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Respect the team

Observer Editorial | Friday, September 10, 2004

Emotions are running high over Irish football – and not just because one of the school’s biggest rivals invades Notre Dame Stadium this weekend. On the opposite end of the spectrum from the rabid loyalty inspired by Michigan weekend, dissatisfaction is growing as coach Tyrone Willingham’s 5-10 record in the past 15 games marks Notre Dame’s worst stretch in over 40 years.With the season just a week old, those emotions have turned from the usual excitement, anticipation and enthusiasm to criticism, bitterness and frustration. That combination of negative sentiment could easily turn into a negative reaction toward the players against Michigan Saturday. And a slow start by the Irish, an early Michigan lead or a lopsided halftime score will only fuel the fire. But no matter the score on Saturday, these emotions should not translate into boos. A game – even a tough one – is not the time to yell or complain. It is a time to support the players representing this great University on the football field. The booing issue became apparent during the embarrassing 37-0 loss to Florida State last year, when Irish suffered their third loss by more than 30 points and their second consecutive home blowout loss. Students, fans and alumni showed their frustration by raining boos on the field and trickling out of the game long before the players’ traditional raising of the helmets to the student section.Everyone who pays for a seat in the Stadium has bought the right to boo. And if the players on the field aren’t giving a full effort, they should be told loudly and clearly that they aren’t doing justice to the Notre Dame name.But, just like the team’s struggles, the fans’ FSU display should be considered an extreme exception. These aren’t professional athletes being paid millions of dollars to do their job. These are 18 to 22-year old competitors who are still college students first and athletes second.Booing them should never become a habit.Yes, the pressure to succeed at Notre Dame and match the storied history of years past is as high as anywhere in the country. Clearly results shouldn’t take a back seat to settling for effort.But if the effort is there, deriding college football players on every down for not being perfect – or even for not performing to expectations – shouldn’t be the mindset Saturday afternoon.We are ND.So are they.Show them respect.