South Bend is the greatest city in the world

Whenever Notre Dame students talk about South Bend, there is always at least a hint of condescension. No one ever says “South Bend” with the same sincerity as “Chicago” or “Dallas.” There is always a touch of irony or a slight smirk accompanied with it. 

Maybe it’s because so many of us are from the shadows of huge cities like New York and Chicago. Maybe we’re just too ungrateful to recognize an amazing city that’s right in front of us.

If I’ve learned one thing in my two and a half years at Notre Dame, it’s this: South Bend is the greatest city in the world.

Now, some people may have metrics and stats to try to disprove this. Great, I don’t care. I’m not here from the South Bend PR department.

There’s a charm about South Bend. It’s not a big city, but it’s not small. It’s South Bend. It’s just right. 

Take, for example, Studebaker. In case you don’t know, one of the world’s foremost automotive manufacturers used to be located in South Bend. Sure, Studebaker is dead now. But it had its heyday back in the early 20th century. 

Would it be cool if Ford or General Motors was headquartered in South Bend? I guess. But that’s not South Bend. Studebaker is historic, yet a niche. It’s something we can get excited to insert into conversations when no one really cares. Studebaker is South Bend. It’s just right.

South Bend is obviously not a big enough market for a professional sports team. Sure, it has Notre Dame sports, but Notre Dame football is too big-time to capture the down-to-earth feel of South Bend. So, what does capture South Bend? The South Bend Cubs.

In 2022, the Cubs won their second league title in three seasons. Now, I know no one from New York or Philadelphia cares about this. But, you know who does care? South Bend.

In 2019, nearly 320,000 people attended Four Winds Field over the course of the season, according to the South Bend Tribune. In 2015, the Cubs were named minor league baseball’s “Most Complete Franchise.” It’s not the Los Angeles Rams winning a Super Bowl. But we don’t need that. We’ve got the Cubs. And they’re just right.

South Bend may not have the Statue of Liberty or the Space Needle. Who cares? We have a statue at Leighton Plaza of former Notre Dame president Fr. Ted Hesburgh with Martin Luther King, Jr. Is it a statue of a picture that South Bend beats to death and overuses? Absolutely. But it’s something we’re proud of. It’s just right.

While we’re on the topic of national landmarks, South Bend also has the St. Joseph River. This river has it all. It’s got love locks like Paris, river lights and rapids that you can raft on.

No, it’s not Colorado. And if you can’t guess by now, I don’t care. Whitewater rafting in the St. Joe River is a ridiculous thing to tell your friends. They won’t get it, but they don’t need to. It’s a South Bend’s thing. It’s just right.

One more example. I promise it’s the last one. In honor of the Morris Performing Arts Center’s 100th anniversary, let’s highlight a band that is the epitome of South Bend. You may have never heard of Umphrey’s McGee, but I guarantee you have a stoner uncle who has.

Umphrey’s McGee is a jam band straight out of South Bend. No, they’re not Michael Jackson. South Bend isn’t big-time like Gary. But they’re almost Phish. In 2004, Rolling Stone declared Umphrey’s McGee the “odds-on favorites in the next-Phish sweepstakes.” In 2006, they appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” with Huey Lewis. In 2014, they sold out Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Of course, Umphrey’s McGee is not the Grateful Dead. But they’re not your average hometown band. They’re South Bend. They’re just right.

As I prepare for a semester abroad, it’s hit me how much I’m going to miss South Bend. South Bend has its faults, just like every city. But for every fault, there’s a bright spot that is uniquely and outrageously South Bend. Maybe it’s being deemed the best city for under-30 year-olds to get rich. Maybe it’s the mosaic under a bridge by the St. Joe River right near the sign warning of sewage in the water. 

South Bend isn’t perfect. It might even be weird. But who cares? It’s South Bend, the greatest city in the world.

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


Ask The Observer: What happened to Quarter Dogs?

March 2020 marked the beginning of a two-month hiatus away from campus for Notre Dame students. It also marked the beginning of an indefinite, and potentially permanent, hiatus of a campus culinary staple: Quarter Dogs. 

Quarter Dogs were hot dogs sold for 25 cents after midnight in Huddle Mart housed in LaFortune Student Center. Students would file into the Huddle, load up a paper tray with as many buns as they wanted, grab the franks from a heated tray, apply their desired toppings, pay for the subsidized late-night meal with flex points and then loiter in the 69-year old student center while enjoying their meals.

“There was a culture about it,” Pasquerilla West resident assistant (RA) Jade Fung said.

Campus Dining director Luigi Alberganti said in an email it is unlikely that Quarter Dogs will return at a similar pricing model due to today’s “inflationary environment and increased labor costs.”

Stanford Hall assistant rector John Hale would make the short trek to LaFortune Student Center about three times a week as an undergraduate. Though the low price helped draw customers, Hale said the value lay outside the affordability.

