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The good ‘ole days

Matt Gamber | Wednesday, November 5, 2008

When I say the “good ‘ole days”, I’m not talking Knute, Ara or even Lou – I wasn’t alive for the reign of the first two and was too young to appreciate all that is Lou Holtz.

No, when I ask if you remember the good ‘ole days, I’m talking about the most recent peak of Irish football, the last glimpse of what big games in Notre Dame Stadium should be like. And, in a sad sign of the current – but not permanent, I might add – state of Notre Dame football, that “peak” came in a loss.

I’m talking about USC 2005 – you know, that game with that Bush-league push.

Standing on the sidelines of Saturday’s four-overtime loss to Pitt (I won’t describe it as gut-wrenching, or heart-breaking, or mind-boggling, or inexplicable, or inexcusable, because it was all of those things), I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have been thinking had I been back in, yes, the good ‘ole days, when a three-point loss to the hated Trojans would be more disappointing than shocking (as in, shocking that the game was that close).

As I ran from the North end of the field to the South four times with dozens of reporters following the overtime action, sure, I was invested in the game – it’s my school, after all. But the fact remains that this team, despite its talent, just isn’t yet to the point where this loss should merit the kind of cell phone-breaking, notebook-throwing, tantrum-starting kind of reaction that the ’05 loss to USC induced.

When the Florida Gators – my dad’s alma mater and the only team I’d consider rooting for against the Irish – lost a 31-30 home game to Mississippi earlier this year, I stomped, sulked and swore all afternoon, even as I sat in the Notre Dame Stadium press box for the first time and watched Jimmy Clausen and the gang rout Purdue.

Why? The Gators, with a national title two years ago and a recent tradition of winning big games, have earned the high expectations placed upon them. When they fall short, it hits hard.

But the Irish, God love them, just haven’t earned the high expectations we, as die-hard (read: delusional) Notre Dame followers, insist on placing upon them.

Put things in perspective. This is a young team that won just three games a year ago, so the fact that they’re likely heading to a halfway-decent bowl game this year is an accomplishment – don’t overlook it, appreciate it.

Of course the loss to Pitt hurts. It was a game the Irish and their fans expected to win and truly should have won. The Irish didn’t get it done, but there’s still a lot left to accomplish for this team, even if it falls short of somewhat-unrealistic expectations.

The Irish will soon have a return to the true “good ‘ole days”, when Notre Dame’s on-field record will match its storied tradition and top-caliber talent. But until then, I can only remember, both with envy and disgust, USC ’05 as the closest thing to them