Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I'm Saying A Little Prayer For Us

I like to consider myself a realist in all aspects of life, but pride myself on staying grounded as a sports fan. Some people would shade me more towards the “pessimistic” or “bitter” side, but it’s not my fault life generally tends to suck, especially when your rooting interests through adolescence were entrenched with the Miami Dolphins and Penn State Nittany Lions, then you latched onto the Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Braves, adding more playoff failures to the table.

So excuse me while I go hang out with the optimists for a post and make a little wish. I mean not to jinx the Irish or show any lack of respect to the proud universities of Michigan State, Washington and Purdue. It’s very possible Drew Stanton throws for 500 yards this weekend, and Purdue beat us by 25 points at home last year, so you know it isn’t to be easy in West Lafayette. We didn’t look dominant or unbeatable in the Big House; Chad Henne just managed to outsuck Brady Quinn down the stretch.

But let’s just say Notre Dame does manage to run it’s record to 5-0, and that USC doesn’t fall to Arizona State or Oregon on the road, both of which are possible. That’ll put the Irish and Trojans at a combined 11-0, and place a bright, glowing circle around October 15th on the sports world’s calendar.

It’ll be one of those beautiful Midwest weekends that make this place bearable to live in. The sun will be sparkling off the regilded dome, balancing out the traces of cold sneaking through the air, chilling you just to the point that you know it’s football season in South Bend, Indiana.

It would be like that on all the days leading up to the weekend, the winds whipping across the Indiana plains, scattering the newly turned Southern Cal-shaded leaves across campus, splashing cardinal and gold across the quads. The winds would also begin to blow in so much more. Alumni. Wannabe-Domers. Casual fans. National media. The whispers of “Fowler, Corso and Herbstreit” would join the echoes, a combined choir of football past and football present, a return to the hallowed pigskin grounds where the whole on-location Gameday thing started in the first place.

I don’t necessarily want the win, although I would of course pay dearly to have it. I just want that two week leading up to the game where the pundits’ position would sway back and forth. Hollywood or heartland? Red carpet or rural campus? Ferrell or Philbin? Traveler or Touchdown Jesus? At first, they’d all be firmly on the side of the champs, pointing out three straight 31-point victories and the Bush/Leinart ticket would make an upset most tough.

But we’d start to change their mind, as word got out how rigorous and focused the Irish were in practice, or that Coach Weis was pulling a Belichick, disappearing into the Gug for days at a time, devising a gameplan to keep the two-time champion’s offense off the field. The first upset prediction would be proclaimed, followed by others slowly joining, although those still on the Trojan side of the camp would confidently spit back, pointing out people are only predicting a Notre Dame victory because they had too much time to think about it.

I want to go out on the Thursday night before the game and find half the campus partying with me, realizing no work could possibly be done the day before the Trojans came marching in. The following morning, Old Man Winter, Dill and Shane would all be rolling in, along with tens of thousands of ND’s closest friends. By Friday night, all hell would have broken lose. Screw the calm before the storm; bring on the storm, and a thunderous one at that.

I want to scream my head off at Gameday, attempt to recoup some of my voice, then get to the Stadium obscenely early, only to find I’m late for the party, as Our Lady’s faithful are already beginning to produce quite the din. The House That Rockne Built would be buzzing, and after the band started playing the Victory March for the first time, fourteen days of pent-up excitement would begin to explode with the loudest “Cheer, cheer” in quite some time…

And that’s all I want. I know it’s asking a lot, and I know it’s borderline fantastical, but I want that weekend. I want the entire country tuned into NBC, regardless of how crappy the coverage is, with an anticipation that makes Texas/Ohio State look like The Citadel vs. Florida State. I apologize for letting my inner, giddy child out, but it feels way too good to dream.

Maybe if the Irish eyes can keep smiling and Charlie can keep conducting the X’s and O’s like a master maestro, the undefeated dream might become a reality. Maybe light an extra candle or two and we'll get a prayer answered.

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