“They were a huge part of my Notre Dame experience,” he said.

After a late night of studying, hanging out in LaFortune and eating quarter dogs was a great way to initiate “cross-campus dialogue,” Hale said. The student center is located near the center of campus and draws students from all parts of campus, he added.

“My kind of philosophical take on [quarter dogs] is that human beings need companionship, we need tradition,” Hale said. “I think that if you eliminate wholesome traditions, I think they will be replaced with less wholesome things. So I think quarter dogs are a super innocent, fun, good way to promote culture within the dorms.”

In Alumni Hall, resident Dawgs often avoid eating hot dogs.

“You don’t eat dogs in Alumni. You eat sausage. You eat brats,” rector Jay Verzosa said.

There was one dorm-sponsored exception to this rule: a Sunday night tradition called Grotto Dawgs. Each Sunday night after Mass, Alumni residents traveled to the Grotto to pray as a community and then hike over to LaFortune to feast on Quarter Dogs.

The tradition began in Sept. 2014 and lasted until the suspension of Quarter Dogs in 2020. 

Quarter Dogs never appealed to Nathaniel Burke, a senior RA in Alumni.

“I always say to people, whatever money they’re saving [by eating quarter dogs], they’re going to have to pay back in paying for colon cancer treatment or something like that,” Burke joked.

Though the processed meat involved doesn’t appeal to Burke, he said Alumni residents loved the tradition. 

“There’s a lot of attraction to it just because it’s kind of a hilarious idea,” he said. “I know there are dudes that enjoyed the concept and did eat them.”

Alberganti estimated about a thousand quarter dogs were sold each week. The dogs were subsidized in an attempt to keep students on campus.

During her freshman year, Fung initially found Quarter Dogs gross.

“In the beginning, I was like, ‘that sounds nasty,’” she said.

One day in the second semester, she tried a Quarter Dog at the urging of her friends and was surprised to find she enjoyed the experience.

Fung said the elimination of Quarter Dogs reflects a change in the campus culture following the pandemic.

“I think there’s a lot of things that happened before COVID that are just gone on campus and the culture of campus has just changed,” she said. “I feel like being on campus was definitely way more fun and engaging and random [before COVID].”

It’s unclear whether Quarter Dogs will ever return in any capacity, but if they do, Hale said it is crucial that they are called Quarter Dogs, regardless of the price. He said he would pay up to $2 a piece for a “Quarter Dog.”

“Even with inflation and everything, if they became 50 cent dogs I don’t care,” he said. “I just know, no matter what they cost, they should always be called Quarter Dogs.”

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Meet the Notre Dame alum leading efforts to return humans to the moon

When Jon Olansen was a child, he wanted to be an astronaut. This dream doesn’t pan out for most children, but Olansen, a Notre Dame alumnus, has come close to living it out.

Although he personally will not be walking on the moon, Olansen has spent the past three decades enabling astronauts to travel to space. Currently, he manages the Habitation and Logistics Outpost Office (HALO), a module that will house up to four astronauts in space at a time.

“As the first pressurized element for NASA’s lunar Gateway, HALO will be humanity’s first permanent home away from earth,” according to a Northrop Grumman press release. North Grumman is working with NASA to build HALO. 

A diagram depicting the HALO module. (Courtesy of Dylan Connell)

HALO is part of Gateway, which consists of HALO, the power and propulsion element (PPE), a logistics module, a lunar lander and the Orion spacecraft. The astronauts will depart Earth for lunar orbit on Orion, which launches on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Orion will dock to Gateway, transfer the crew to the Human Landing System (HLS) lander — which is also docked to Gateway — which will transport the crew to the Moon’s surface. 

Gateway’s orbit is expected to be about six and a half days, meaning inhabitants can travel to the lunar surface once every six and a half days. 

Olansen said Gateway is designed for a minimum of a 15-year life. This particular design is focused on propulsion capability efficiency to help the module maintain its lunar orbit into the future.

“So we want to expand our technology base, and we want to prove out concepts that can be used for further deep exploration once we go beyond the moon,” he said.

When Gateway is complete, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy will launch the module. The Falcon Heavy is partially reusable and built for transporting heavy lifts. This launch will take about a year, Olansen said.

“It’ll take us about a year to expand our orbit from Earth orbit and just continue to raise that orbit using solar electric propulsion to get out into lunar orbit. So it’s a slow transfer. It’s a much more efficient, fuel economical approach, but it takes us about a year to go do so,” he said.

The HALO module will be about three meters in diameter. The living quarters will resemble two hallways. The European Space Agency (ESA), the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Canadian Space Agency will each add future modules and parts to the Gateway, Olansen said.  

A rendering of the inside of HALO. (Courtesy of Dylan Connell)

Olansen said HALO and PPE are a few years out from launch. They currently await critical design reviews in the next few months before beginning full production.

