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The next step

| Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Up until this summer, anyone who spent a lot of time on Notre Dame campus became well acquainted with the west entrance to the LaFortune Student Center. Due to a quirk of architecture, the west entrance door was placed a few inches above the top of the stairs leading down from it. The small drop-off that this design created was the cause of many an awkward, Indiana Jones-like step into nothingness for those unacquainted with it.

Over the course of the summer, construction crews refurbished the steps, lifting them to the same height as the door’s exit. Descending the steps is now objectively much easier, yet I find myself dissatisfied. I’ve spent my entire career at Notre Dame negotiating that awkward step, and I’ve become so used to it that I’m tripping on the level ground. I’d much rather revert to the way things were; however, my rational side can admit when it’s time for a change.

With that in mind, let’s talk about Tim McCarthy. A much-beloved figure of the Notre Dame community, the former Indiana State Police Sergeant is famous for his third-quarter safety tips, expressed in the form of puns which always draw a good natured groan from the student section. From 1960 to 1979, McCarthy delivered the tips as the official safety education officer. After his retirement in 1979, athletic director Moose Krause requested that he continue, which he did until 2015. From the 2015 season onward, the safety tip has been brought to us “from the vaults” via recording. It’s still as popular and anticipated as ever — for the moment. What happens ten years from now?  Twenty?

Don’t get me wrong; I am now and have always been a huge fan of Tim McCarthy. On multiple occasions, I’ve even bought “May I Have Your Attention Please” — a compilation of his best zingers — on CD from the bookstore as a gift for my various Notre Dame friends. The safety tip and associated pun is one of my favorite parts of an Irish football game. It’s extremely important to me that this tradition continue into the future.

I worry that Notre Dame’s reliance on recordings of Tim McCarthy will hurt his legacy. For starters, “the vaults” are only so deep. Our finite supply of these clips means we’ll eventually have to start reusing jokes. Nothing kills humor faster than “I’ve heard that one before.” Moreover, “from the vaults” puts the safety tip in danger of evolving from something we do into something we used to do and are now acknowledging briefly. I’d hate to see Tim McCarthy’s legacy fall by the wayside. There’s no more important way of honoring it than by keeping it current and fresh.

Notre Dame should immediately begin screening for a young Indiana State Police officer with a strong broadcast voice and a sharp sense of humor. I’d even suggest the University make an event out of it — allow Tim McCarthy to hand over the honor to the next generation with all the pomp and circumstance the occasion deserves. An adjustment period is inevitable, but soon the new safety communication officer will have taken up the torch that Tim McCarthy has lit. After a season or two, the safety tip will be firmly planted in the Notre Dame consciousness as a living tradition that deserves preservation independent of the presenter’s identity. I look forward to coming back as a double alumnus, and hearing a hush fall over the crowd at the close of the 1812 Overture, and listen for a single authoritative voice to call out — “May I have your attention please?”

Stephen Raab, an MSM Candidate at the Mendoza College of Business, graduated Notre Dame with a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering in 2016.  He enjoys matching wits with all comers at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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