I KNOW what the official lyrics say the line is: “hold tight to your anger.” I think it should be “hold tight to your anchor.” When you live in New Orleans and you are surrounded by water, water that has fertilized America’s amber waves of grain and its literary fecundity, your mind readily connects to things nautical. As I watched Bruce Springsteen blast through “Wrecking Ball” during his Jazz Fest 2012 set, I swore he sang “hold on to your anchor” and I thought it so appropriate, given the special place Jazz Fest and New Orleans have in The Boss’s heart. Parenthetical aside: Springsteen played Jazz Fest in 2006 in a defiant and transformative set that stands in the pantheon of individual acts that saved the City. I wasn’t there to see it, though, as we hadn’t moved back, yet.
Father Sorin’s piece on Friday rather nicely explained how important water is to the University of Notre Dame, both literally and symbolically. In the comments to my piece on Subway Alumni, I kept discerning a constant theme: the University was itself an anchor to those men and women and families, despite never having attended as students. And it struck me that perhaps this anchor metaphor can go some way towards explaining the loss of Aaron Lynch.
Losing Aaron Lynch, initially, caused me to question everything about our program. He was a stud recruit, who lived up to the hype on the field, and then he was gone. Immediately, the pundits buried us. Colin Cowherd, ESPN, for example, said that Lynch was the kind of player Notre Dame “rarely gets” and now he was gone. Lynch became the metaphor for everything that was “wrong” with ND or that made us irrelevant or that made us an anachronism that could no longer compete in the modern game.
And then Louis Nix III chose to stay. Louis is from Florida. I’m sure that his part of Florida is as sunny as Lynch’s and that Louis’s part of Notre Dame is as cold and grey as Aaron’s was. And then I remembered that Manti chose to stay. And his part of Hawai’i surely is as sunny as Aaron Lynch’s part of Florida and I’m sure that the air in Manti’s Hawai’i is so dewy-sweet you don’t even have to lick the stamps.
Manti stayed for the memories. He stayed, I think, because he found an anchor. Same for LNIII and every student who questions why they are at ND and why they stay. We’ve all done that, some more than others, but we’ve all done it. It’s not on that glorious fall day when the leaves have turned and we’ve thumped BC or during An Tostal and it’s sixty-five. Remember that one An Tostal when it was nice?
No, the soul-searching occurs flittingly when mom and dad drive away in the family truckster and you realize that you’re not going with them. And then it occurs in class when you realize that you’re not the brightest kid in the room any more. And then it occurs when you open the door to walk outside and the cold cuts into you so bad it hurts. And you sit in that, defrosting, telling yourself that you’ve made the right choice, even though you’re not the brightest kid in the room. And it doesn’t matter that it’d be easier at State or closer to home. It matters that wouldn’t be better.
You get through those moments because you find yourÂanchor: your friends, the Dome, the lakes, Huddle Burgers, something. Something that holds you, that keeps you. Something that holds you there, no matter how tempestuous everything else becomes. You read it in the words of the Subway Alumni and you hear it in Manti’s voice. You find your anchor, and you hold onto it.