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Super sad Senior Day

Editorial Board | Friday, November 12, 2010

The class of 2011 has gotten to see the story happen, as painful and frustrating as it’s been. We have some ownership over it — and maybe in 50 years, if Notre Dame hits a slump again, we too, will be able to write to The Observer and complain about how ungrateful the student body is for the gift they’ve been given.

But for now, we are students. If only for a few more months. And we’ve seen how teams still feel that beating Notre Dame is the greatest victory in their program’s history (see statements by the coaches of Tulsa, Connecticut and Syracuse). We watched the hiring and firing of Notre Dame coaches take over ESPN last fall, and we’ve even seen our losses make headlines.

Why? Because it’s still Notre Dame.

In 2007, the lows were the lowest in Notre Dame history — the first loss to Navy in nearly half a century, not to mention 38-0 beatings from USC and Michigan. But an upset win over UCLA, a senior day victory (the last one Notre Dame Stadium has seen) against Duke and a season-ending romp versus Stanford kept our spirits alive.

The next fall, a riotous victory in the rain over the Wolverines was balanced out by a snowball-laden loss versus Syracuse on Senior Day.

Yet the Hawaii Bowl that Christmas and the shut-out win over Nevada to start the 2009 season were enough to sustain us through a string of last-minute wins (over Purdue, Washington and Michigan State).

We started calling ourselves the “Cardiac Catholics” and, despite a down-to-the-wire loss to Michigan, Notre Dame entered USC week on a high unmatched since then. Campus that week was electric. Signs were hung from dorm windows, bumper stickers prosephying Irish victory were slapped on light posts and a brigade of students scrawled slogans on sidewalks with chalk. Students and visitors alike crowded at the entrance to the Notre Dame Stadium to “greet” the Trojans for their walk-through. Even the desktop wallpapers in the computer clusters proclaimed “Go Irish, Beat Trojans.” The game itself was outrageously exciting, neck and neck until the very end — when Notre Dame lost.

We can’t really assess the highs and lows of this season, since we still have three games to go. For seniors, it’s been yet another year of excitement and hope reined in by disappointment and frustration.

But if Notre Dame football is like that bad movie you still love to watch, then some of the moments from this year seem like outtakes, those scenes too ridiculous to make the final cut.

The fake field goal at Michigan State. Losing in the final minutes to Michigan. Getting stomped by Navy — again. An interception in the end zone when an easy field goal by a perfect kicker would have made a sure win over Tulsa.

Notre Dame football is supposed to be about tradition and honor and winning — that’s what we think when coming in as hopeful, spirited freshmen. The final moments against Tulsa encapsulated the last four years of Notre Dame football — what seems like a sure thing ends up falling apart.

Yet even when it does, we still stick around. We still buy season tickets, we still buy The Shirt, we still go to tailgates, and try as we might to keep it cool, we still get worked up over Notre Dame football precisely because it is more than a game.

Though so many times over the past four years we have wished the season had ended sooner, we are heartbroken that this is the true finale.

And wherever seniors are next fall, we will have our Irish gear with us. We will brag about our status as the class with the most losses in Notre Dame history, but we will still tune in every Saturday and support our team to the point of being obnoxious.

Notre Dame still matters to college football coaches and players, to television viewers and to journalists and bloggers across the country. But it matters even more to the seniors who will stand for their last Alma Mater Saturday.

And it always will.