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The doctor is in

Bob Kessler | Thursday, September 11, 2008

A friend recently told me: “Lou Holtz is my old man crush.” While I was surprised at the phrasing, I was not surprised that she loved Lou Holtz. If there is one person that Notre Dame (as well as St. Mary’s) students unanimously love it is Fr. Hesburgh, but if there is another person that we love, that person is certainly Lou Holtz. Holtz might even be more beloved on campus now then he was when he left, and since he is coming back this weekend to speak at the pep rally, accept his statue and be honored at the game, I wondered why students still love him all these years later.

“You wanna be happy for a day: Eat a Steak. You wanna be happy for three days: buy a car. You wanna be happy for a week: Go on a cruise. You wanna be happy for a year: Win the lottery. But if you want to be happy for the rest of your life: Win a championship for Notre Dame.” -LH

Not only does this season mark the 20th anniversary of Holtz’s championship (and embarrassingly our last), but it also marks the first year that students have entered this University having not been alive for said championship. The oldest students here were eleven years old when Holtz was forced out, I mean resigned, from coaching here, yet we love him just the same. Having been this young when Holtz left Notre Dame, we must love Lou for reasons other than our memories of his coaching. I believe that the students today love Lou not only because of his Notre Dame legacy, but also because of his work on ESPN.

“If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven’t done anything today.” -LH

When Holtz finally retired from coaching in 2004 he took a job working as a college football analyst for ESPN, and for the past several years he has worked on the College GameDay Final show with Rece Davis and Mark May. Working for ESPN, Lou Holtz has reinvented himself and created new legions of fans at Notre Dame. While we would have respected his legacy regardless, Lou has reached out to thousands of new fans by proclaiming his undying love for Notre Dame every Saturday night on ESPN. His work at ESPN is made even more compelling because of the man who sits next to him in the studio: a Mr. Mark May.

“There’s only one way you get respect, and that’s by looking somebody in the eye for sixty minutes.” -LH

If Lou Holtz is one of the men that Notre Dame Students love the most, Mr. May is one we collectively hate the most. For the past three years Mr. May has chastised Charlie Weis and the Notre Dame Football Team at every conceivable opportunity. Maybe this is because Coach Weis began his tenure here by crushing May’s alma mater Pittsburgh, or maybe this is because May is jealous that he was never granted the opportunity to attend our great University. Regardless, Mark May seemingly hates Notre Dame, forcing us to hate him.

The thing is: I actually like Mark May. Let this sink in for a moment.

At least, I like him insofar as he is the perfect complement for Lou Holtz on Saturday nights. Without May, Holtz probably wouldn’t be as popular amongst students as he was when he was coaching. May and Holtz make each other more interesting. Their banter regarding Notre Dame is not only highly entertaining for us to watch, but it also keeps Notre Dame relevant at the national level (as opposed to having relevance equal to Cal Poly). Holtz and May arguing about Notre Dame is one of the primary reasons that I watch their show. In fact, it’s a big reason why people watch any ESPN show.

Tony and Wilbon. Lee and Kirk. Jay and Woody. ESPN has become a forum for sportswriters’ arguments. The network loves to broadcast feuds, and we love to watch them. This adversarial nature brings a level of excitement to sports journalism that just does not appear in print. When we watch these shows, we want to jump into the argument and make our own case for the teams and athletes that we love.

That’s why we love Lou Holtz, because he stands up for Notre Dame against Mark May. No matter how bad things look, Holtz will always believe in Notre Dame as an institution, and he will always be rooting for our football team. What’s even better is that he does it in a way that makes us proud. He never yells back at Mr. May, he never gets sucked into the adversarial ESPN ethos; he will just laugh off Mr. May’s comments and move on.

“I can’t believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary.” -LH

Even though he has not worked here in years, Holtz is still an admirable representative for the university. We love him not only because he was our last championship coach, but also because no matter how poorly the administration treated him at the end of his tenure, he still loves and defends this university and our football team. We love him because he loves us. Then again, maybe we just love all of those great sound bytes.

Bob Kessler is a senior majoring in political science and economics. You can contact him at rkessler@nd.edu

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