The module will be available for crews as soon as it is ready, Olansen said. The Artemis program, which plans to launch its first mission Wednesday, eventually expects to return humans to the moon in preparation for hopefully reaching Mars. 

Olansen’s project office, based out of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, has responsibility for overseeing the development of the HALO module itself, the integration of the PPE and HALO modules and the autonomous vehicle system manager software, which will run the Gateway. 

The team Olansen is responsible for consists of over 1,500 employees when including contractors, he estimated. Additionally, Olansen’s team needs to coordinate with foreign space agencies to ensure their technologies are compatible.

Graduating from Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 1987 and with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1989, Olansen started working at NASA soon after graduation in mission control. After working in mission control, he went back to school to get a Ph.D. in biomechanical engineering before returning to NASA and eventually working his way up to leading projects. 

Most recently, he led a project that built the crew module for Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 test flight in 2019. The launch tested the launch abort system, which will be in use on the Artemis I launch this week.

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Former Notre Dame captain, Super Bowl champion Rocky Bleier recounts journey from Vietnam to NFL

One day during training camp in 1968, recent Pittsburgh Steelers draft pick Rocky Bleier had what he thought was the happiest day of his life — at least, at that point.

Then Steelers head coach Bill Austin approached Bleier, the former Notre Dame halfback taken with the 417th pick. Austin told him that he received Bleier’s 1-A draft status in the mail, deeming him available for service in the Vietnam War.

Austin told Bleier that the Steelers would “take care” of the letter for him, Bleier said.

But with three games left in the season, Bleier received another letter. This time around, it was his draft notification.

“I fell through the cracks,” Bleier said in an interview with The Observer.

Because the letter Bleier received was postdated, he had just two days to hop on a bus to report to basic training. About a year after making an NFL roster, the former Notre Dame national champion was deployed to Vietnam.

While in Vietnam, Bleier and his company were on security while on 24-hour alert when Bleier’s point man detected enemy activity out ahead in the rice paddy. Gunfire ensued, and the soldiers dove left and right into the paddy to get out of harm’s way. While in the paddy, Bleier was shot in the leg. 

Soon after, while Bleier’s commanding officer probed the perimeter, a hand grenade flew in and bounced off the officer. 

“[The grenade] rolls between my feet, and before I can jump out of the way, it blows up,” Bleier said.

Bleier’s company moved to a secure area before a helicopter transported him to treatment. He spent three weeks in the hospital in Tokyo before spending nine months in the hospital in the U.S.

Rocky Bleier in Vietnam
Former Notre Dame national champion Rocky Bleier pictured in Vietnam. (Courtesy of Chris Visser)

The initial prognosis of the injury was that Bleier would never play football again. But Bleier, citing a human tendency to bounce back from injury, slowly began preparing for a return to the NFL.

“Maybe I was just dumb enough or stubborn enough to not believe what [the doctor] was going to say,” he said. “So my mindset was that, ‘Alright, I’m damaged, but I didn’t lose an arm, I didn’t lose a leg, I didn’t lose a foot.’ You spend time, you rehab, then you go out and play. And as simple as that may sound, that was kind of my mantra.”

Because he dropped from 200 pounds during his initial playing days to about 165 pounds during the war, his rehab process heavily relied on lifting weights.

After four and a half months in Vietnam, three weeks in Tokyo and nine months in the hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas, Bleier was out of the armed services and ready to return to football in July 1970.

Bleier returned to Steelers practice, but was not fully healed. He limped a little, and wounds would occasionally open up while he ran, he said. The Steelers kept him around until the last cuts before placing him on the injured reserve. The following year, Bleier was placed on the taxi squad, giving him one more year to return to full health.

He eventually earned a spot on special teams for the 1972 and 1973 seasons. He almost quit football following the 1973 season, but returned and became a member of four Super Bowl-winning Steelers teams.

Fitting back into the locker room after returning from Vietnam was not difficult, Bleier said. 

“It was not that I wore that experience on my sleeve,” Bleier, an Appleton, Wisconsin native, said. “It was just a part of my experience, and I had to put that in perspective because you’re focused on coming back.”

The locker room mentality of a professional sports team was not altered by his experience, he said.

“It doesn’t change, and all the stupid jokes that we pulled on one another, all the pranks, it’s all the same stuff,” he said.

These days, Bleier serves as an honorary board member for the National Veterans Foundation (NVF). Started by his friend, Shad Meshad, NVF offers a lifeline for veterans dealing with a number of crises. Veterans reach out to the lifeline for help involving homelessness, depression and drug abuse.

The lifeline for veterans offers immediate help when they need it the most, Bleier said.

“What we want is that when we’re reaching out for help, we want somebody to help us. We want an immediate reaction,” he said.

Bleier said the nature of his return from Vietnam put him in a spot to start advocating for veterans. While he became a national story for returning to the football field, most veterans returned to a polarized society where they were poorly treated. 

