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Scholar athletes

Chris Allen | Thursday, January 27, 2011

Just as Ben Hansbrough’s final layup in the waning seconds of Notre Dame’s win over No. 2 Pittsburgh Monday dropped through the net, I felt something I haven’t felt in a while. Anybody who’s ever played a sport at a competitive level knows the feeling. The feeling of relief coming directly after a big triumph. The feeling of kicking unbelief (as Rocket might call it) out the door and throwing away the key. Heck, it felt as though I had taken the shot myself — which is funny, since if I recall correctly I had accounting homework in front of me and a bag of chips in my lap. Not exactly Big East basketball material.

That small moment gave me cause to reflect on the personal definition of greatness. I, like almost all Domers, was a varsity athlete in high school. Baseball, my sport, essentially dominated my life and my free time year-round. I used to spend countless hours training, fueled by the mere glimmer of hope that I might experience a moment like Ben experienced in Pittsburgh on Monday. But somewhere along the line, like many of us, I just came up a little short when it came to playing varsity athletics in college. I traded in my glove and bat for a pencil, calculator and a business textbook, and hung up my cleats in favor of an Observer press pass.

The reason why Hansbrough’s layup made me feel like I was back on the playing field is because I no longer feel like my exclusion from big-time athletics excludes me from being just as great at what I do now. I feel less like an observant fan and more like an active participant in the unexplainable level of mojo that’s flowing through the campus.

Let’s face it: The 2009-10 season wasn’t one for the record books in Notre Dame athletic history. Whether it be the crippling football losses to Navy and Connecticut, the first-round exit in the NCAA tournament for the men’s basketball team, or the underwhelming hockey campaign, I think we all knew we could do better. This year has been more than evident of that. We even have a National Championship trophy to show for it — way to go, girls.

Just because most of us will never take the field/court/pitch in another truly meaningful athletic event again doesn’t mean we can’t help lead the charge back to greatness, to wake up the echoes. The arena has just changed. The same way that we counted on Brey’s boys to succeed in Pittsburgh on Monday, there are tons of people counting on us to succeed in our majors, internships, jobs, etc. When the stakes were highest, Ben made the layup. When the stakes are highest in my life, I intend to come through just the same. Why? I don’t really think I have a choice — I go to Notre Dame, and whether on the playing field or in the classroom, we’re driving toward greatness. Get on board.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Chris Allen at [email protected]