Paul Crewe here. Annnnnddddd we'rrreeeeee back! One more time. One more go. The last hurrah of 2014. And this time... it doesn't matter. Yeah, yeah, bowl games are glorified exhibitions if you aren't playing for the big one. But they are the only exhibitions we'll travel extra far and pay extra much to go see. This is how I know college football is the greatest game ever invented. They've convinced their fans to pay top dollar for games that don't matter. And further convinced them that these games are important. It may be the greatest con in all of sports. Alas, here we are!
Fate would have it that we're up against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, a bunch of chaps who believe in predestination. Perhaps this is the way it always should have been. Historically, there's only six teams in college football who boast a .500 or better record vs. Notre Dame in at least five contests. With a victory, LSU could stamp their name as one of the three who have played Notre Dame more than 10 times and own a winning record against them (Michigan and Nebraska are the others). That's a worthless, albeit cool, piece of history.
Nashville, the home of the Grand Ole Opry, and, at times, Dolly Parton's breasts. John Adams, the war general, not the president, was from Nashville. And Miley Cyrus is. It's the home of Betty Paige and Bill Belichick. Reese Witherspoon grew up there and Al Gore spent some time there while attending Vanderbilt for Law School. A heaping helping of country music stars call it "home", ranging from Willie Nelson to Reba McEntire to Taylor Swift. But it doesn't limit itself in that way. The rapper Young Buck, the rock band the Black Keys and the pop star Kesha can all boast some ties to Nashville as well. Nashville is eclectic in that way.
It's the so called "Athens of the South", boasting 24 post-secondary institutions, and they even erected a full scale replica of the Athenian Parthenon, way back in 1897, to let you know about it. It's the Buckle of the Bible Belt, one that runs 700 churches deep.
I'd like to make fun of Nashville, but I can't really. It's a pretty swell place, right smack in the middle eastern portion of the States.
"Win Just One For the Gipper"
Chances are you are familiar with this phrase, and have at least heard it a time or two, perhaps in reference to Ronald Reagan. The phrase originates from a quote from George Gipp, a Notre Dame halfback from 1917-1920. Gipp came down with a streptococcal throat infection, which eventually felled him, just days after the final game of his senior season. He was just 25 years old. Head coach Knute Rocke came to visit Gipp in the hospital when Gipp delivered his, now famous, line:
"I've got to go, Rock. It's all right. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy."
Rockne would later use the phrase, and attribute it to Gipp, when Notre Dame bested undefeated Army in 1928.
Those were different times. Minor infections killed healthy young folks. Young athletes sacrificed portions of their careers to serve in not one, but two World Wars. Army and Notre Dame were relevant to the national college football landscape. The phrase lives on in Notre Dame lore, but I think it's time we revisit. Reboot it, if you will. If they can re-make Planet of the Apes, why can't I remake this classic phrase?
Let's Play History
Notre Dame hangs their hat on being one of the elite blue bloods in college football history. Ask a Domer, any Domer, and he/she will gladly soliloquize for you about the Four Horsemen, Knute Rockne, Johnny Lujack, and if you want to get really "modern" Joe Montana and Tim Brown. They'll tell you they are the greatest college football program in history, point to their all-time leading winning percentage, and their 11 claimed national titles. Realistically, there's no sense in denying their rich history.
The problem is, it's history. Notre Dame's last great season came in 1988-1989. If it seems a lifetime ago, that's because it is. Here's a look at the world in 1989 (I'll be generous):
This was a computer:
The Simpsons debuted in 1989. And they looked like this:
The Mirage opened in Las Vegas.
Mark Wahlberg was the head of the Funky Bunch.
Barack Obama was a Harvard Law Student.
Mark Zuckerberg was 6 and not a self-made billionaire.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Kneel. Before. Zod.
Keyth to the Game
Firth things firthz, if the No-or Dame Fightin' Iritthh want to win this football game, dey r gonna haff to mattssh the in-tense-eh-tee of the LSthU Tigers. Buh if I know one thing, I know that when backed into a corner, the Irish will come out fighting. This game will be determined in all three phases: offenth, defenth, and spethill teams. If the Irish passth the ball the way they did early in the year, and if they find a way to tackle, and if they kick the ball like they are capable of doing, this should be one heckuva competitive football game. Now, can they do those things? I don't know.
I jusss wanna sayth that I belief in du, uh, um ssspaciffic skiltthz. Now, herees the deal. Let me give a lil motivayshunull sttpeech to the Iritthh. Men, lithen to me. If you want to continthue the legathy started by the greath Knutthee Rockne, and continued by Lou Holths, then men, when you take that fielth later today, when you strapth on that chin strapth, buckle up those big boy panth, and get ready for a slobber knocker, and get ready for Leth Mileth. Leth Mileth is a great friend of mine and when I athed him about this game, now here's the deal, he told me that his playerth are as ready as theyfth ever been. Thereth a lot to like about thith LSthU team, but I just can't pick against those Notre Dame backupth. Fighting Iritthh win this one by sisthe and brinth home a title to Sthhouth Bend.
Play Like What Today?
That's more like it.
The Original Village People
This. Is. SPARTA.
"Give them nothing, but take from them everything."
Alright Notre Dame, if you think we're intimidated by your history, you're sadly mistaken. You see, the greatest mistake you made is in assuming you were underdogs in this battle. Oh no, this won't be 300 vs. 300,000, and this won't be some miraculous farcical tale of overcoming odds. We know you too well to think you'd ever understand the role of "underdog." Deep down we know you think you're superior, historically and currently. Deep down we know you think you wear the true gold. Deep down we can smell that air of superiority oozing off of you as you walk into the room. It's palpable. It's obvious. It's obnoxious.
Underdog, favorite, it's really no matter to us. This is business. Bowl games are simply ritualistic slayings disguised as exhibitions in our credo. We appreciate your compliance. Sorry about your head that we lopped off. I'm sure you can find another. Good luck in the perpetual rebuild, the one that's endured since 1988. We're all rooting for you to fail. Again. Just like you have. For the past 25 years. Today will mark more of the same.