General attitudes toward veterans have become more positive since the Gulf War, but Americans should continue to be aware of the struggles veterans endure, Bleier said.

“I think the big thing about Veterans Day is just that, from the American people point of view, is the awareness of the veteran and being able to say thank you,” he said. “I think that acknowledgement has become so important within our culture, just to understand that there are a group of people out there that’s served the country and ultimately fight their wars.”

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Manning brothers’ Halloween special showcases history of Notre Dame through haunted lens

“Notre Dame’s a university, but it’s also a story,” said Neil Zender, the show runner for “Peyton & Eli’s Spooky Adventure,” a Halloween television special featuring the Super Bowl champion Manning brothers.

The special, which currently streams on ESPN+ and airs on ESPN2 after tonight’s “Monday Night Football” “Manningcast,” tells the story of famed Notre Dame football player George Gipp and the legend that his ghost haunts Washington Hall on campus.

Peyton and Eli headline a cast starring class of 2022 graduate Jerome Bettis, quarterback Drew Pyne, wide receiver Braden Lenzy, former head football coach Lou Holtz, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, “Sportscenter” host Scott Van Pelt and current head coach Marcus Freeman.

“Peyton & Eli’s Spooky Adventure” uses a “Ghostbusters” theme and showcases the Manning brothers and Bettis breaking into Washington Hall to try to catch the ghost of “the Gipper.”

“When you’re the head coach of Notre Dame, you’re supposed to wake up the echoes. But this is something else,” Marcus Freeman tells Peyton and Eli at the beginning of the episode.

Pyne and Lenzy start the episode by seeing the “Gipp ghost” ride into Washington Hall on a horse. The opening scene is the last viewers see of current players, but the rest of the special contains appearances by students and campus figures — notably Campus Ministry director Fr. Pete McCormick — and scenes from all across the campus.

Students read a copy of The Observer in “Peyton & Eli’s Spooky Adventure” detailing a sighting of the ghost of “The Gipper.” (Courtesy of Neil Zender)

“Whether it be professors on campus, priests that are in our dorms, our students on campus — not just student-athletes — seeing staff members around being able to interact with all these different celebrities like Jerome and Peyton and Eli, it all just comes together and really shows off Notre Dame in a unique way,” senior associate athletics director of media communications Aaron Horvath said.

The trio of Notre Dame ghostbusters travels around campus in the Ectomobile — a replica of the car used in the original “Ghostbusters” — and don jumpsuits modeled after the film’s. Zender, a 1998 Notre Dame graduate and now a coordinating producer for NFL Films, said the special tries to combine different television show genres to tell football stories in the most interesting way possible.

“The shows are sort of one part ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit, one part Anthony Bourdain travel show documentary where you’re going to a place and one part sports history documentary,” he said. 

Zender works on both “Eli’s Places,” which profiles different college football programs, and “Peyton’s Places,” which details historic moments in the NFL. The Halloween special was the first time Peyton and Eli combined their two ESPN+ programs, Zender said.

“We thought it would be neat to get Eli and Peyton together to do something, and the best place to do that was Notre Dame,” he said. “What we’d like to do is make history interesting by doing it instead of just talking about it.”

Peyton and Eli take a deep interest in all the campus landmarks, from the statues around campus to the locker room, Zender explained.

“They love everything about football and everything about quarterbacking, and you could tell it was special to them to be at Notre Dame because it’s such a special place for football,” he said.

The half-hour special was shot in one day in late April, Zender said. The crew set up filming at legendary former head football coach Knute Rockne’s house at about 6:30 a.m. for separate content for “Eli’s Places” before wrapping up filming at around 7 p.m. Zender said most productions of this volume take around a week.

With a cast ranging from students to priests to athletic director Jack Swarbrick, Horvath said the production took a wide-ranging effort from lots of people on campus.

And Peyton sums up the effort at the end of the show, “I think we just tell them we did all we could for the Gipper.”

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Rep. Liz Cheney hints at potential criminal referral for Trump in lecture at Notre Dame

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said Friday at her lecture at Notre Dame she thinks “there’s no question about the answer” regarding whether or not former President Donald Trump broke the law during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol in 2021. Cheney, the vice chairwoman of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, referenced U.S. District Judge David O. Carter’s March opinion that stated it is likely that Trump and his lawyer John Eastman broke at least two federal statutes. 

Cheney, who lost her Wyoming GOP primary to Trump-backed Harriet Hageman, said she expects the committee to approach a potential criminal referral for Trump “in a unanimous way.”

During the committee’s ninth and potentially final public hearing Thursday, the members voted unanimously to subpoena testimony from Trump. Cheney said Thursday’s hearing was “not necessarily the last hearing” and the committee felt it was acting responsibly by collecting evidence from figures around Trump before subpoenaing him. 

