All this rain that has swamped our green and pleasant land over the past two days has put me in the mind of plagues. A plague is a test sent by God to determine how committed we are in our faith – like parietals. Unlike parietals, which only bring good and prevent evil, many plagues can cause much suffering – like Michigan State. Since 1897, we have endured 75 plagues of Michigan State. We even initiated a trophy, like the Ancient Greeks, to dedicate our victories to divine assistance. This trophy is a megaphone, recalling the occasion after that first victory in 1897, when my successor Fr. Andrew Morrissey, CSC, was forced to take a megaphone from a cheerleader to tell the Michigan State players, “You cannot live in our barns and cowsheds – now leave!”
If we are to overcome another plague of Spartans (which, we must admit, has been a cause of great pain in the last 16 years) we should look to the Good Book and study how people of faith have surmounted these tests through the millennia.
How Michigan State is like a Biblical Plague
Water turning to Blood: Don’t worry, the Lakes are fine. The scourge with the water turning to blood was that it killed all the fish. The reek of the dead fish then pervaded the land sickening all the inhabitants. At this special time of year, on this beautiful campus, when the rains come and water the grass and trees – and turn the sidewalks into millraces and the football field into an Irish peat bog – you begin to detect in the air a je ne sais quoi…raunchy funk. I mean, this smell has hands. Some will tell you it’s some sort of corn fuel called ethanol. They are wrong. That is the plague of Michigan State and the odor of failure that clings to them like a soggy dog-hair blanket. To overcome the Spartan Stench, plug your nose with a dishtowel to both hands are free to clap; and cheer the Irish onward to victory.
Frogs: Now I love the color Kelly Green as much as the next Frenchman who founded a great Irish University (there is one of us and we are unanimous in this). And I don’t give much credence to reading the Bible and trying to interpret signs in any sort of literal way…except the Whore of Babylon which is obviously USC. But hordes of frogs overrunning the land – just look at the Michigan State uniforms, people! These are the insidious frogs! So find a student from Louisiana and get a tutorial on frog huntin’ – there is to be no use of those giant, sharpened salad forks, because that would be a violation of the Stadium Bag Policy. So use your hands and voices and stick it to these frogs!
Locusts: I don’t mean to suggest that the Spartans will come to town and eat us out of house and home. They bring their own offal, sorghum, and hay to feed their players. But locusts are murder on plants and vegetation of all varieties. Remember when Michigan State stabbed the hell out of our hallowed field with their accursed flag? A symbolic killing of all those beautiful blades of grass that have supported the Fighting Irish since Rockne’s time. And, quite frankly, I wouldn’t bat an eye if I saw a Spartan drop to all-fours and start grazing on the sidelines. Rather than surrender to these Lansing Locusts, let’s give them a reason for some frenzied nail-biting and carpet-chewing.
Hail: Hey, this is Northern Indiana in September. It could easily happen. It’s just our blighted weather, not Michigan State.
Boils, lice, flies: I’m not saying Michigan State folk are ritually unclean. But equally I’m not sure they understand the value of running water and indoor plumbing up there. So when you’re out tailgating, just avoid the Spartan camp followers. In that way, there will be no altercations, no fights, no arrests, and you’ll maintain you fresh clean skin and lustrous hair.
Death of the Firstborn: This most fearsome of plagues is only for us to fear figuratively. We don’t have any real firstborns to kill – thanks to parietals. But football is like our firstborn, our fair-haired, our most favored pastime, sport, and passion. You don’t have to paint the doorposts of your dorm rooms or tailgating trucks with blood. You might want to wear traveling clothes if it’s raining again tomorrow during the game. And if you eat bitter herbs and horseradish while tailgating, just wash it down with cheap beer (like I need to tell you to do that…). But above all, if we want to ward off the plague of death for our firstborn Fighting Irish, we must frighten away the smiting angel with loud and boisterous clapping, stomping, singing, and cheering (see cheap beer advice above). Only in this way will we come through the plague of Michigan State to the Promised Land of Victory.
And who knows – perhaps we might even serve these ancient enemies an actual cup of humiliation tomorrow. It will be a large, lurid, plastic vessel and emblazoned on its side will be the age old formula of their failure, the word of their ignominy:
Son, in 199 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard, incontrovertible facts: There is a God, and I'm pretty tight with Him.
Now I’m going to tell you a whole lot of things I’ve kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew me. I was along before your time, but you all know what a tradition I am at Notre Dame. And one of the most important things I ever said was, “Friends, sometime when my University is up against it and the breaks are beating the students, tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win at everything for Padre. I don’t know exactly where I’ll be then, friends,” I said, “but I’ll be looking right over your shoulder.”