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Twilight’ and Notre Dame Football

Kevin Noonan | Tuesday, November 13, 2012

“The Hobbit,” a children’s fantasy book following a diminutive adventurer and an enigmatic wizard as they battle dragons, trolls and magic, hit the shelves in 1937. In 1950, four English children stumbled through a wardrobe and into a land of lions and legends in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
In between, Frank Leahy led the Notre Dame football team to four AP national championships.

In 1986, Brian Jacques published the first in his series of novels featuring the mischief and adventures of a monastery run by mice, otters and other critters in “Redwall.”

In 1988, Lou Holtz and Rocket Ismail led the Irish to their 11th and final national championship to date.

In 1998, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” hit the U.S. Irish football went 9-3. The Irish went 10-3 in 2002 and 9-3 again in 2005, and it appeared the program was on the cusp of a full-fledged comeback to its former days of glory.

In 2005, Stephanie Meyer released the first in her four-part young adult fantasy fiction series, “Twilight.” The Irish put up a valiant fight, pulling together a 10-3 season in 2006, but lapsed back into what could best be described, as Rick Reilly would later put it, irrelevance.

A lesser man with more to do with his time would cry, “Coincidence, you fool!” But I, in my infinite wisdom, disagree.

I see a string, thin though it may be, that threads its way through history and ties Notre Dame football and the “Twilight” series together inextricably.

Both draw inspiration from a deeply rooted history in their respective fields. Notre Dame wears its tradition proudly on its sleeve; Twilight does the same in a literary sense, a technique that I believe English professors call “not being original.”

Both, in recent history, are known for languishing in mediocrity, especially magnified the shadow cast by that former greatness. Notre Dame hasn’t made a sustained case for national dominance since Lou Holtz left. The knee-jerk reaction to Stephanie Meyer’s work is to label it junk, but it actually received generally positive reception when the books were first released. It was the movies that sank the series into a standing joke. We’ll get to that later.

Both draw criticism and vitriol, both reasoned and irrational, like almost no other in their field. But, at the same time, both have a fan following, both reasoned and irrational, unmatched by any rival.

Try telling a well-read socialite your favorite book is “Breaking Dawn” or a Michigan alumnus that Notre Dame is the greatest program in college football history and the look of disgust will likely be remarkably similar. On the flip side, try telling a 13-year-old girl what you really think about Robert Pattinson’s acting, or try writing an ESPN column about Notre Dame’s irrelevance, and the backlash will be shrill and severe.

The first of the “Twilight” films was released in 2008 (Notre Dame went 6-6), followed by sequels in the following three years, in which the Irish went 6-6, 8-5 and 8-5. Granted, the movies were worse than the team, but “New Moon” had as good of a chance at winning a BCS national championship as any of those Irish teams.

But this year, as we all know, the Irish are 10-0. They’re ranked third in the country in every major poll. They’re two wins and a loss from Oregon or Kansas State from a shot at a national championship. Manti Te’o deserves a seat at the Heisman Trohy presentation, if not the award itself. This is the most successful Notre Dame team since Holtz’s era.

So how does “Twilight” fit in, since obviously it must? Well, this weekend, the final installment in the “Twilight” moneymaking machine, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part II,” hits theaters and – take a seat before you read on, Twilight haters – it’s garnering highly positive early reviews.

That’s right. One day before Notre Dame takes on Wake Forest for a chance to be 11-0, a “Twilight” movie will open with a better-than-good chance to be the most successful of all the “Twilight” films, both commercially and critically.

But, don’t jump the gun, you say. These are just early reviews, you say. The movie still has its biggest challenges ahead of it, you say.

Oh, were you finished? Well, allow me to retort.

The same could be said for Notre Dame football. “College GameDay” researcher Chris Fallica says, of the games left for the three remaining undefeated teams, Notre Dame’s game versus USC on Nov. 24 is the greatest uncertainty; he puts the game at 50-50.

I’m not saying the comparison is perfect – it’s not. Although I could delve a little deeper, starting with how Te’o could’ve easily played Taylor Lautner’s part without anyone noticing or caring. But I won’t.

The connections are there, though. I’m not just making this stuff up (all right, maybe a little, but still). All I’m saying is, in addition to rooting for Baylor against Kansas State and UCLA against USC this weekend, perhaps Irish fans should consider going to see “Twilight” this weekend, too. It might just get them to a national championship.

Contact Kevin Noonan at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.