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Farmer: Respect tradition, but respect character too (Nov. 11)

Douglas Farmer | Thursday, November 10, 2011

Everybody loves tradition. At Notre Dame, the ways of yester-year elicit unparalleled fanaticism.

But we all ignore one aspect of tradition: It doesn’t win football games.

Gold helmets, blue jerseys and a walk across South Quad do not win football games.

Neither do disco-ball helmets, green jerseys or a walk by the Hesburgh Library.

Players win games, coaches win games, and, once in a decade or so, out-of-hand fans win games.

Yet, around here, those same fans bellyache about any slight change more than five-year-olds do Nov. 1 about eating too much candy.

“A jumbotron? Luxury boxes? Artificial turf? How dare Irish coach Brian Kelly bring his Cincinatti ways to the Golden Dome?”

“Shamrocks on the helmets? Green facemasks? Playing ACC schools? Why is Knute Rockne’s team being so superficially fancy?”

Thus were the cries across campus when Notre Dame and adidas revealed the helmet-uniform combination for this week’s trip to Washington, D.C., to face the current kings of outlandish uniforms, Maryland. Thus were the complaints of alumni, young and old, and thus were the angry posts on subway alumni message boards.

Kelly attempted to counter these grievances with an air of indifference toward them. Instead, he insisted, only the opinions of his players influence his decisions.

“The only people I care about relative to the uniforms are the 105 guys that were in this room when we showed it to them, and they were excited,” Kelly said Tuesday. “All due respect to everybody else that has an opinion, I really don’t care about theirs. I care about what my players think, and our players love it.”

Even if Kelly were to care about those upset with the glitz and glam, these are the wrong grievances. Instead, students, alumni and fans alike could have shouted in unison, “Why don’t we win more games?”

Really, what else matters? Why does a simple gold helmet matter? Why does it matter when that same helmet is altered and a shamrock is added to it?

Isn’t the final score all that matters? Don’t we just want wins? Well, those and national championships?

No.

That isn’t the correct mentality either. Rather, this week of all weeks, all should have shouted in unison, “It doesn’t really matter.”

Notre Dame’s traditions are indeed part of the fabric of the University, but jersey color and helmet style are not those traditions. Academics and quality of character, amid the football players, the student body as a whole and the rest of the University, are what Notre Dame is built upon, and the foundations of this University are obviously a much larger and always pertinent piece than the Notre Dame football program and its long-held jersey designs.

As long as Notre Dame churns out products such as junior linebacker Manti Te’o and senior quarterback Dayne Crist, no one should care what color jersey they wear. As long as the Irish sing the fight songs alongside the respective service academies, no one should equate gold helmets to a sense of class. As long as Notre Dame remains Notre Dame to its core, why claim the size of a scoreboard dictates such?

Know what happens when people get too attached to superficial traditions? Students riot when a football coach is fired on a Wednesday night. Whether or not the Board of Trustees at Penn State made the right decision by firing Joe Paterno, any logical person could understand their rationale in doing so. Yet, the obsession with football and tradition led to an embarrassing night in State College, Penn., amidst an increasingly embarrasing week.

Let’s be grateful the biggest worries around here these days are about the design of the helmets and the color of the jerseys come each Saturday.

Let’s also not forget why those are the biggest worries — the traditions here at Notre Dame.

And let’s stand by those traditions.

Contact Douglas Farmer at dfarmer1@nd.edu

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