves who staked illegal claims to open land before others who followed the rules. They often snuck into unclaimed territories under cover of darkness or by the light of the moon. For this reason they were also called Moonshiners. As they sneak out of Indiana by night, the Sooners will need plenty of moonshine to forget about what they Irish will have done to them. And finally there are the Spartans, killed to a man at Thermopylae, decimated once and for all by the Romans. We’re Roman Catholics – need I say more.
Not all monikers and mascots make good, solid sense. We face two of these; first, the Sun Devils. At one time, Arizona State competed under the name ‘The Normals’. Finding this uninspiring, they created the notion of a sun devil, which exists only in their stadium and their minds. Stranger still, the mascot is named ‘Sparky’…because the sun showers sparks? No need to worry because, real or imagined, devils get exorcised by priests, and we’ve got plenty of those. By the way, exorcism is an act of casting out for good – similar to what Professor Swarbrick did to Arizona State. Second, back for more fun, is the Cardinal, a color represented by a tree. I have an easier time explaining the Holy Trinity than I do this combination. A color is an abstract idea like, say, a phantom whistle. A tree doesn’t do much intimidating except fall. But if a tree falls in a Stadium, does it whine?
Finally, we square off against two opponents who are old enemies. Like us, these two have rather complex combinations of monikers and mascots. First is the United States Naval Academy, which fights under the name the Midshipmen. Fair enough…not much to say here…that’s who they are and what they do. The West Point cadets call themselves the Black Knights, which is much more fearsome. But in reality, midshipmen sail the boat – they use Marines to do the fighting. Further confusing the matter, their mascot is Bill the Goat. What, I hear you ask, do livestock have to do with the Navy? Sailors used to keep goats and other animals onboard to slaughter and eat. Just like we did at Notre Dame when we had a farm; and just as we will figuratively do in the Stadium this year.
And then are the Trojans. Named for a people steeped in treachery, whose most notorious act was snatching a bride from her wedding. Such theft, dishonesty, and trickery never works out for the Trojans. After they kidnapped Helen, they lost the ensuing war; after they stole a victory from the Irish, they lost the whole bloody season. The USC Trojans have for a mascot a horse named Traveler. This they pattern off the famous Trojan Horse, something they also stole. Which was one of the worst tactical decisions in the history of warfare – rather like calling a timeout when your team is inches from the goal-line and about to score. Ultimately, the Trojans are some of history’s great losers. And we welcome USC to bring that spirit of Troy to our Stadium.
As for this weekend, I’m sure we’ll have a Football Festival, but the weather is anything but Spring. Since they are all my loyal sons, I can’t root for either the Blues or the Golds. Hence I will be rooting for the Greens…in this weather, under this blue-grey sky, I’ll root for anything G-G-G-Green.