By Clay Horning
NORMAN — Notre Dame is a wonderful school, a fantastic institution and a slice of American history that simply can’t be denied, just ask Regis Philbin.
But even taking Regis at his word, it is forever easier to be repulsed than charmed by the Golden Domers, even for a Bishop McGuiness grad like me.
I mean, really, it’s Notre Dame.
It’s not personal (well, it’s not necessarily personal), but there are many reasons to be sideways with the Fighting Irish. If you need any, here’s a top-10 list.
10. Digger Phelps.
Digger coached Irish basketball for 20 seasons and if he’d stopped there everything would have been fine, because who didn’t like watching the Irish on WGN back in the day. I still think Rich Branning’s an underrated college point guard. Lots of talent around him, but the guy could play. Unfortunately, Digger can’t do analysis. I listen and listen to the guy and when he’s done talking I have no idea what he’s said. He’s worse than Adam Schefter. And, he’s a big fan of Bob Knight.
9. The Irish women.
As in women’s basketball. Twice the Irish have ended coach Sherri Coale’s Sooner women’s season, two years ago in Dayton to keep the Sooners out of the Elite Eight, and in overtime, in 2008, to keep OU out of the Sweet 16. And even if Skylar Diggins is an All-American (she happens to be on my preseason list), why does she get to be the crossover star of the women’s game. What’s wrong with Whitney Hand?
8. Coffee mugs.
Admittedly, this one is personal. As a freshman at McGuinness (a long, long time ago) somebody was having a fundraiser and the product being sold was coffee mugs. You could buy an OU mug, an OSU mug … or a Notre Dame mug. A Notre Dame mug? In the middle of Oklahoma City? It did not compute. Still doesn’t. But it is what it is. Not that it’s all right.
7. The NBC contract.
Since 1991, only Notre Dame has had its own personal television football contract. Ever since, every Irish home game has been broadcast on NBC. It’s not all bad of course, because for the last several years, a national audience has been able to watch Notre Dame lose many games. A personal favorite? Tulsa’s 28-27 victory two years ago. As long as the Irish remain independent, it will be so. Good for them, yet they wonder why people despise them.
6. Say what? Is it “Noter Dame” or “Notra Dame.” (And while we’re at it, can we get Brett Favre explained?) Does it depend what I’m drinking? Wine for “Notra” and beer for “Noter.” What if it’s Guinness? Just saying.
Not the one you’re thinking about, but it was Notre Dame — Digger Phelps strikes again — that ended John Wooden and UCLA’s 88-game winning streak on Jan. 19, 1974. Can’t another institution get in on the ending of fantastic collegiate winning streaks?
4. Lou Holtz.
Bad enough, for Sooner fans, that Holtz somehow got his Arkansas Razorbacks to beat heavily-favored Oklahoma at the 1978 Orange Bowl (even convincingly, 31-6), robbing Barry Switzer and the Sooners of three national championships in five seasons. Worse, Holtz’s 1988 national championship at Notre Dame gave him mileage enough to reign on ESPN for what seems like forever. He’s entertaining sure, but he has no idea what he’s talking about.
Take your pick:
“Win one for the Gipper.”
“The Four Horsemen.”
We have no idea if George Gipp ever really said to Knute Rockne what Ronald Reagan, playing Gipp, said to Pat O’Brien, playing Rockne, in “Knute Rockne All American,” yet we’ve had to hear it our entire lives.
And while Grantland Rice may have invented sportswriting, his famous “Four Horsemen” lead — “Outlined against a blue-gray sky, the Four Horseman rode again” — from the 1924 Army-Notre Dame game is a bit of a farce. Rice was in the press box looking down at the game.
Finally, could “Rudy” have happened anywhere else? Well, sure, but only at Notre Dame is it worth a movie.
Somehow, the Fighting Irish have been to college football what Disney has been to fantasy. You can love it, or you can want to throw up.
2. Being Notre Dame
Part of this is wrapped in No. 3, but how did a school in South Bend, Ind., with no more than 12,000 undergraduates come to rule the world?
It is a small Catholic university. They grow on trees in this country. But Notre Dame is special. So horribly special.
1. Hello, the Irish ended Oklahoma’s 47-game-winning streak. Worse, they were the only program to beat OU over a run of 71 games from 1951 to 1958 and they did it three times.
See you at the game.
Clay Horning writes for the Norman Transcript.