In New Orleans, the arrival of a season is generally marked by the appearance of a new menu item. Crab, shrimp, oyster and crawfish are our seasons. Mardi Gras is another of our seasons, but its beginning and end are set by the moon. For the Notre Dame football fan, the arrival of the South Bend Tribune’s ND Insider Notre Dame Football Preview is a $9.95, hundred-ish page, glossy reminder that a new season has begun. Football is coming.
Reviewing the magazine, and its $4.99 digital sister, available on iTunes and Google Play, is an annual passage for us here at HerLoyalSons. This year, we’ve added to our coverage with a podcast appearance by Tyler James, one of the magazine’s contributing authors. Tyler was also gracious enough to talk to me about the magazine. Suffice it to say, we’re fans of the Preview.
“We start writing with Spring football,” Tyler told me in a telephone interview I conducted on Tuesday, “do the player pieces [first] and then the bigger features with Notre Dame’s help [and] get done in mid-June.” Those “bigger features, and there are seven in the 2017 Preview, put the reader up close and personal with players and coaches. Tyler’s feature Re-Catching a Wave “just grew on its own” as Tyler put his recruiting-focused lens on Brian Polian and Notre Dame’s pipeline to Hawai’i. The magazine’s feature feature, the cover story Getting Down to Business by Eric Hansen, is a fantastic deep-dive into the mind and magic of Brandon Wimbush. If there is a criticism to be made, it’s that Hansen didn’t draw any attention to the fact that Wimbush’s godfather is named James Brown. I’m not saying Hansen’s article lacked soul, but if Wimbush is in fact the hardest working man in the college football business, a pun or two should have been attempted. It’s worth noting, though, that Hansen is a professional journalist.
Eric and Al Lesar, sadly in his last effort for the Preview, offer some excellent coverage of the most-scrutinized coach in the hottest seat in the college football business, our very own Brian Kelly. Gaining Grit gives you Lesar’s take on Coach’s focus (the future) and his mantra (grit). Back to School is Hansen’s “day-in-the-life-of” piece on Coach Kelly. The day he got was June 19 and you’ll follow along as the lads are put through their training paces in a new atmosphere of measurable and heightened accountability. When Beth Rex clocks out at 5:30, Hansen’s pen lets you hang around as Kelly and his staff continue to deal with extraordinary challenges.
Cool story about Al Lesar and Tyler James, and one which make’s Al’s retirement just a bit poignant: he and Tyler met in the press-box while they were covering DePauw and Wabash. Tyler is a 2011 DePauw graduate and he’s clearly going to miss having Al around.
My favorite part of the magazine is the Season Forecast. No change this year. Tom Noie, Tyler, and Eric Hansen all predict a 9-3 season for The Irish. Mike Vorel, in his second year with the Tribune, clearly hates Notre Dame, as he has them going 8-4. He joins the herd in his pick of North Carolina as ND’s trap game. Which the ACC officials will probably force ND to play amid the fallout of a North Korean ICBM strike. Tyler James, though, sees a different vomit-maker: Boston College. “BC is always boring,” he told me. As a senior in 1993, I’ll disagree that BC is always boring, but ND has a way of losing boring games and now I’m super nervous for BC and NC. Dammit.
The Preview is a huge resource to keep handy throughout the season. Position analyses, recruiting coverage, the roster, scholarship availability broken down by position, and pretty neat freshman profiles will keep you coming back to the magazine again and again. The digital version offers up videos to scratch that itch. As a senior in 1993, I was bemused to see the freshmen identify their “most used emoji” and gobsmacked to see that CJ Holmes’ favorite band is Backstreet Boys. Alright!
I always find the Preview to be a good value. At under ten bucks on racks and stands throughout the South Bend metroplex, free for ND Insider subscribers, and just $12.95 by good old fashioned mail, order it here, the Preview is a solid and slick publication that can do some time as an ad hoc coaster and still survive the season, even if your heart can’t take another pass play in that gosh darn weather.