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The real columnist of the century

| Wednesday, March 18, 2020

It’s no secret that things are not normal for the Notre Dame community right now. We should have seen the signs coming. The women’s basketball team did not obliterate every team in its path this winter. Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., did not announce a 3.4% increase in tuition this February. And the squirrels of South Quad appear to be relatively fit rather than morbidly obese. These were merely three of the factors that made it clear that unusual times were afoot.

While much is uncertain and chaotic right now, fellow columnist Daniel McMaster (Delbarton ‘16) and I decided it was time to settle the question on every Notre Dame family member’s mind. Which of us should be named as The Observer’s Columnist of the Century? “But Ben,” you might interject, “how can you cut the award pool down to only you and Dan?” 

Oh, you sweet summer child. The award was always going to come down to me and Danny. Previous Viewpoint Editor Evy Stein went so far as to state off the record that recruiting me and Danny was her crowning achievement at Notre Dame. New Viewpoint Editor Nelisha Silva opened up her first meeting in charge asking the two of us how she can make the paper better during her tenure. Would an editor even bother asking for “feedback” about how to do her “job” from non-Columnist of the Century material? Furthermore, while other columnists are focusing on trivial matters such as retrieving their belongings from their dorm rooms, figuring out how to complete chemistry labs from home or spending time with their families, Dan and I recognized what was most important right now. When online classes and extended break were announced, we both immediately volunteered to write extra columns for the paper during our extended hiatus from campus. This was a truly selfless act that had absolutely nothing to do with us loving the sight of our own words on the front page. 

In terms of logistics, we both feel it is only fair that the vote is decided by a poll tweeted from @NDSMCObserver. Readers are encouraged to vote and remind their loved ones to vote as well, but only if they will be voting for me. We also felt it was only fair that our columns be published on the same day prior to the vote. Typically, Danny is posted about a week after I am, which allows his smaller brain extra time to determine what he wants to write about. It typically takes him two days just to read my column since my columns are longer than any homework assignment ever given out in Mendoza.

I suspect McMaster will portray my columns using phrases such as “whiny drivel” or “Why does Ben do actual research for Viewpoint pieces?” These are fair criticisms. However, as a counterpoint, dear reader, I ask, “Who are the most famous columnists in professional journalism?” The uninformed might respond with names like Paul Krugman, Bill Plaschke or Maureen Dowd. Those in the know recognize America’s most famous columnists are those behind national advice columns like “Ask Amy” and “Dear Abby.” Abby, for example, is such a talented columnist that she feels qualified to give advice on topics ranging from etiquette for teens in the dressing room to recovering from alcoholism. No mere mortal is this knowledgeable. While we cannot rule out entirely the possibility that Abby and Amy are not of this world, I find it much more likely that they conduct research before dispensing their flawless advice. Therefore, since I investigate my columns while Danny investigates the inside of his nostrils with his fingers, it seems clear to me that I should be placed on the same tier of columnist glory as our nation’s preeminent advice-givers. 

My work this academic year has been of the utmost importance. I exposed how much we overpay for room and board. I covered the decline of student wages versus inflation. And I used a Freedom of Information Act request to show the campus community that Notre Dame has no idea what is going on inside your hall’s pizza kitchen. Danny Boy has spent his literary efforts elsewhere. He wasted time reviewing Pizza Pi (it is bad), refusing to come out and state on the record Dillon’s pizza kitchen is conflict-free. While people working real, necessary jobs, such as supervising interhall flag football, continue to see their wages suffer, Donny breathlessly harped on the need for us columnists to get paid. Newsflash Dave, we volunteered for this. Would I be totally surprised if Donald thought that volunteers get paid for serving their communities? No. Someone should audit the blood drives of Notre Dame and see if he has been stealing from their FOAPAL accounts. My nemesis also attempted to blame me for classes being canceled. We can safely interpret that as Dilbert being extremely pro-classes. Sorry that I prefer pool parties and using the bathroom in peace.

In conclusion, the question about who deserves Columnist of the Century is an easy one. Do you want this prestigious award, which I am told is on par with the Pulitzer, Nobel and Kids’ Choice Award in terms of glamour, to go to a petulant Big Red Buffoon who abuses the asterisk and badgers our editors on Twitter? Or would you rather have it go to a lovable Dawg, who always has the best interest of the tri-campus community at his heart? To me, the choice is clear.

Thank you for your time and remember to vote.

Ben Testani is a senior studying international economics, Arabic and Spanish. He comes to Notre Dame via central New York and while currently residing off-campus, will always be a proud Alumni Dawg. He welcomes feedback at [email protected] or @BenTestani on Twitter.

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

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