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Putting the band back together

Bob Masters | Thursday, March 31, 2005

Something is in the air in South Bend and it’s not just a crisp Midwestern March breeze. The atmosphere around us is thick with a tangible emotion, not cloud cover. As the calendar informs us, we’ve entered the heart of springtime.

But this year in the ‘Bend it’s as much a poetic experience, with all its stereotypes of renewal and regeneration, as a literal meteorological season.

Weather and date aside, I believe there has been a spring-like renaissance at Notre Dame, one in the hearts of its loyal sons and daughters rather than its grass and trees or rain showers and May flowers.

It began subtly, with only a seemingly rabid few admitting to a born-again feeling. My brother is one such renewed devotee and has since become almost an Evangelical, witnessing his once-again inspired faith to anyone who will listen.

But what was once a small kindling burning in the spirit of a small number has turned into a great fire of revitalization. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that our long-suffering campus has the feeling of a tent-revival meeting lately.

Where were you when you found yourself starting to believe again? Was it in your dorm’s social lounge, packed to the gills with 180 of your friends? Did you skip a class only to discover your faith had been charged like a cell phone battery by an afternoon lecture in DeBartolo? Maybe, like me, your too-long dormant belief was rediscovered in the basement of the Knights of Columbus building.

As always in matters of belief, the where is less important than the when. And the who.

This newly tapped flowing well-spring of convictions would make Billy Graham blush. Everywhere one looks new believers are being born and old ones are coming back into the fold.

Even those few who were angry – those formerly faithful voices who found more comfort in complaint than community – seem to have silently given their consent to the movement, rejoining their fellow believers as one body of devotion.

Our very campus landscape seems to be feeling the same regenerative energies as the students, faculty, staff and alumni that traverse it. New buildings are going up, from Hammes Mowbray to Jordan to Guglielmino, and new plans are being drawn as fast as can be imagined for as yet more additions to our architectural family.

Indeed, the great and famous symbol of our University, the Golden Dome itself, is undergoing a make-over and when the necessary improvements are made, Our Lady will shine brighter than ever before.

In short, Spring 2005 has been a semester of regeneration, the likes of which I cannot recall over the past eight years. All of this renewal, I believe, is the result of a new shepherd tending to his flock. In fact, this entire rebirth was set in motion in mid-December.

In the deepest dark of winter, brave men made a commitment to renewal, a pledge to renaissance – a return to Notre Dame.

For President-Elect Father John Jenkins so loved the University that he gave to them Charlie Weis.

Like a man on a mission of destiny, our new coach has set about on a task of conversion. Without a doubt, he has met with fabulous success.

From dorm lounges and lecture halls to the Knights of Columbus building, Coach Weis has made it a point to wake up the echoes that once roared in South Bend. I believe in these echoes, these ghosts.

When I was a child I could not imagine that the Irish could ever lose a football game. We were Notre Dame and what though the odds, we’d win over all. But during eight years of lowered expectations, my boyish faith underwent a crisis of diminishment. Whither had fled the stuff of dreams, the stuff of Holtz and Mirer, Rocket and Brown?

After a long exile, we’ve found a leader who, like many of us, wears his Irish heart on his sleeve. There’s been talk of national championships, talk of dismantling the mighty Trojans of USC.

After eight long seasons of expecting the least, this renewed faith in the magic in the sound of our name is enough to make a man come back to the light.

Lou Holtz used to talk about believing in the spirit of Notre Dame. After nearly a decade in the desert, the spirit’s coming back.

We born-agains are not delusional. We know the kind of recommitment required in putting the fight back in the Irish will take time. But as Spring Football begins this week, it feels good to believe in the blue and gold again.

Like the inspired mission of Jack and Elwood Blues in The Blues Brothers failure is not an option.

We’re putting the band back together. We’re on a mission from Weis.

Bob Masters is a senior English major. He can be contacted at amasters@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.