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Football Commentary: Selective memory necessary for Irish success

Chris Hine | Friday, April 18, 2008

An essential part of becoming a man in today’s society is developing an effective selective memory. Every man has it and every woman complains about it.

For example, a guy sits down to watch his favorite TV show or some sporting event. His wife (or, in some cases, the girl whom he settled for) is in the other room barking at him. He knows she’s talking and that what she’s saying is very important to her. He doesn’t want to listen to her because what’s on TV is so captivating, but he doesn’t want to get caught ignoring her either.

So he pulls a trick on his significant other. Every now and then, he’ll chime in with a “Huh-uh,” “sure” or “OK,” but he never takes his eyes – or his attention – away from the TV. His selective memory has kicked in. He selected not to pay attention to his wife. He has no clue what his wife just said, though she thinks he memorized every word and will do everything she tells him.

Then, the next day, when his wife complains about the vacuum not being run, he responds with a casual, “Oh, I didn’t know you wanted me to do it.” His wife, now infuriated says, “Well, I told you yesterday, don’t you remember?” He just says, “Nope, sorry. I’ll do it now,” and then proceeds to perform a (likely mediocre) running of the vacuum cleaner.

Selective memory is a part of every marriage and a sitcom cliché, but it’s just what Notre Dame needs. Last season requires selective memory. It’s simply too painful to remember. But that doesn’t mean Notre Dame should forget everything about last season. The Irish should erase completely disasters like the 38-0 loss to Michigan from their memories. Nothing good can come from remembering what happened in that game. But they shouldn’t forget how they felt after that game was over – and should resolve to never have that feeling again.

The offensive line should put the nine sacks it allowed against Georgia Tech in the past, and remember how they began to improve toward the end of last year, when the Irish protected the quarterback better and began to develop a running game.

The defense needs to put the Navy and Air Force losses behind it, and focus on the potential it showed during the Boston College and Stanford games.

Developing a selective memory doesn’t mean forgetting everything that went wrong. After all, that’s how you get better as a team, improving on what went wrong. But you can’t let the memory haunt you, or it’ll affect you at the most inopportune time, like late in a close game.

As with any disaster, you have to be able put the worst of it behind you while still learning from the experience. For the Irish, they have to strike that fine line between learning from last season and being overwhelmed by last season. That’s where selective memory helps. It can separate the bad from the truly awful and enable them to move on and become better for having gone through such a bad experience.

Let’s face it, last season, a lot of people shut off Notre Dame games early. Husbands everywhere sat down to watch four hours worth of football, which meant they thought they had four hours to selectively listen to their wives. But nobody wants to sit through a blowout, so a lot of men were forced to turn off the games and lend an extra ear to their wives – almost as bad as going 3-9.

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

Contact Chris Hine at chine@nd.edu