Following more than a year of investigation by the committee, Cheney said Trump had a premeditated plan to declare victory regardless of the outcome of the election and in spite of evidence demonstrating an absence of voter fraud. 

“On election day and in the days after the election, there was no American who was better informed about the absence of fraud than Donald Trump,” she said. “In spite of this, he made a conscious decision to claim fraudulently that the election was stolen.”

She said Trump proceeded to pressure state officials to change election results and pressure both state and Republican Party officials to manufacture fake electoral slates that tried to correct the Department of Justice.

On the day of Jan. 6, Trump was the lone person with the ability to send the rioters home, Cheney said. Instead of calling for an end to the attack as staff members, family members and members of Congress were urging him to do, he sent a tweet at 2:24 p.m. criticizing former Vice President Mike Pence for not cooperating in his bid to overturn the election, which incited further violence, she argued, and sat quietly while watching the events unfold on television.

“I want you to think about what kind of human being does that,” she said. “That is not normal or acceptable or lawful in our republic.”

Cheney said a police officer told her that night he had never seen anything like the combat he witnessed Jan. 6. The officer was an Iraq War veteran.

Despite the prevalence of Republican candidates today who cast doubt on the election, Cheney said the courage of Republicans who resisted and continue to resist Trump’s efforts inspires her.

“But what gives me hope has been the individuals that both have testified in front of the committee and those who haven’t, but those who acted that day to save the republic. That is one of the most important stories of what happened on January 6,” she said. “The power and the courage and the dazzling honor of individual Americans to save this republic. And they’re mostly Republicans.”

Calling Donald Trump “an ongoing and real threat,” Cheney said the hearings are not partisan. Nearly every witness who has testified has been a Republican.

“This isn’t about politics,” she said.

Cheney said there are too many Republicans in elected office who ignore the threat posed by Trump. She called the ability to commit oneself to the Constitution regardless of an election outcome the “fundamental fabric” of American democracy that is currently at risk.

“Most people in most places in most periods of time on this earth have not been free. America is an exception. And we continue only because we bind ourselves to our founding principles and to our Constitution,” Cheney said.

Cheney called on Americans to refuse to act as bystanders.

“There is no power on this earth that is stronger than free citizens determined to stand together to defend the miracle and the blessing of our freedom,” she said.

As Cheney’s term concludes, she faces questions about her political career after Congress. She said a decision about whether she will run for president will come in the near future.

“I think 2024 is going to be really important. I think it’s going to be crucial that we elect people that will defend the Constitution,” she said. “I haven’t made a decision yet about what I’m going to do. We have a lot of excellent candidates, we have a lot of bad candidates too, so I’ll make a decision about that in the coming months.”

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‘There’s nothing I can do’: Students watch as Hurricane Ian destroys homes

About one year ago, Paris Thompson’s family bought a 100-foot houseboat. The boat, which they rented out as an Airbnb on Fort Myers Beach in Florida, was found one and a half miles inland atop other homes following Hurricane Ian last week.

“It was completely destroyed,” Thompson, a sophomore from Fort Myers on the women’s volleyball team, said.

Nine days after the hurricane struck Florida, the death toll has risen to 101, according to the Associated Press. The Category 4 storm is the second-deadliest hurricane to hit the mainland U.S. this century.

As the storm barreled towards the U.S., Notre Dame students from southwest Florida were forced to watch as their families braced for cover.

“I just felt kind of helpless. My whole family is back home, there’s nothing I can do, and I felt kind of guilty that I’m away, but I didn’t do anything wrong,” freshman Ethan Gable from Naples said.

Thompson said she could not contact her family for days after the hurricane made landfall.

“I called my parents 100 times from the day it hit to like Saturday and couldn’t get a hold of them. So I was seeing on the news bodies [that] are found and I’m freaking out because I’m like, ‘I haven’t been able to talk to my family,’” she said.

All of Thompson’s family members stayed safe during the storm, and her mother and father’s houses avoided serious damage. Her mother’s house had about eight feet of standing water in the garage but avoided significant flooding inside the rest of the house, she said. Her parents parked their cars by the interstate farther inland to avoid the brunt of the storm surge.

Alexandra Chlumsky, a senior pole vaulter on the track and field team from Fort Myers, said she did not anticipate the storm to be that devastating. Having grown up in Florida with the perennial threat of hurricanes, Chlumsky thought her family was prepared. However, as Ian approached last Wednesday, the magnitude of the storm quickly began to set in. She said she left her class when her mother informed her of the expected storm surge — before they lost cell phone service.

“It was emotional for me because this was so much worse than anyone anticipated,” Chlumsky said. “In the moments leading up to it, my dad, he told me that this is as scared as he’s probably ever been in his life.”

A car submerged in senior Alexandra Chlumsky’s neighborhood in Fort Myers, Florida.(Courtesy of Alexandra Chlumsky)

The Chlumskys suffered a better fate than most of the houses in their neighborhood. The main portion of their home did not seriously flood, but the garage flooded, leaving the family’s cars unusable. They also owned a condo on Fort Myers Beach that was entirely destroyed.

