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Farmer: Slow down: It’s not time to drink the kool-aid (Sept. 2)

Douglas Farmer | Thursday, September 1, 2011

It is early September in South Bend, which can mean only one thing — the kool-aid is awfully strong.

Notre Dame sits in the top 20 in both of the major polls. Some experts have the Irish as high as the top 10. Sports Illustrated is so bold as to predict Brian Kelly and company will spend January in a BCS bowl game.

The kool-aid has gotten very strong.

9-3 or 10-2 records seem exceedingly plausible. 11-1 isn’t all that much of a reach. And 12-0? Well, it feels closer than it has since the 2006 preseason hype.

Remember as a kid, coming in from playing football in the backyard, all you wanted was the sugar high from the kool-aid? Just have some of this stuff. It’s potent.

Looking at this schedule, every game feels winnable. After all, Las Vegas favored Notre Dame in all but one game when the season’s lines opened, with the exception being the season-closing trip to face Stanford and senior quarterback Andrew Luck. Then again, no game against Michigan, Michigan State or USC is ever a guarantee. Most Irish fans figure any losses this year will come from some combination of those four games, and Notre Dame certainly won’t lose all four.

That kool-aid may be the only drink in town.

That must be why I am extremely thirsty — because I’m not drinking it.

Typically, age brings cynicism. With each decade comes a new handful of memories of dreams dashed, plans gone awry and painful disappointments. Obviously, in my two decades, I haven’t seen much of that.

But it is all I have seen when it comes to Notre Dame football.

A small sample size usually leaves room for hope, but my small sample size only includes dreams dashed, wasted talents and the Bush Push.

I began measuring my breaths by Allen Rossum kick, punt and interception returns and I measured my joys by Joey Goodspeed touchdowns in 1996.

My first bitter tears followed a Ron Powlus fumble in overtime against Air Force that year — just minutes after NBC announcer Tom Hammond warned the one thing you don’t want to do in overtime is turn over the ball.

That is the Notre Dame football I know, my classmates know and my generation knows. Not a year since has gone by the Irish haven’t lost a game they should have won – Air Force in overtime in 1996, a 23-7 shellacking at the hands of Michigan State the following year, never mind the fact that it was a home game. And don’t even get me started on the 14-7 loss to Boston College the week after my birthday in 2002. I was at that one, and still try to rub my eyes to get the visions of green jerseys out of them.

Last year it was Navy and Tulsa, Navy and Tulsa, and, for good measure, Navy and Tulsa.

This is the Notre Dame I know and love. This is the Notre Dame I will expect to see until proven otherwise. This is the Notre Dame I keep coming back to for more.

Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.

For the better part of 15 years, I have drunk the kool-aid annually. For the better part of 15 years, Notre Dame has made me regret the grape aftertaste. It is time to stop doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. No more kool-aid for me.

Oh no, Mr. Kool-Aid Man. Oh no.

Yes, this is touted as the deepest defensive front Notre Dame has trotted out in years. Yes, senior quarterback Dayne Crist is supposedly a more vocal leader these days. Yes, senior receiver Michael Floyd is on a mission to be the best in country.

But these are annual occurrences, if the names are simply changed around a bit.

At some point I may drink the kool-aid again. I may even this year, once the Irish survive a near-disaster against Purdue or Pittsburgh.

I’m just hoping it is fruit punch-flavored, or Orange will do. Perhaps the type they serve at Fiestas, or the type with lots of Sugar in it.

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

Contact Douglas Farmer at dfarmer1@nd.edu