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How to keep tradition alive

Chris Manley | Monday, December 7, 2009

Notre Dame is a special place. Perhaps more than any other university, it holds almost mythological importance to its faithful. To many the future of Notre Dame is the future of morality or Catholicism or tradition itself. As Notre Dame goes, so go the giant intangible constructs, as they say. When it comes to creating devotion, this is excellent. But I am sure it has already occurred to you (looking at you here, Fr. Jenkins) that this can be problematic when trying to make decisions. Because everyone’s investment feels so large, everyone believes that what they want for the University must be accomplished, or we court disaster.

And what represents the University to these faithful? Football. So I am sure your decision is a nerve-wracking one. Choosing a coach to please one faction of the faithful may upset another faction. You are, perhaps, tempted to choose a “compromise candidate,” one who will be the least objectionable to all concerned. One that makes no one angry. I write to urge you not to do this. Not when an ideal candidate exists — one who will make everyone overjoyed.

I write to nominate for the position of head football coach a life-size cardboard cutout of Lou Holtz. Or perhaps, if the previous coach hasn’t put as large a drain on University coffers as has been speculated, you could even spring for a Lou Holtz Fathead.

Listen to this: For a fraction of the cost of luring a successful coach from another school you can put one on the wall of the locker room. Research shows these things are about 100 bucks. Expensive as far as stickers go, sure, but better than a fire sale in the world of Division I coaches. No private jets required to fly him around. Lou Holtz Fathead travels United States Postal Service. No worries about Lou Holtz Fathead getting distracted by family, charity work or dying children wishing for play-calling privileges, about jumping ship for an NFL team. Lou Holtz Fathead is as focused as they come. Once you put him in the locker room he won’t even go home to sleep. And for that price you can even get a second Lou Holtz Fathead on a cardboard stand for the sidelines, halftime interviews and press conferences.

Lou Holtz Fathead is unflappable. No more worries about how a coach will interact with the media. Lou’s winning smile will never leave his face. It will inspire players on and off the field. Imagine halftime with players circled around Lou Holtz Fathead, all anxiously taking a knee. Lou Holtz Fathead smiles. His enthusiasm makes everyone want it just a little more. At practice, Lou Holtz Fathead will never tell anyone it’s okay to be undisciplined, and he’ll never berate a player. He will handle all situations with characteristic aplomb.

Most importantly, Lou Holtz Fathead would embody Notre Dame history and tradition without endangering it. In The Observer, the wider sports media, even in dorm rooms and classrooms, well-meaning fans, students and alumni pontificate without a hint of irony about the sacred tradition that is Notre Dame winning football games. Lou Holtz Fathead speaks directly to this group. By selecting an image of 1988 Lou Holtz for Lou Holtz Fathead we get all that he meant to the school without that thing at South Carolina, or that kind of lisp thing he does. No one will ever be able to claim Lou Holtz Fathead is anything but emblematic of a time when Notre Dame really meant something, as a team and also a school.

Lou Holtz Fathead has never done a single thing to advance the legality of abortion. Put that in your pipe, Randall Terry, and smoke it. In fact he’s never challenged the hierarchy of the Catholic Church at all. Lou Holtz Fathead has never lied on a resume, has never been accused of infidelity, of poor sportsmanship, of racism or of aiding or abetting terrorism. He has never, even once, suggested that Notre Dame should lower its academic standards to improve its football program. I have it on good authority he would keep his views on homosexuality to himself. Mark May would still disagree with him, but come on. That’s part of the fun.

It’s time to return Notre Dame to a tradition of supporting Notre Dame tradition. Allow our football team, and by implication Notre Dame itself, and by further implication the Notre Dame faithful, to mean something again.

Imagine, if you will, players running out of the locker room, helmets gleaming in expectation of the victory to come. One by one they good-naturedly slap Lou Holtz Fathead on the behind, only on his front, since Lou Holtz Fathead, will, admittedly, not have a behind.

Do you have goosebumps? I just got goosebumps there.


Chris Manley is a member of the class of 2004 and a visiting faculty member. He can be reached at [email protected]

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