Return of the Irish
Here's a piece I wrote late last night if anybody is interested. It was around 2 AM, so overlook any grammatical miscues:
The university of Notre Dame, by virtue of a 22-10 victory over rival USC, have finished their regular season at 12-0, and clinched a spot in the BCS National Championship game with a chance to win their 12th recognized Championship. The Fighting Irish haven't won it all since 1988 under Lou Holtz, and haven't been in the title picture this late in the season since 1993, also under Holtz. One of the more recognizable teams in all of sports, the Irish have spent the better part of the past two decades dwelling in realm of mediocrity and have found themselves, more often than not, playing in either lower tier Bowl games, or not playing in a Bowl game at all. They had been all but dismissed as irrelevant in the national title race by most of the college football world, though they retained their cache. Now, after a Saturday night in southern California, they are certainly relevant again.
It's common knowledge that football is currently king in the American sports world. The NFL dominates the sporting landscape on Sundays, along with Monday and Thursday nights. However, on Saturdays, it's college football that steals the show. The professional version has the stars, the personalities, and the elite talents that make it a great show, and the standard in the sports world, but college sports brings an emotion and a history that make it a spectacle in its own right. Over 100,000 rabid fans showed up in Columbus, Ohio to watch the Buckeyes battle hated Michigan to complete an undefeated season of their own. Athens, Georgia hosted 90,000 souls to see Georgia vs Georgia Tech. This was repeated several times Saturday afternoon, as rivals collided at several locations. Fans pour into college games to not only watch and support their favorite team, but to watch and jeer their most hated opponents. Dislike often attracts just as many viewers as love, which leads to a point.
In every sport, there is a team that isn't just hated regionally, like the aforementioned Michigan and Ohio State rivalry, but nationally. The New York Yankees in Major League Baseball have legions of fans, but just as many people who tune in just to see them fail. The Los Angeles Lakers, Duke Blue Devils, and Dallas Cowboys all face the duality of a nationwide fanbase, while being nationally reviled at the same time. Like a good movie, the hero can't look great without a great foil. Who is Batman without the Joker, Luke Skywalker with no Darth Vader, or Frodo Baggins if Sauron didn't exist? A championship for the Kentucky Wildcats is made just a bit sweeter because that means fans got to watch Duke lose. This is where Notre Dame comes in. College football has a magnificent history of great rivalries, which evoke great emotional responses on both sides, but it has been missing it's own evil empire, a lightning rod for the nation's need to hate somebody. The Irish have been a disliked team, but their lack of elite status has mitigated their ability to draw true ire. That's no longer the case.
With their return to power, the golden domers can revel in their place as America's most despised team once again. If Alabama beats them to win the BCS championship this January, they will celebrate that they are the nation's best team, but will be doubly thrilled by beating Notre Dame to earn it.The Irish being an elite team again is great for college football for just that reason. Fans want somebody to hate, and a team that is fawned upon by the media, and shown on TV every week, all while being independent and operating under different rules fits the bill. Beating that team, or at least seeing them lose will be a source of pride for a large segment of the population, while the fans of the Fighting Irish will take the same amount of pride in fending off those who come after them.
Notre Dame will play for the BCS Championship in a little more than a month. Millions will watch, some to root for the Fighting Irish, some to root for their opponent, and yes, some just to root for the villain to fall. As for me, I will watch because I love football, and want to see a great game. I do hate Notre Dame, and will be satisfied if they lose. However, I will be quite happy if they win as well. A win for the Irish is a win for college football in general. It needs a bad guy, and a win for the bad guy makes it all the more sweet when the good guy eventually wins. A year of listening to Notre Dame fans talking about their trophy will have fans ready to shut them up in 2013, and it will be a year-long story, and as everybody knows, nothing beats a good story. With that said: Go Irish???
Twitter @vancemeek "I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn't be our style. Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory...lasts forever."-Shane Falco