The following is a guest post submitted by Fr. Sorin’s Ramblers who can be followed on Twitter @golddomersdulac.
“Someone once told me time is a flat circle. That everything we’ve ever done, or will do, will be done over and over again.” Matthew McConaughey’s True Detective character Rustin Cohle states as he sits in an interrogation room, between drags of his cigarette, beer cans littering the table. It’s a gritty scene, one that feels appropriately analogous for a season that sees an undefeated Irish team sitting in the number three position in the current AP Top 25 list.
Notre Dame is back…relevant again…woken up the echoes. They find themselves, once again, positioned to make a run for a coveted playoff spot. On every day of the week you can find articles talking about strength of schedule, scouting reports, probabilities of winning five consecutive games to close the season. You can, and will, read about the historical importance of upcoming games—Navy, Florida State, and Southern California.
You’ll read articles, and maybe even join in on an online forum to add your perspective, about the myriad of ways the season could end for the Irish: what needs to happen across the college football landscape for a one-loss Notre Dame team to still make the playoffs? Will the Irish be able to find any success against Alabama in a hypothetical College Football Playoff Championship Game? Do we need to fire Brian Kelly if we lose any of the next five games? Is it time for Notre Dame football to join a conference when all other Irish teams belong to the Atlantic Coast Conference (or, as is the case for Fighting Irish hockey, the Big Ten Conference)?
The last question is one of a few repeated topics that Sports Illustrated covered in an article titled “Can the ‘Notre Dame Way’ Take the Irish All the Way?” (Laken Litman, October 23, 2018). Reminiscent of another article Sports Illustrated published, “Modern Irish,” (Tim Layden—November 26, 2012). “Can the ‘Notre Dame Way’ Take the Irish All the Way” not only addresses the question of joining a conference, but also addresses the same scandals that are repeatedly discussed and have plagued the Fighting Irish under Brian Kelly: the tragedies of Lizzy Seeberg and Declan Sullivan, as well as the “Frozen Five, the student-trainers academic scandal that resulted in the NCAA ordering the wins from the 2012 and 2013 seasons vacated.
As fans of Notre Dame football, casual or diehard, these stories are not new. I question using the benchmark of Notre Dame’s success on the football field as the catalyst for hashing and rehashing these tragic stories, to make them front-and-center. Doing so arguably diminishes the seriousness of these events, and, while they do have ties to the football program, the inherent news-worthiness of these stories should merit their own pedestals and spotlights. They should not be used as a prop— dusted off, and brought to light only as a convenient tool to bludgeon the team, and University, with when on the brink of success on the national stage. Nothing happens in a vacuum, context certainly matters, and the football program should not be shielded from all things non-football related. But there is a time and place for everything, and there definitely are better times for discussing the sins and tragedies of Notre Dame’s past, even within the context of football. Doing otherwise is simply a disservice to not only the stories’ subjects, but also the complex societal issues that arise from these stories.
Unfortunately, it does not appear to be that anything will change this narrative from being used every time the Irish are positioned to close in on the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy, and it remains to be seen whether or not Brian Kelly as head coach plays a factor in the narrative being used.
Time, and Notre Dame football it seems, are flat circles, indeed. As long as the Fighting Irish continue to win, and move closer to the College Football Playoffs we can presumably expect more pieces outlining the pitfalls and shortcomings that have occurred under the Golden Dome under Brian Kelly’s tutelage.