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Love thee ‘Noder Dame’

Andrew Nesi | Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When I was in Boston the other weekend, my cab driver kept correcting my pronunciation of my alma mater.

“We’re going to the Boston College-Noder Dame football game,”I explained.

“Noder Dame … pfffff … .”He joined his thumb and index finger on his right hand and shook it. “Knowtre Dahm.”

I laughed to be polite. “Yeah, but we’re from Indiana, so we’re allowed to say Noder Dame.”

“You go there?”he asked, knowing full well that the answer had to be yes.

“You go there and you still say ‘Noder Dame?’ What are you? Stupid?”

My always-supportive first cousin chimed in from the seat next to me.

“Oui, monsieur.”

“Eh out … It’s Knowtre Dahm – don’t give me this ‘Noder Dame.'”He took his hand off the steering wheel to form mock quotation marks.

“Knowtre Daahhhhhhmmm,”he said – this louder and more drawn out, as if I were a foreigner in Paris who only needed my cab driver’s patience to help me pick up the local language.

I shorted him on the tip when we reached the stadium.

Of course, in the end, he may have been right, seeing as we played like we were French.

Sure makes the near-collapse against a military academy this Saturday seem appropriate, eh?

Watching TV and reading online, you’d think that Charlie has lost more popularity than Dubya over the past two years. Apparently somewhere – probably in the lakefront suburbs of Chicago or the forums of ND Nation – a nebulous mob of alumni is foaming at their collective mouth.

Last week, “Weis”and “hot seat”were frequent bedfellows. “Weis Saves Job, at Least for a Moment,”read one headline this Sunday, as if another completed bomb would have immediately decimated Paris. During the game, Steve Beuerlein asked a rambling question about the state of the program to Jack Swarbrick, who did himself no favors by expounding at length about the state of the women’s soccer team.

It’s a wonder I haven’t seen the pithy-if cheesy-likes of “Why Irish Eyes Aren’t Smiling”and “Yuck of the Irish.”

But two years ago, that foaming mouth was salivating. Heck, two months ago, that mouth was salivating. And that’s why the calls for Charlie’s head are absurd and, more importantly, embarrassing.

It’s not just that people are bailing on Charlie Weis now. It’s how quickly they leapt onto the bandwagon and how quickly they’re leaping off. People outside Notre Dame will use Charlie’s contract extension as evidence, and appropriately so. But it’s more fundamental than that.

Four years ago, the third quarter ended and the hero worship began in the student section as the 1812 Overture played. Everybody formed their W’s and chanted Weis (except for the confused alumni at the USC game, of course, who actually believed we would follow Rudy Ruddeger’s suggestion and chant “Charlie.”) Now, it’s not unusual to hear a few Lou’s in there, from kids who are cooler than me. Others sit. Most still chant – but its not the same. Our hero has been impugned.

Five games into the season, we’re excited about impending BCS championships, eight games in, we want to overhaul the whole machine. 2005, we’re well on the way to a Charlie Weis dynasty; 2008, we’re well on our way to a Jon Gruden …or Brian Kelly … or, yes, Skip Holtz dynasty. Maybe George O’Leary is available?

The way we swing, you’d think Al Davis was a prominent alum.

It’s not that we should still worship Charlie. It’s that we never should have. But now, we’re only compounding our mistake by flipping on him so quickly. Temperance is still a virtue, even at an Irish school.

And measuring it temperately – weighing the whole of this year versus the whole of last year – the discussion about Charlie seems silly. We are trending up. The women’s soccer emphasis aside, Jack Swarbrick is right. Last week, he told a reporter, “I would tell them I am very pleased with the progress we have made this year and that we are moving in the right direction, that we’re going to be even better next year, and that I would hope they would move forward with us.”

Anybody can recognize how different this team is than last year’s. How much more promise we have. Our freshman and sophomores take the field and play with other schools’ juniors and seniors: Michael Floyd, the brothas Smith at linebacker, and yes, before Boston College, even Jimmy Clausen. Because of them, we have hope, and it is justified hope.

Whether times are good or bad, that’s what our evaluation of Weis and others has to be about: hope. Hope in the face of difficulty (last season). Hope in the face of uncertainty (this season). The audacity of hope.

But let’s not go too far. If we’re playing like this next year, then we’ll talk. But for now, nebulous mob of foaming alumni, cut it out. Temper yourself a bit. You’re embarrassing us all.

But the very least, the knowledge of a better future is why we’re still Noder Dame, and not Knowtre Dahm.

Andrew Nesi is a senior American Studies major from Fairfield, Connecticut. He can’t believe that a broken switch on the popcorn machine in CoMo has shut down popcorn production for the last three weeks. He hopes that, in addition to fixing the problem soon, Campus Ministry subtracts this painful time from the normal 40 days without popcorn in the Spring. He can be reached at anesi@nd.edu

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