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Farmer: If you believe in Santa Claus, believe in ND (Mar. 17)

Douglas Farmer | Thursday, March 17, 2011

I believe in Santa Claus. I also believe in Notre Dame basketball. The two aren’t all that different. Actually, the two are very much alike.

For longer than I can remember, Santa Claus has brought me a cornucopia of gifts. When I was seven, Kris Kringle left me, among other things, a copy of NFL Madden 1996. Three years ago, I discovered a cupholder from Yankee Stadium under the tree. This past Christmas, Ol’ Saint Nick dropped off a dark gray suit with my name on it. Without a doubt, I used the video game most, but all were very much appreciated.

Santa Claus always delivers, each and every year.

In November Notre Dame swept through the Old Spice Classic. In January, the Irish delivered a victory on the road against second-ranked Pittsburgh. And on one special Saturday in March, Ben, Brey and the boys brought home a victory at Connecticut, on the Huskies’ Senior Day.

The Irish have delivered this year – no way to deny it.

The thing about Santa Claus though is he isn’t real. I first realized this as my older brothers and I gathered around the family computer trying to install that first copy of Madden.

“If this doesn’t work, we all still have to be thankful,” my oldest brother said. “Mom worked really hard to get this.”

My seven-year-old, naïve self looked at my brother, thought about what he just said, and realized Santa Claus is a character of fiction. My loving mother had given me, had given us, the addicting computer program.

Yet, I still believe in Santa Claus. He has delivered, just not as I once expected.

Coming into this year, Notre Dame did not receive a single vote in each of the two major preseason polls. The Irish finished seventh in the Big East coaches’ preseason poll. The Old Spice Classic title finally vaulted Notre Dame into the polls, landing them at a whopping No. 25.

Given time, senior guard Ben Hansbrough claimed Big East Player of the Year honors. Irish coach Mike Brey landed his third Big East Coach of the Year award in five years. And Notre Dame finished second in the Big East regular season standings.

Against Wisconsin, which ended its season by entering the NCAA tournament with a No. 4-seed, the Irish overcame an 11-point halftime deficit for a victory. In the January upset over Pittsburgh, Notre Dame held the Panthers to 51 points, utilizing Brey’s ‘burn’ offense. Come the last day of February, Hansbrough and fourth-year forward Tim Abromaitis hit a combined 16 three-pointers against No. 19 Villanova, as the team as a whole sank a JACC-record 20 long-range field goals.

The Irish delivered, just much more than anyone expected, and in ways no one expected.

I believe in Santa Claus. Year after year, he has made my eager, anticipated descent of the stairs Christmas morning worthwhile. Year after year, he has delivered.

Sure, it has actually been my mother all along, but what difference does that make? As the United States Postal Service says, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” shall stop the delivery. Santa Claus follows the same edict.

Neither fiction nor non-fiction shall stop his deliveries.

I believe in Notre Dame basketball. Game after game this season, the Irish have rewarded the fans who cheered, have played hard each game, and found more success than could have possibly been expected.

Sure, it hasn’t been pretty. Sure, each and every player in the seven-man rotation has been needed to end a game on the winning end. Sure, there have been losses, but what difference does that make? These Irish have delivered, at home and on the road, when favored and when the underdog.

Santa Claus has not failed me, and his streak extends longer than I can remember. He delivers. So does this Notre Dame basketball squad.