Throwing Stones

Te'o embraces his brother

Manti Te’o embraces his brother

For years, the Notre Dame football program has been widely ridiculed for its pompous talk-without-walk attitude.  They’ve been grandfathered into collegiate dominance, but have little to show for it.  And essentially for 24 years, they’ve made small ripples on the national level by throwing pebbles into the sea.

But prior to this season, there wasn’t a whole lot of talk … from the fans, from the media, from the players.  The nation, for the most part, had given up on the storied program.

So, it would only be fitting that this season – a season in which they were unranked to begin with – a season in which they were yet “a year away,” the Fighting Irish would finally turn the tables.

That they would not only finish the regular season with a championship berth, but that they would quietly demonstrate national supremacy once again.

And just when you thought Notre Dame was gone for good, they came marching back onto center stage to the tune of “Crazy Train.”

Some call it luck.  Some say the pool of talent is shallow.  Some even call it destiny.  But whatever appropriate phrase you use, there is no denying that Notre Dame has earned every yard they’ve gained this season.

They are no longer throwing pebbles into the sea.  They’re throwing boulders into a pond.

They’re back … and whether they win or lose on January 7th, Brian Kelly has proven that they are here to stay.

Many claim that Alabama possesses so much talent and raw strength, they could beat an NFL team.  With three championship appearances in four years, others say that they’re simply a dynasty.  They’re the Michael Jordan, the New England Patriots, the Goliath of football … and no one can stop them.

It’s human tendency to look at the numbers.  After all, statistics do, for the most part, help gauge the success of a unit.  But what most people overlook is the camaraderie, the heart, the passion.

Enter David, slingshot fully loaded, prepared for battle.

The Irish fear no one.  They don’t listen to the haters, the media, or even the fair-weather fans who groan at every miscue.  They don’t worry for one second about proving people wrong.

You see, for a gang of brothers who do more than just play for each other, absolutely nothing can interfere.

Denard Robinson proved that this season when he came to South Bend expecting to duplicate his previous years’ successes.  In 2010 and 2011, Denard amassed an astounding 948 yards through the air and on the ground … by himself.

So, what was the difference in 2012?

Camaraderie … heart … passion.

Manti Te’o and his brothers simply refused to let him into the paint this time.

And after three straight seasons of losing by 4 points – after three straight seasons of come-from-behind miracle wins by the Wolverines – after three straight seasons of Pure Michigan beatings, Notre Dame had had enough.  The stones were slung, and Goliath was defeated.

Tommy Rees proved it this season when he had to take the reigns from a struggling freshman.  It wasn’t an opportunity to prove himself.  It wasn’t an opportunity to earn back the starting role.  It was an opportunity for him to verify his loyalty and commitment to his brothers.

Why?  Because this team is built on camaraderie … heart … passion.  When the Fighting Irish had their backs against the wall three times, with the season’s perfection on the line, the stones were slung, and Goliath was defeated.

Blood mixed with pouring rain when the Irish’s front seven proved it against Stanford.  Four straight goal-line stands to prevent a second overtime wasn’t the deciding factor.  Keeping yet another Heisman hopeful out of the endzone wasn’t even the deciding factor.  No, it was the camaraderie … the heart … the passion.  And just like that, the stones were slung, and Goliath was defeated.

Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, and four other key defensive players proved it when they battled their fever, their fatigue, their dehydration, and their dizziness to prevent a demoralized Pittsburgh squad from ruining Notre Dame’s championship hunt.  Despite having the flu, despite giving up the most rushing yards to a running back this season, despite missing large chunks of the game, they fought every ounce of pain and exhaustion to battle for their brothers … because they got it.  They understood the camaraderie … the heart … the passion.  The stones were slung, and Goliath was, once again, defeated.

Oklahoma was a 12-point favorite, and considered the second best team in the nation.  They never lose in Norman.  Notre Dame can not win … but the stones were slung, and Goliath was defeated.

USC had won 9 of the last 10 meetings with the Irish … but the stones were slung, and Goliath was defeated.

And with the final seconds of the season ticking away, the Notre Dame brothers embraced each other.  They walked through the Coliseum tunnel arm in arm.  They presented the Gatorade-soaked coach with the game ball.

Players gives Coach Kelly a well-deserved Gatorade bath.

Players gives Coach Kelly a well-deserved Gatorade bath.

Why?  Because they understood that he understood the importance of camaraderie … heart … and passion.

There’s no doubt that Alabama offers yet another difficult task.

But, it’s nothing new.  It’s nothing they’ve never seen before.  Notre Dame is used to being the underdogs.  They’re used to hearing, “you aren’t good enough.”

After 12 games and 12 wins, they’re used to having to earn respect.

But none of that matters…

Because on January 7th, on the biggest stage of college sports, in front of a nation glued to their sofas, stones will be slung … and there will be

… a rock fight.

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