“I don’t even think it exists anymore,” she said.

Chlumsky said the hurricane devastated the homes of her friends on Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach.

“Their houses are completely destroyed,” she said.

The causeway connecting the island to the mainland collapsed as a result of the storm.

Gable’s family was staying in a rental house across the street because his primary home is under renovation. The hurricane ruined the rental home, leaving about five feet of standing water inside, he said. The storm left a few inches of standing water throughout his primary residence but destroyed the floors that were under renovation. As a result, his family is expecting to stay in a condo for about the next nine months, Gable said.

Even with his mother from Louisiana and his father from Naples, Gable said his family had never lived through such a devastating storm.

“They’ve been through plenty of storms. They’ve lived [in Naples] for like 20 years. They did say this was the worst one they’ve seen,” he said.

In the midst of the tragedy left in the wake of Hurricane Ian, Thompson said the devastation has resulted in unity and empathy both at home and on campus.

“My professors were reaching out to me, my old dorm rectors were reaching out to me, so I think this sense of a family away from family was huge to me there,” she said.  “Who do I fall back on when I can’t get a hold of who I need most? And so I think that was huge for me.”

While her parents’ homes were not rendered uninhabitable by the storm, many in their neighborhoods were, Thompson said. Now, her family has turned its attention to trying to help those who lost everything.

“The biggest thing we’ve been saying as a family is just how lucky we were to get out of this alive and with very little damage compared to a lot of people,” she said.

Thompson has been working with the University to organize a supply drive for schools and families in southwest Florida. The drive would send down items ranging from lightly used athletic gear to clothes and non-perishable foods.

The storm surge nearly covered an entire building in Fort Myers. (Courtesy of Paris Thompson)

As southwest Florida begins its recovery effort, Chlumsky said the national attention cast on her hometown strikes her every day.

“There’s so many people in Fort Myers, it’s a big city. The entire Fort Myers-Naples area encompasses close to a million people,” she said. “But when you start seeing your town all over national news, and you see these TikToks that are going viral, like it just makes it so much more real, in a way.”

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‘We have the exact wrong fiscal policy’: Paul Ryan criticizes inflation response

Paul Ryan knew it was time to move on after 20 years in the House of Representatives. Two terms as the youngest speaker of the House since 1869 was enough for Ryan, who did not seek re-election in 2019.

“My last two terms were Speaker of the House, which is such a consuming job that it really took me away from my family so much more than I really wanted to be away,” Ryan said in an interview with The Observer. “I had three kids in or entering high school at the time, and I knew if I only saw my kids on Sundays, I just wasn’t going to have the kind of relationship I needed or wanted.”

Now, Ryan guest lectures at Notre Dame and serves on the board for the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO). Teaching at Notre Dame was appealing for Ryan after he left Capitol Hill, having grown up a Notre Dame fan in an Irish Catholic household that saw two of his brothers attend the University.

“I’ve been coming to games here since I was 10 years old,” he said.

In addition to teaching at Notre Dame, Ryan currently does additional policy work for the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank. But after 20 years in public sector economics, Ryan made sure to branch out and learn how businesses “actually work and grow.” He is now a partner at Solamere Capital, a private equity firm, and also serves as vice chairman of Teneo, a CEO advisory firm. Upon his retirement from Congress, he launched an anti-poverty foundation in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin.

“In Congress, I always thought it was important to do multiple things in your life,” Ryan said of his portfolio of enterprises.

Three years after he left Congress, Ryan said he does not miss the “performance politics” that are growing increasingly prominent. Instead of working to formulate and negotiate actual policy solutions, politicians today choose to “entertain” in the culture war in an attempt to get famous fast, he said.

“I agree with conservatives on the culture war, but I’m not a culture warrior. I don’t like inflaming [the] culture war because it just polarizes,” he said. “I do think you should take a stand against ridiculous, woke extremes, but I don’t think it’s great to try to politically profit off of these things, because all you end up doing is polarizing the country.”

There are still policymakers in Congress who care about making good policy, he said, but the culture war “entertainment artists” overshadow them. If he were in office right now, he said his number one priority would be fighting inflation.

Ryan said the economy is on the cusp of a recession. The federal government has been fueling inflation by spending, threatening businesses with higher taxes and raising taxes on businesses, he said.

“We have the exact wrong fiscal policy right now. This thing is not the Inflation Reduction Act, it’s sort of the opposite,” Ryan said of the package signed into law in August.

Although he said the Federal Reserve responded to the pandemic well, they were too late to respond to inflation, he added.

