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Golden Is Thy Fame

Brian Doxtader and Erin McGinn | Wednesday, September 6, 2006

The relationship between the media and Notre Dame is the very definition of love-hate. Open any magazine or newspaper referencing collegiate sports and, whether the writer likes Notre Dame or not, it is nearly impossible for the Irish not to be mentioned.

The Irish appear all over the media world. One of the most recognizable places is in the movies. Notre Dame has had two silver screen movies made about its football team. Lloyd Bacon’s (“42nd Street”) “Knute Rockne All American” (1940) stars Pat O’Brien as Knute Rockne, arguably the most famous coach in the history of college football, the coach of the Irish from 1918-1930.

An icon of the football world, Rockne himself literally changed the sport by inventing the forward pass. Former President Ronald Reagan plays the role of George Gipp, whose death lead to the fondly remembered and oft-quoted “win one for the Gipper” speech.

Nineteen ninety-three brought David Anspaugh’s (“Hoosiers”) film “Rudy” to the big screen. Based on a true story, “Rudy” stars Sean Astin (“Lord of the Rings”) in the title role as Rudy Ruettiger, – a kid who worshipped Notre Dame football enough that he did all he could to become a part of the team.

Despite tremendous obstacles, Rudy eventually makes it to Notre Dame and becomes a legend in his own right. Astin is very moving in the lead role, and the film is also noteworthy for the appearances of Jon Favreau and a young Vince Vaughn.

There have also been several DVDs released about Notre Dame football in recent years, the most recent including “The History of Notre Dame Football” and to-be-released on Oct. 31 is “University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Collector’s Edition (College Football’s Greatest Games).”

The later is an eight disc set that includes over eight of Notre Dame’s most classic football games (including the “Green Jersey”, “Chicken Soup,” “Catholics vs. Convicts” and “Snow Bowl” games), over two hours of vintage highlight films and original radio calls for key plays.

Notre Dame is also a commodity on the small screen as well. Aside from being the only school to have its own contract for every home game to be broadcast nationally on NBC, the Irish are frequently mentioned on everything from various ESPN shows to “Live with Regis and Kelly.”

It is hard to not have a bias when discussing the Irish and these biases are predominant among broadcasters. Regis Philbin, a 1953 graduate, is never shy to proclaim his love for the Irish and everything Notre Dame. On the other side, several ESPN broadcasters, notably Mark May and Lee Corso, are never afraid to stand as far away from the Notre Dame bandwagon as possible.

Almost anything that mentions the Irish is instantly a hot-seller, so newspapers are not usually afraid to throw the name around any which way they can. Any news about Notre Dame is big news – and the scandals sell more than anything else.

Newspapers and magazines jumped for joy when word of the O’Leary fiasco was spread around, likewise with the firing of Willingham and the subsequent hiring of Coach Weis.

Heartwarming stories, like that of Coach Weis visiting Montana Mazurkiewicz and the “pass right” at the Washington game, are also sought after and used to the advantage of the press.

Notre Dame fans even work to create their own media frenzies. Sites like ndnation.com have become exceedingly popular in recent years, with fans posting their own articles and stories as well as gathering together all the media they can on the Irish.

Aside from articles, the fans also produce everything from highlight videos to complete DVDs about the Notre Dame football team.

Additionally, Notre Dame football has become a staple of the Internet, as the floodgates have been opened to a wealth of historical and contemporary footage.

On the internet, the web site http://www.bluwiki.org/go/BGS_video gathers all the Irish football clips from around the internet, conveniently linking them in one place. The clips come from a wide range of sources, most notably Youtube, and span decades.

Among the earliest clips is a highlight reel from Elmer Layden’s 1935 team, which played against Ohio State in that era’s “Game of the Century.” In fact, clips from all three of Notre Dame’s “Games of the Century” (1935 Notre Dame-Ohio State, 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State, 1993 Notre Dame-Florida State) are available and make for great viewing.

Other notable clips include the 1973 Sugar Bowl against Alabama, the 1988 “Catholics vs. Convicts,” The 1992 “Cheerios Bowl” and the 1992 “Snow Bowl.”

The best clips are from the Holtz era, a time that included such greats as Tony Rice, Tim Brown, Rocket Ismail and Jerome Bettis. Watching the end of the Snow Bowl (1992 against Penn State) or the end of the 1993 “Game of the Century” (against Florida State) is truly inspiring, and hearkens back to a time when Notre Dame was exciting and competitive – a time to which Notre Dame is finally returning.

Notre Dame has always held a special place in the media, be it positive or negative. Its national exposure brings to the forefront of the media Charlie Weis and his resurgence of the football program.

As to the love-hate relationship, Weis himself said on media day Aug. 6, “Whether you like us or not is really not that relevant. You know, we are just looking for respect, not to be liked or disliked.”