Twitter twittered yesterday with the news that Notre Dame, which hasn't won a national title in 25 (!) years, was, as the NCAA put it, "cheating their asses off." News like this typically gets washed away in the 24-hour news cycle because words like "scandal" and "embarrassment" are so overused in an effort to get clicks they've all but lost their meaning. But listen. This is a big, huge embarrassing scandal because if you've talked to any Notre Dame fan since 1989 you know that dignity was the only thing Notre Dame had left.
But listen. They're out of their minds. Walk with me, will you, down Memory Lane?
2010: Declan Sullivan, 20, dies while filming practice from a scissor lift in 40 mph winds with gusts of 53. An institution that puts so much emphasis on education surely employs at least one person who knows that it's not safe to operate a scissor lift, which is designed to go up to 60 feet (or about 6 stories) in the air, in gale force winds. Declan Sullivan, who tweeted out from atop the scissor lift that he was afraid he was going to die--an hour before he did--knew it. But practice was more important. Which is why it carried on for another 25 minutes after Sullivan went to the hospital.
2012: Lizzy Seeburg, a freshman at St. Mary's College, which, most of you probably know from Rudy as Notre Dame's sort of sister college, takes her own life after her claims of sexual assault by a Notre Dame player are met with a mix of indifference and threats.
2013: Manti Te'o pretends he has a dead girlfriend to make people like him, which almost came in super handy at Heisman time. Look, it's been a while now, so can we just? Okay? Because come on. You know? He knew. Brian Kelly knew. Rudy knew. Touchdown Jesus knew. And most importantly, Katie Couric knew.
2013: Everett Golson gets kicked off the team for cheating on a test or a paper or something like that, remember? You remember.
2014: Notre Dame players DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russel, Ishaq Willians and Kendall Moore are dismissed from the team for possibly receiving impermissible help with schoolwork. Or something.
So, let's come back to the present and pick up the pieces piece by piece by piece.
- Notre Dame hasn't won a title in 25 years
- Notre Dame did all those things I just listed
- Notre Dame fans justify their 25-year drought by pointing to their rigorous academic standards and strict code of conduct, which they do as, I admit, a genius maneuver in heat reversal because they can claim unimpeachable historical success without taking the "shortcuts" others have taken (from Prop 22s in the 80s and 90s to grayshirts and oversigning today).
See what I'm getting at? This scandal, as far as scandals go, is total crap. Who cares? Harvard had an academic scandal involving athletes a couple years ago, and Harvard is Harvard, the most prestigious university in the solar system--literally. The Declan Sullivan and Lizzy Seeburg situations, for lack of a better term concerning both, should be way more alarming to all of us, not just Notre Dame fans. But to Notre Dame fans, this scandal sweeps out the kickstand upon which their bicycle of dignity has precariously stood since 1989.
The real question here is why was the bicycle still standing in the first place. The real answer here is because it's been 25 years since Notre Dame has won a national title, and winning a national title in football is more important in the World of Notre Dame than a Pulitzer Prize, a Nobel Prize and a Fields Medal combined. I don't know the number and I don't want to look it up, but the majority of Notre Dame fans didn't go to Notre Dame. They can't have; Notre Dame is a small Catholic school, with famously (and now, possibly, fictitiously) strict admittance requirements. Notre Dame's fan base is surely comprised of its distinguished alumni, but it's much more populated by sons of sons of sons of Notre Dame fans who became Notre Dame fans because a) Notre Dame was the best team of the 1940s-50s-60s and b) because they're very probably Midwester Irish/German Catholics, which is super coincidental because Catholics, throughout history, have been major f#cking dicks (1). From their blase attitude concerning the slave trade to their passivity regarding the Holocaust when a stance from the Pope would've carried a lot of weight in 1940s Germany to their activity in funding and smuggling Nazis out of Europe as WWII wound down, we (yes, we, I'm Catholic, so don't even start with me) have a pretty well documented history of over and underf#ckingreacting when the opposite response would've been more historically appropriate(2).
My point, my real point, here is that this scandal, as far as I'm concerned, is the fatal blow for the teetering facade of Notre Dame's moral high ground. My other real point is that it's ironic because they've had so many other way worse scandals. Notre Dame Football, as it exists both in relation to and independently of the University of Notre Dame (and you know what I mean because College and College Sports have long been their own separate, independently identified entities) is no more. My other other really real point is that let this be the blow that rips the mask off of this sham called the student-athlete. It's an ideal now, something that once was, something that now only exists as a label, like the way we still call cell phones cell phones even though nobody calls anybody anymore, chiefly because of the invention of the cell phone.
Let's wrap this up: Notre Dame has an opportunity here. Let go of the mystique; it's as outmoded as the phone in cell phone. Join the rest of college football in the 21st century before you get left behind permanently like Nebraska or Indiana Basketball (hahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahah!!!!!!! But seriously, Indiana, you suck)
1. Just assume I mean "Vatican" when I sweepingly generalize Catholicism
2. I'm not going to link these things, just look them up. It's 2014, man