“They’re playing catch up. They were late. They should have been stopping the asset purchases earlier. Money supply was too high too fast for too long,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he does not know when the economy will start to significantly improve. The Federal Reserve will keep raising interest rates to about 4 or 4.25% and hold them there, he predicted. And with the war in Ukraine triggering an energy crisis in Europe and China experiencing economic struggles, Ryan expects a global recession to occur down the road.

While President Joe Biden currently mulls running for re-election in 2024, Ryan said Biden “missed the moment of being a centrist” during his term and has instead inflamed the polarization between the two parties. He explained that many Republican-leaning suburban voters voted for Biden because they disliked former President Donald Trump and expected Biden to govern from the center-left.

By catering to the progressive left, Biden passed on an opportunity to work across the aisle to put together deals, he said. As a result, populism has become more pronounced in U.S. politics, he added, and polarization is preventing major progress from occuring.

“Nothing is getting done that is substantial. No big problems are getting solved, and they just are trying to stick to their wish list of progressive things,” Ryan said, specifically referencing immigration and inflation.

The Republican party has also seen its “center of gravity” shift farther toward the extreme as well, he said.

“We have the same problem in our party, so I understand the pressure. I know very well,” he said. “But [Biden] succumbed to it.”

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Take the names off the jerseys: Notre Dame is not a serious football program

Notre Dame Stadium is often called a “cathedral” of college football.

This is true, if you’re talking about the noise level.

If there is anything the past two weeks have revealed, it’s that Notre Dame does not have a serious football program. And no, Marcus Freeman is not to blame. Fault lines such as a lethargic stadium environment and a diminishing schedule date back way past the beginning of the Marcus Freeman era, but were largely masked by Brian Kelly’s genius. These faults quickly caused earthquakes once Freeman became coach and Notre Dame decided the football program was better off acting as reality TV stars instead of football players.

Notre Dame does not need to pretend they’re in “The Hangover” or help Peyton Manning produce his “Ghostbusters” spin-off segment to provide the entertainment fans desire. Marcus Freeman has already set himself up for an Emmy-winning drama this season by losing. Notre Dame stadium is Vatican West. The head coach position of Notre Dame is a pressure cooker unlike anything else in college football. You’re expected to win with “less”. The drama writes itself.

Some may be disappointed that the window of Notre Dame as an annual College Football Playoff contender closed. However, the excitement of bracing for a pummeling from Alabama or Clemson has quickly been replaced by the excitement of wondering if the Irish will beat Cal or whether or not Drew Pyne will throw it directly to an opposing linebacker. College football is entertainment, and Notre Dame football just got a whole lot more entertaining.

Again, the embarrassment Notre Dame experienced last week is not primarily Freeman’s fault. Sure, he could have coached better, but there’s no avoiding the learning curve a first-time head coach at Notre Dame experiences. Let’s just hope he learns more than previous first-timers here.

The unserious program that propped Freeman up on a mile-high cloud just so he could fall right through it is what’s at fault here. A serious program doesn’t play a hype video for a coach that’s 0-2 during the first quarter. A serious program doesn’t hold a “Victory March” pep rally while the team heads to the stadium to lose to a Sun Belt team. A serious program doesn’t let a massive herd of Marshall fans take up an entire lower bowl section and be louder than the home fans. A serious playoff contender doesn’t schedule an FCS opponent when it doesn’t have to play in a conference championship.

If Notre Dame were a serious program, it would make an effort to make the stadium environment intimidating. Put the bands back on the sideline during the game. Bring back the natural grass field. And, for the love of God, stop playing “Let Me Clear my Throat” before the fourth quarter. It’s unoriginal and nobody jumps. Still.

And just as Notre Dame stadium is losing its identity, the team also faces an identity crisis. On Saturday, the team will wear green jerseys with names on the back. The Irish have taken pride in the team-first symbolism of uniforms without names since the Lou Holtz days. Now here we are with names on the backs of the jerseys for a game against Cal that feels like a toss-up. We can only assume Cal was chosen for the green jersey game because the program decided the Golden Bears lacked the talent for a “Bush Push”-esque disaster. Well, maybe that was a miscalculation. Notre Dame has a swagger that it so far has not come close to living up to.

This Irish team talks a big game and then looks lost on the field. Sure, it’s great that assistant coaches take responsibility during press conferences. Linebacker and captain Bo Bauer’s proclaimed willingness to die for his team is inspiring. It’s great that the video of the team celebrating Freeman’s promotion to head coach exists. But the hype is over. Stop talking and buckle down.

It’s time to get serious.

Ohio State did not care about Notre Dame’s feel-good offseason. Heck (and with all due respect to the thriving Sun Belt), Marshall didn’t either. 

Since Marcus Freeman became head coach, Notre Dame has spent a ton of time worrying about every detail that doesn’t have to do with their actual play. Golden throne photoshoot backdrops don’t teach you how to tackle. Green jerseys don’t make your offensive line open up the run game. Opening up more players and staff to the media doesn’t cause your defense to force turnovers. Jersey reveals don’t strengthen ball security. Pregame Mass doesn’t seem to improve quarterback play.

