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Higher standards

Kelsey Manning | Wednesday, February 2, 2011

At work this past Friday covering the front desk at the Gug, I received not one but three calls in the course of an hour from a guy bemoaning the state of Notre Dame football. (Because clearly, a freshman answering phones in the football office has a lot of pull when it comes to fundamentally altering a 120-year-old program.)

Specifically, the man was complaining about the players’ irresponsible conduct off the field. Sadly, none of this kind of talk was new to my ears, particularly in light of recent events. I returned to my dorm bothered by the incident, contemplating whether the mantra I so desperately wanted to believe, namely that Notre Dame athletes are held to a higher standard than those at other colleges, was simply naïve. The next day, something happened that rekindled my faith.

In an unprecedented jolt of inspiration to do something with a Saturday afternoon other than watch Lonely Island music videos, my friends and I decided to go to the mall. On the Transpo bus back to campus, we made an extra stop. Suddenly there was a minor commotion, and the attentions of all onboard were drawn to the massive snow bank just outside the door, and an elderly woman carrying several bags who had fallen and was helplessly trapped in it. Just as suddenly, a Notre Dame football player (in attire distinguishing him as such) leapt up, bounded down the stairs, pulled the woman out the snow and helped her up the stairs onto the bus. As the woman, alone, embarrassed and with tears in her eyes, made her way to the back of the bus, the player asked gently if she was alright. She awkwardly nodded. As most passengers returned to their idle chatter, I remained focused on the player, who was gazing at the woman and her tear-streaked face with a look of true concern.

Sitting there I thought about the tumultuous year that was had by Notre Dame football, about the hypercritical media, about stories I’ve heard about players, about disparaging jokes I’ve endured by friends at other schools and about that man on the phone. And despite all that, in that moment it was impossible not to feel proud to be a part of this University and to see it represented in the manner it should be.

Call me an idealist, but I choose to believe that Notre Dame athletes are in fact held to a higher standard of conduct. Any exception to that standard is just that — an exception. I choose to believe that Irish coach Brian Kelly is fostering the kind of environment that forces players to acknowledge the history, tradition and responsibility that comes with wearing “Notre Dame Football” across their chests.

And perhaps most of all, I choose to believe that my friends who make jokes are just jealous they didn’t get in.

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

Contact Kelsey Manning at [email protected]