Friday, September 3, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Game Week

It's Monday, work is dragging, and you're convinced that time is going 35mph in a 65mph zone. At the same time it's finally game week and you know the Irish are going to throttle the Boilers. You picture Purdue head coach Danny Hope looking at his secondary in practice and silently weeping as he thinks about what Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph are going to do. They'll never be able to stop ND--Kelly could send out O'Neill's interhall squad on the other side of the ball and still win.

That won't be necessary though because the revamped defense is salivating at the chance to shut out Purdue. Was the defense horrendous last year? Sure it was, but you've read all the analysis of how Harrison Smith has it together, heard about Kerry Neal lighting it up in practice, and listened to the interview where Manti Te'o said he won't count a tackle as a sack unless the quarterback is knocked unconscious. Notre Dame is only favored by 10.5 points? What an insult! This game is in the bag, no chance they don't win by four touchdowns.

When you wake up Tuesday it's a different story. Herbstreit is on ESPN yapping about the lack of team speed on defense and how his best guess is the Irish are 3-3 after six games. You start to realize Purdue isn't a walk-over; after all, they knocked off Ohio State last year and the only reason the Irish beat them was because of a Jimmy Clausen miracle.

You start looking at breakdowns of their team, reading about how Marve looks great and is realizing the potential that made him such a huge recruit at Miami. What makes you think all of a sudden Notre Dame's Swiss Cheese secondary will be able to stop him? You're nervous. You go to bed saying to yourself that "there's no way Notre Dame can lose this there?" Your dreams are littered with Joe Tiller and Wilford Brimley interrupting Liberty Medical commercials to do that stupid "BOILER UP" cheer in unison. It's a restless night.

But the sun comes up Wednesday and the Kool-Aid is flowing again. Rudolph is back at practice and looking great. Crist is talking about how the opportunity to start is a dream come true and insists his knee feels good to go. The majority of the work day is spent plowing through old Notre Dame videos on YouTube and trading emails with friends trying to draw as many parallels between 1964 and 2010 as possible.

You also realize that you were at the first game of the both the Willingham and Weis Eras and intensely debate within your own mind whether it's your obligation to go to the game since the Irish won both of those coaches' debuts or if it's your duty to stay away since ultimately Ty and Charlie ended up failing. As you doze off that night you've thoroughly convinced yourself that the fate of Saturday's game--and perhaps Brian Kelly's entire tenure--will come down to your decision.

Thursday morning arrives and a video of a Lou Holtz speech is waiting in your inbox when you get to work. Before you know it you're on Priceline looking for a flight. The angel on your right shoulder asks, "Will you be able to make rent next month? Do you understand the devastation you're causing on your bank account?" The devil on the other shoulder (who is bedecked head-to-toe in Notre Dame apparel) screams, "ERRONEOUS! ERRONEOUS ON BOTH COUNTS! HOW COULD YOU MISS THIS MONUMENTAL EVENT?!?"

The devil wins. You're South Bend-bound. You may have just delivered a haymaker to your bank account, but you don't care. It's the dawn of the Brian Kelly Era! You're not going to miss out on watching the Irish roll to a victory in person.

But for some reason Thursday has you thinking about worst case scenarios. What if Dayne gets hurt? What if the confidence the defense seems to be exhibiting is empty and not real? What if Harrison Smith re-enters the Clifford Jefferson Zone?

Who the hell knows what to expect this Saturday? It's the first game of the season with a new coach, new quarterback, new everything. There's a 50% chance it will be glorious and a 50% chance it'll be a disaster. Both ends of the spectrum are absolutely in play and that's an uneasy feeling.

You peruse an article on Her Loyal Sons that predicts only seven victories in 2010 for the Irish and suddenly you start to wonder...are all of your worst fears about to come to fruition? Is it really possible that the miracle season you so desperately crave could go up in smoke in week one?

The thought of losing to Purdue makes you nauseous. So many times over the past five years you walked out of Notre Dame Stadium downtrodden and disappointed. Perhaps you should lower your expectations so that the fall isn't as steep this year. Drifting off to sleep you ponder whether you'd charge the field and puncture a hole in the Purdue band's giant drum if the Boilermakers won.

Overnight something happens though. The alarm goes off and you're immediately jacked up. It's sinking in that in about 24 hours you're going to be in Notre Dame Stadium, surrounded by 80,000 of your closest friends willing the Irish to victory. You're about to be reunited with dozens of other people who share the same passion for Notre Dame Football, guys that will at one point in their life have a discussion with their wife about naming their dog Lou or Rudy, their sons Brady or Golden, and their daughters Manti or Ara.

You pack your bag, alert your manager that you've come down with a case of typhoid fever and won't be able to make it in the office, and you're off to the airport. As you wait for your flight you get on the phone with some of your boys for one last preseason conversation.

For the 584th time you break down the depth chart, voice concerns over Dayne's knee, and talk about weaknesses in Purdue's defense. Unlike the other 583 phone calls though, the majority of the conversation consists of both of you half-laughing and saying over and over again, "I can't believe it's finally here."

From the moment you arrive at your destination everything's a blur. You're back on campus, reunited with friends, reunited with Natural Light, and reunited with the South Bend bar scene. A few rounds of Rumple Minze and 32oz beers at The Backer have every person thoroughly convinced the Purdue game is the first step toward a national championship.

When you awake Saturday around 8am to the fight song blaring it's like you're transported back to your freshman year of college. You're irrationally happy, so pumped up that you'd probably be good for a special teams tackle if BK called on you. Entering Notre Dame Stadium your stomach is in knots. You're nervous, anxious, but most of all excited. You're ready to do everything in your power to will the Irish to victory.

No more preseason predictions. No more preview magazines. No more speculation. The season has arrived and though you've ridden a roller coaster of emotion leading up to it, you're fully prepared to live and die with every play for better or worse.

You're all in...because that's the only way to enter a Notre Dame Football Season.



  1. This one single post got me more pumped for football season than anything else I've read!

  2. Who wakes up at 8am on gameday (besides O'Neill losers)??? Try 6am....and that's after coming home at 3 the night before.

    Go Keough and Go Irish!

  3. Reading about how up-and-down I felt all week put me through it all, all over again ....... arrrggghhhh!!

  4. very nice....u put this week into words very nicely. GO IRISH!

  5. awesome work spicy

  6. What I wouldn't give to sleep on a couch in 3A tonight - - F.

  7. This is so true. So true. Well done.

    Matt '94

  8. The fact that this was posted at 4:18 AM says it all. Nice post.

  9. I'm in! Great post! F*&% the Boilers!

  10. Keough--

    I didn't know Flipside events ran so late.