Notre Dame needs to go back to the basics. They need to stop worrying about how they can get a seat at the big boy table with Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State and instead make sure they don’t fall out of their chair at the kids’ table.

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


Former Irish quarterback seeks to help athletes navigate NIL space

In 2018, Arike Ogunbowale hit back-to-back game-winning buzzer beaters in the national semifinal and championship to earn the Notre Dame women’s basketball team its first national title since 2001.

The historic feat further propelled Ogunbowale to stardom, even leading to an appearance on “Dancing with the Stars.” Despite the fame that arose from her burgeoning career, she could not profit off her name, image and likeness (NIL) while in college, former Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush said.

“Her fame just kind of exploded from that point on, and she obviously couldn’t be compensated for it at the time,” Wimbush, who was a classmate of Ogunbowale said. “It kind of crossed my mind that this was something that needed to change.”

Soon after Wimbush completed his college football career at the University of Central Florida, momentum started to shift toward allowing college student-athletes to receive NIL opportunities. As a result, Wimbush teamed up with fellow Notre Dame alumnus Ayden Syal and they created MOGL in 2020, an online marketplace that can easily connect athletes with brand deals.

“The number one largest problem is that athletes don’t have the time or the resources to source these deals and brands need a seamless and easy way to source the talent,” Syal said. “So, we’re solving that problem, while also ensuring that athletes are navigating the space in an educated way.”

MOGL currently works with over 5,000 athletes and 1,400 brands, Syal, the company’s CEO, said. Athletes on the MOGL platform are able to connect with both nationally recognized and local brands.

As a former student-athlete, Wimbush knows firsthand the reach student-athletes have in their communities, even though he was never able to profit off his NIL during his college career. He estimated that he would have made around $100,000 each year he was quarterback.

“It was always in the back of your head that you couldn’t make money,” Wimbush said.

Student-athletes have proven to be effective advertisers for all sorts of brands, Syal said. Unlike traditional influencers with national or international followings, college athletes are well-known within their campus community and alumni base and thus can better connect with potential customers, he explained.

“At the end of the day, people actually know these student-athletes. They’re in class with them, they can resonate with them,” Syal said. “So, what we’ve found is it really has provided an incredible amount of value to these brands directly.”

While football players draw some of the most high-profile marketing deals, Syal said MOGL facilitates deals for athletes in all sports.

“Over 60% of the deals that we’ve done have been in non-revenue-generating sports,” he said. “We’ve really confirmed the thesis that all athletes provide value in this space.”

MOGL also facilitates deals for Division II and III and junior college athletes. Syal said student-athletes outside Division I often experience success in the NIL marketplace because they have to be more proactive to connect with brands. Amherst College wide receiver Jack Betts has become commonly known as a leader in the NIL space and uses MOGL for a large portion of his deals, Syal said.

One of the advantages of MOGL’s platform is it is fully compliant and automatically discloses all brand deals to the student-athlete’s university or college, Syal said. All brands are vetted to ensure they are compliant with state laws and university protocols before MOGL works with them.

Using MOGL is free for student-athletes. MOGL primarily generates revenue by charging a fee for the company that strikes a deal with the athlete. Wimbush said MOGL acquires about 175 student-athletes a week. One of the ways the company grows is through a referral program, Syal said.

“We have a pretty robust referral system with athletes who are on their campuses, where they get paid $5 for each athlete that they bring to the platform,” he said.

During the start-up’s first few years, the Notre Dame network has played a large role in financing and developing MOGL, Syal said. Groups that have helped back MOGL include Irish Angels and the IDEA Center.

As NIL continues to grow, Syal said MOGL hopes to educate student-athletes as they navigate the wide-open marketplace. One concerning trend Syal has noticed is athletes often rush into deals without considering their long-term opportunities.

“What we’ve seen is that athletes have been really harmed by long term exclusivity clauses that really inhibit their ability to monetize their NIL in an effective way long term in favor of a short-term opportunity,” he said.

Additionally, athletes tend to sign exclusive deals with agents who take large portions of their revenue from marketing deals, when they could source the deal themselves, Syal added. The NIL market is new and constantly evolving, Wimbush said, making it difficult to project into the future.

“I do think it’s gonna continue to evolve. As legislation comes about there’s more regulations, there’s more guardrails,” he said. “It could be a good or bad thing.”

Wimbush said although the future of the current wide open NIL world is uncertain, he said MOGL has and will continue to allow student-athletes to take advantage of the ever-evolving market in a safe manner.

“We’ve provided a very seamless and a holistic solution for all athletes to take advantage of their NIL in a reliable and a compliant manner,” he said. “We’re doing it the way that we think is right, and it’s going to provide value for athletes, universities, and all the rest of the stakeholders in the NIL space.”

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