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Why Rick Reilly Was Wrong About Notre Dame Football

by Mike Trivella | University of Notre Dame

F Posted in: Sports and Culture, Voices P Posted on: August 24, 2012
Mike Trivella NEW Oct 2011 Mike Trivella

As much as any Notre Dame fan would loathe admitting it, we are quite a hollow sham of the football program we once used to be. Gone are the days when coaches like Knute, Ara and Lou paced the sidelines of the hallowed grass of Notre Dame Stadium. Gone are the legends of Joe Montana and the “Chicken Noodle Soup Game,” and perhaps more importantly, gone are the trophies. Under a cold, gray October sky there are only now myriad frustrated fans, waiting and wishing for the time when the fabled Four Horsemen return to wreak Conquest, War, Famine and Death on the other college football programs, and subsequently place ours back into the lofty throne on which it belongs.

Yes, the Christian apocalyptic imagery got pretty intense back there, but I hope you see my point. In a way only fans of the Cleveland Browns can ever understand, we fans of the Fighting Irish are caught in the unfortunate position of loving a team that has been mired in mediocrity for the last twenty or so years. This would be ok, because let’s face it, every sports team has its ups and downs, except for the fact that the Fighting Irish get a whole lot of special privileges denied to many other college football programs. Just to name a few, it doesn’t have to join a conference, it has a multimillion dollar TV deal with NBC, and to really piss outsiders off, it has its own seat on the NCAA Board of Commissioners that has the final say in college football.

As Rick Reilly pronounced so boldly in a recent article, the time has come to put an end to the nonsense of giving a team that hasn’t won more than nine games in a season since God knows when all the perks. Force them to join a conference, and make them act like the rest of us normal folk, is pretty much the gist of his argument. Even as a Domer I have to admit that Reilly on the face of it is right. At best we’re pretty good, and even then that is sometimes quite the reach. Maybe the time has come to give up our belief in our exceptionality and become just another member of the Big Ten, or Big East, or ACC, or whatever conference we want to throw our lot in with.

Yet I cannot on my good conscience so weakly give in to Mr. Reilly’s demands without defending my beloved school. So after I read that article I spent the next couple of days trying to figure out a calm and comprehensive rebuttal (sorry, Mike Golic) to the calls from the crowds to come down from our golden throne. Without further ado, here it goes.

The problem with Rick Reilly’s attack on Notre Dame is that the sole focus of his argument is college football. I don’t mean to say that he is blind to reality in any way, but rather that he is a sports writer and that’s what he gets paid to do. Yet the mark of a man is not to be found in simply one of his attributes but rather in his entire being. It can be said that Notre Dame football is the face of the university, but the face is merely an entrance into what life at this school is, not the be-all, end-all.

Sure, we may lose to Michigan (again) and be bitterly disappointed for some time, but in the end that’s not why I love this school. I love this school because when I’m here I know I am at one the best colleges in the country, and I thank my lucky stars everyday that my parents were able to provide me with such a great opportunity. I love this school because it is beautiful, and as a guy who is a sucker for landscapes, nothing makes my heart skip a beat more than seeing the Golden Dome rise like a beacon from golden fields of corn that gently bound the expanses of the Indiana Toll Road. I love this university because I know that when I graduate from it my new status as an alumnus will continue to guide and help me as I move on into the real world.

And yet those reasons are moot in comparison to the real reason why Notre Dame is truly exceptional, why it has an endowment the size of a state budget and has so much influence not just in the world of collegiate athletics but beyond. Like any truly great university, I can say with full honesty that the people I have met here are some the best people you can ever hope to meet, much better than I can ever hope to be. Smarts, faith, kindness and likeability all are important factors in this, but in the end the fact that the care about others to such an incredible extent trumps all the others. They care not only about their friends, but also genuinely about the state of the world around them, and whenever possible look for a way make that world but a teensy bit better. In the end, that makes all the difference.

So Mr. Reilly, I must confess that you are right. We’ve been far too mediocre for far too long to deserve much of what you know we have, and if there is to be justice in this world I would consider leaving those things behind. Give it to the likes of USC and Alabama, you say, for they are truly the ones who deserve the riches.

Well, you know what? They can have them, for the money that comes from college football is in the end nothing but fool’s gold. Those schools may be the ones that are great these days, but they are not truly great. They are simply great at football, and in the end, who seriously cares about the score of such and such a game on such and such a date unless you have not much else to live for. Getting a good education, getting a good job, being a good father, being a good friend and leading a good life will always make for a much richer life than being good at football.

At the University of Notre Dame, I find those kinds of riches in abundance. They may not make me famous, but in the end they make myself and everyone else who is blessed enough to be connected to this school in some way or another a better person than I would have had I chosen to go to any other school but here.

Mike Trivella Mike Trivella Mike Trivella is currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Majoring in Accounting and minoring in Philosophy, Mike splits his time between classes, working out with friends, balancing debits & credits, pondering the true essence of the universe, and as always watching the New York Football Giants.

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