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viewpoint

Shamrock sell out

| Friday, August 24, 2018

Dear Mr. Swarbrick and others in the Department of Athletics:

I am sorry to write this email. It concerns the news which I expect has already prompted a torrent of critical and negative emails.

There are things going on in our world today which are of course much more important than the style of uniforms worn by the football team that represents Notre Dame. Frankly I should be spending my time on some of those things rather than on this particular thing. Please forgive me for bothering you with it.

Amid every bad thing that has befallen Notre Dame football down the years, one thing was still true. Players wore gold helmets. For a brief time, a shamrock appeared. But the gold helmet was a kind of immutable symbol of the school, a reminder of the Golden Dome.

Yesterday I learned of a “Shamrock Series” uniform proposed for use in an upcoming game to be played in Yankee Stadium. I was disappointed to see images of this uniform. You know what it looks like.

To me and to many, dressing our Notre Dame football players in this uniform is a kind of disgrace, an effort to seem clever and stylish, which instead comes off as crass, vulgar and absurd. Of course I have no inside knowledge on how this abomination has come about. But my guess is it has something to do with Under Armour, the New York Yankees and the commercial considerations which both of them bring to this situation. My girlfriend Kelly, a good subway alum who loves Notre Dame and everything about it, remarked on it last night. She used this word to describe it: “sell out.” That seems to capture it, elegantly, in a single word.

It’s bad enough that games that ought to be played where college football belongs — on a college campus, or in a stadium in which the host ordinarily plays — are moved to places like Yankee Stadium, Lambeau Field and AT&T Stadium. But to dress our team in uniforms that seem like a bad Halloween costume worn by someone who loves the New York Yankees (and not the Fighting Irish) is beyond the pale somehow. It bespeaks utter tone-deafness about what Notre Dame is to people who love it and whom we want to love it (if they don’t already). Ironically, it comes from a department that has proven so adept at selling our school’s athletic history.

Young people today don’t know or care who was Moose Krause, Ara Parseghian or Fr. Joyce. But is there any doubt that each of them is rolling in his grave over this grotesque episode? Can you imagine trying to explain it to one of them? How would you do so?

Of course, I speak from ignorance. Can you help me to purge my ignorance? I have some questions. Here they are:

  1. Whose idea was this? (Names).
  2. How much money, exactly, was paid to Notre Dame in exchange for you agreeing to clothe our team in uniforms that make them look like the New York Football Yankees?
  3. What penalty would Under Armour exact under its contract for your reversing course and treating these uniforms as what they are — a horrible idea that will further cheapen the image of Notre Dame football in the eyes of the public (especially its skeptics and agnostics)? Is there any reason you can think of not to take the hit? What is it?
  4. Do you think it’s a good idea to banish these two words from any public discussion of anything related to Notre Dame: “the brand”? If not, why not?
  5. Before unveiling this monstrosity, did you consult with anyone who has ever worn a gold helmet and played football for Notre Dame? If so, what was their view of the matter?
  6. Having gone this far, is there a reason that we ought to ban all symbols of Our Lady’s University from the football uniforms and simply replace them with Under Armour logos and lettering? What is it?
  7. If Moose Krause, Ara Parseghian or Fr. Joyce were here right now, how would you explain this to them in 100 words or less?

I eagerly await any response you might have. I hope that this chapter will pass quickly and these uniforms will go the way of New Coke, the McDLT and the Ford Edsel — bad ideas that sounded good to a bunch of smart people in suits who sat around a conference table and fell victim to the sort of groupthink that produces such mis-creations as this latest. Thank you.

Best regards,

Dan Lawton

class of 1983

Aug. 17

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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