Justin Tardiff | Monday, February 23, 2004
I have found the problem.Yes, I know the problems of our sporadic men’s basketball team have already been well documented by editors, experts, propagandists, pundits and all the talking heads you could ever ask for. Blame has been passed around like the team like the residents of Cavanaugh (I kid, I kid…). Chris Thomas is a favorite target, but on the plus side, at least no one keys his Hummer. Perhaps Mike Brey is to blame for not reinforcing a porous defense or not developing an offense that exists inside of 25 feet from the basket. Maybe I could try the more simplistic/insensitive approach of Gary Barnett and just write the team off as just “terrible. There’s no other way to say it.” No, the problem is at a much higher level than all of these. Much higher. About one hundred feet higher. I didn’t realize the problem until I pinched a nerve in my neck trying to see the top of a random blow-up Godzilla at the JPW Gala. I was pointing out to my junior parent-father the banners that hang from the ceiling above the basketball court. Big East championships were listed proudly in gold. The women’s basketball 2001 national championship was among the most prominent. Even the men’s appearance in the 1978 basketball Final Four was notable. These are all good and well. But as we moved down the line, the banners became less and less noteworthy. “Sweet 16 Appearances” were followed by “NCAA Tournament” berths. While I agree that it is an achievement to make the NCAA Tournament, I defy anyone to find a banner that lists NCAA Basketball Tournament appearances at the likes of Kansas, Michigan State, UNC or Duke. There isn’t enough room on Dick Vitale’s forehead for all those banners. Meanwhile, our team has decided to celebrate mediocrity. And why not? Those banners take up space and gives the alumni that warm, “I’d like to donate” feeling. I’ll tell you why not. Would our football team list years of any and all bowl game appearances under the Play Like a Champion Today sign? Well, even if the Toilet Bowl is all we can hope for the current team, the answer is still a resounding “no.” The Notre Dame football team measures itself by championships (or so I’m told). If Mike Brey is so intent on establishing Notre Dame basketball as a consistent national power, his first move should be to gut the Joyce of those status-quo banners. The Final Four is banner worthy. And until we get there again, I don’t want to see anything hanging from the rafters unless it’s a noose around that stupid blow-up Godzilla.