Rooting for Notre Dame Despite the Naysayers

I jumped on the Notre Dame bandwagon because my brother-in-law is an alumnus and one of my sister's favorite movies is Rudy, based on the true story of a kid who was told he was too small to play football but ended up being carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates as a hero. That 1993 movie starring the excellent Sean Astin is symbolic of the season the Fighting Irish are having this year -- their schedule may be considered lightweight compared to some other nationally ranked colleges, their winning streak might be considered lucky, but the fact remains that they are still undefeated and an underdog contender for the national championship.

I can hear all the critics saying, "Wait a second! You can't put Notre Dame in the same league as some of the country's other football programs." It's an argument I've heard before about favoritism and unfair benefits "handed" to the Catholic university. All I know is that I wasn't much of a college football fan before, but they've certainly made it fun to watch and root for them this season. 

Without a valid playoff system, the national rankings are always wrought with controversy. If Notre Dame remains undefeated and plays in the championship game, I can understand some other teams feeling that the spot should have gone to them. Whatever the outcome, I think the Irish should hold their heads up high for a phenomenal run.

My own alma mater, Fordham University, hasn't had much to boast about in football since the sellouts at the Polo Grounds and the original Yankee Stadium and the days of Vince Lombardi and the "Seven Blocks of Granite" offense -- the Rams only appeared in two bowl games, losing the Cotton Bowl in 1940 to Texas A&M but winning the Sugar Bowl in 1941 against Missouri. (Did you know that Fordham's football team participated in the first televised American football game?  True story.) Anyway, those were long-gone glory days.  My university's team only plays in front of a 7,000-capacity crowd while Notre Dame plays in arenas seating tens of thousands of screaming fans, not to mention the millions who tune in to the games broadcast on national TV.

Notre Dame football stands for tradition and a legacy of old-school competitiveness. Just as Rudy Ruettiger rose above the odds and inspired others by his determined play, so too does this young team motivate me to cheer their unlikely race to the top.  I hear the sports critics badmouth Notre Dame, the only vociferous supporter on the air has been Mike Golic of ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike," but he has a bit of a bias being a graduate of Notre Dame with his two sons playing on the team.  Nevertheless, his arguments against the ND critics have been spot on. 

How can anyone not wish this team of gold-helmeted young student-athletes the very best as their journey takes them on what can only be compared to a Hollywood ending?

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