‘A Season with Notre Dame Football’ – Episode four review
Miko Malabute | Thursday, October 1, 2015
To try to recap this week’s episode, which had a “different” feel to it, I myself am going to write this week’s review also in a “different” manner.
The Notre Dame Student’s Perspective
This episode felt pretty weary, to say the least. On the bright side, I finally got my wish: no new heart-breaking injuries, after what felt like an endless onslaught of broken ankles, torn ACLs and muscle tears. It was nice just to see the Irish secure a good win against an opponent they should have beaten, while still seeing how much coach Brian Kelly and his staff prepared their players to stay vigilant. Kelly was adamant in this episode of keeping his players on their toes, reminding them that if they sleepwalk through this game, Massachusetts very well could beat them.
It was also refreshing to see the players in a different light, putting an emphasis on the “student” part of student-athlete. In one particular case, seeing Jerry Tillery in a chemistry lab was pretty amazing. As a fellow science nerd, I can appreciate how time-consuming being in those underclass chemistry labs are. So it spoke to how amazing it is for student-athletes in general to keep up with the rigorous coursework here at Notre Dame while also staying sharp in their respective athletic fields.
On the other hand, there was just an overload of scenes showing the players coaching the womens’ flag football games. Yes, it is truly nice to see the players be a part of the University and the student body in such a close setting, but as a student who was watching this episode, I just felt that we were being force-fed this message over and over and over again. Now admittedly, if I was one of those women playing on the flag football team, I would have been ecstatic, trying to see if I somehow got any camera time. But as a student who knows about it but is not a part of it, I would have liked to see the producers just move on already.
The Non-Notre Dame Student’s Perspective
This was such a light-hearted episode, and a refreshing break from the past three episodes of high intensity and lasting images of heartbreaking injuries and subsequent heartbreak. While it was nice to see how much Kelly stayed on his players to ensure they were prepared to fully respect — and thus fully defeat — their opponent in Massachusetts, to see the players still enjoy the life of a student off the field was arguably more rewarding. Seeing their interactions as coaches on the flag football team and appreciating how much fun they had being a part of it all was nice and seemed to evoke a sense of “innocence” that is arguably becoming more and more lost in the cynical coverage of college athletics.
Along the same train of thought, seeing the players working hard in the classroom also speaks to the kind of student-athlete who plays for Notre Dame: one with a dedication both on and off the field (or court, or whatever it may be). Arguably, one of the best parts of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series is its ability to give the audience an inside look into players’ lives away from the game, humanizing them and giving viewers at home more to identify their favorite players with other than their jersey number. While it can be said that “A Season with Notre Dame Football” makes its bread and butter with the intense, action-packed shots of the team’s practices and games, there’s a lot to be said for giving the players and viewers alike room to breathe and truly see the person underneath the football helmet.