Fighting Back

A reader proposes a Dick Morris Award nomination:

I know that you are not much for talking about sports on the Dish, but an August 16 article by Rick Reilly, "Demoting Notre Dame," deserves a mention like no other this year. When I moved here from Ireland I figured that I should get into American sports and the obvious choice was Notre Dame. The last few years have been pretty grim with some horrible losses against poor teams and the Fighting Irish were generally written off. Reilly's piece was the most potent put-down of all:

If I told you about a team that had lost 10 of its last 12 bowl games, had dropped nine of its last 10 to USC, had led the nation only in disappointment, you'd figure that team would be halfway down the Mountain West standings. But Notre Dame still gets perks and love from the NCAA and BCS as though the year is 1946. Brian Kelly confers with one of his QB candidates, Everett Golson. I'm declaring an end to all that. In Europe, if you play too much bad soccer for too many years, you get "relegated" to a lower division, moved down, demoted. It just happened to the Blackburn Rovers. It needs to happen to Notre Dame football.

But how wrong can any one person be: an undefeated season, going to the national championship game and ranked number 1 in the nation. It has been an amazing ride and there is a definite sense of schadenfreude rereading articles such as Reilly's.

Update from a reader:

Your Notre Dame fan reader is getting a little ahead of himself.  

First, Notre Dame hasn't actually won anything yet, not even a conference championship since the school still fancies itself as some special-case above conference membership.  Second, Rick Reilly didn't actually say that Notre Dame wouldn't be relevant this year.  He says that IF they aren't relevant, they need to be relegated.  

Actual relegation is silly, but the situation in front of us is that Notre Dame has been relegated in all but the practical sense.  A whole generation of football fans looks quizzically at the phenomenon that is the perennial slurping of Notre Dame by fans, alums, and the media and probably wonders what the hell it's all about.  Before this year, they had not been practically relevant since the early '90s.  The closest thing they had to relevance was when a blowhard NFL offensive coordinator took over as coach and couldn't dig the program from the hole that it had made. 

The closest thing that Reilly said that's worthy of a Dick Morris Award is the comment about Notre Dame not being football royalty anymore, and in an era where Urban Meyer has won two championships in three years at Florida and Nick Saban did the same at Alabama (and could be competing for a third very soon), climbing back to #1 without actually having won anything yet does not put the crown back on your head.  

Which brings us to this year.  Notre Dame has played a decently hard schedule, but the team has hardly arrived at their perfect record by dominating its competition. Highlights include needing three overtimes to dispatch an unranked Pitt team and beating their rival USC when they were starting a freshman QB in his first game as a starter.  Not to mention that if they face Alabama in the title game, they'll probably be a considerable underdog.  As of a couple of weeks ago, Alabama was listed as a nine-point favorite over Notre Dame in a hypothetical matchup.  

If Notre Dame manages to repeat the kind of performance they had this year in the near future, then we can talk about them being football royalty again.  Otherwise, let's take it down a notch.