I took my daughter to see Inside Out yesterday, and when we walked outside, it was drizzling, and as we drove home, the drizzle turned to rain, and as we drove further, to a downpour. Rain always makes me nostalgic and I thought it fitting, for Inside Out is very much a movie about memory. Which got me thinking about Notre Dame, inarguably the most memory-focused of the FBS schools.
The Victory March doesn’t get out of the first verse before we’re promising to “ne’er forget her.” A couple of lines later, and she’s “Old” Notre Dame and we’re “wak[-ing] up the echoes.” The case can be made that if the school’s official colors are Pantone 289 and 117, Notre Dame blue and gold, respectively, the unofficial colors are Pathé black and white.
History is impossible to escape, even for a program three seasons after “returning” to relevance. For Coach Kelly, history is a Spanx bodysuit from which he is never free. At times, it shapes and supports him. At others, it’s wedged up his ass.
It’s easy to compare Jaylon Smith and Manti Te’o; Brian Kelly and Charlie Weis. But that doesn’t stop us, the Irish, from comparing Brian Kelly to Frank Leahy, who coached when MacArthur was retreating from the Philippines and there were only forty-eight states. Knute Rockne, who bestrides everything like a collossus, coached his first season as the Guns of August finally fell silent. I dreamed I saw Knute Rockne last night, alive as you and me. Says I to Knute “you’re eight-four years dead.” “I never died,” says he. “I never died,” says he.
So Notre Dame is made of memories. When you go for a game, as an alum, subway or otherwise, at some point, you’re experience is no longer yours. At least, it’s no longer happening of your own volition. There are places at which you must be at an exact time. The start of the game itself is almost malleable in your mind. But not the trumpets under the Dome. Not the band step off. Not the steak sandwich.
We all have favorite memories and precious moments. Catholics versus Convicts. The Golden Boy. The Game of the Century. The Snow Bowl. When you walk through the lots, between the cars and the goofy flags and banners, a pan of brats warming in beer suddenly become as proustian madelaines. To me, it’s 1993 again. To that other guy, it’s 1953 again.
Our top ten or thirty or forty moments are personal, even though we may agree on the broad strokes. We see teams through our own eyes and the lenses of our own experiences. Everett Golson and Malik Zaire are, to me, easy avatars of Kevin McDougal. I fear we may miss the presence of an Oscar McBride this season. Dayne Crist was no Brady Quinn who was no Joe Montana. Somewhere, someone among the gold seats is pining away for Creighton Miller.
The coming season, now less than seventy-five days away, is the next chance to make new memories. Which ones will fall into the memory dump to make room? Will core memories be made? Will there be a Rocket run? Or a Phantom Whistle?
Whether we do don’t, at least we get to make them. The lucky of us will get to hold onto them.